Riding the Endless Road of Brand Experience with Harley Davidson

5 Questions to Ralph Muellerschoen, Founder of RIX Rewards about his Passion for Harley Davidson and why Brand Experience might just be a “Taste Ride” away.

Before we go into more details about brand experience and Harley Davidson, tell us a bit about yourself and this photo?

I have been riding Harleys since 1998, for more than 20 years now and have been fortunate to collect a few bikes over the years. Depending on the trip and the people I ride with, I choose either my Touring, Softtail or old school Shovelhead. For me riding my bikes is “pure freedom” and helps me to clear my mind and find new inspiration.

In this photo I am riding my Springer Softtail on the “Route des Grandes Alpes” between Grenoble and Cote d’Azur. Should you ever have the chance to ride this phenomenal road, don’t miss out to stop at the restaurant L’Etage in Briancon, France. Great location and delicious Cheese Fondue.

Harley is known as one of the leading brands when it comes to brand experience. What makes it so special?

Harley Davidson is undoubtedly the most famous American motorcycle brand in the world. The raw and powerful riding experience offered is a way of life for almost every Harley rider seeking the freedom of the open road, an experience deeply connected to the heritage of this global brand.

Only a few companies succeed to build an iconic brand. When customers don’t just forgive you, if your product is not perfect on all levels, but celebrate you, you know you have built an iconic brand. This, for me, is Harley Davidson!

It’s all about the sound… everybody loves that rumbling – young and old. It is more than a product, it is lifestyle. It is the feeling of being free, strong, rugged und not destroyable. The vibration of the old engines, the smell of petrol. Each bike has its unique, personal touch, customized by the owner. We all feel like breaking out of the system sometimes.

There are not many companies that can facilitate this feeling. Today brands try to emulate that, but it is not easy. Harley has pioneered this path of brand identity and lifestyle over decades.

Millennials, Generation Y, shifting interests and tougher regulations, where do you see the future for brands like Harley?

Good question. Let’s face it, their average customer is aging. The younger generation has other aspirations and defines freedom differently than my generation (1966). They are digital natives and have another understanding of exploring the world.

Also laws are getting more restrictive around emissions and noise standards. All these points challenge the DNA of a brand like Harley.

I can definitely see how Harley is currently in the process of adjusting and re-defining their approach and product range. If you have to go as far as your core identity, you have to dig deep and look outside the box. But as always, it is just another road you have to want to ride on. I am confident that especially the heritage of their iconc brand will play into their hands in this period.  

“When customers don’t just forgive you, if your product is not perfect, but celebrate you, you know you have built an iconic brand.”

The industry is going through a global transformation. As RIX, you are currently partnering with Harley Davidson in Australia. Tell us a bit about the “Harley Taste Ride”.

Challenging times need creative, if not disruptive ideas. Harley Davidson knows all too well how to turn a brand into a lifestyle experience and we are honored to partner with them.

With Harley we asked ourselves how we could create something personal and memorable for Harley Riders. Harley is about “the journey” and “the destination”, the freedom to break out of the ordinary. This is exactly what we try to achieve with the “Taste Ride”.

Instead of highlighting just the product, we want to give people the lifestyle moment of riding to their favorite restaurant. Of course including a meal at that location. Similar to my experience on the “Routes des Grandes Alpes” with the cheese fondue.

Revolutionary? Not at all but shifting from product-centricity to people-centricity can do wonders.

Finally, tell us more about why you think such experiences are key for any brand out There.

Brand building is like building a friendship. It doesn’t happen overnight but is nurtured over time through enriching moments. As RIX, we are passionate to help brands to take people on an exciting “ride” filled with these moments. These “rides” can be quite different depending on the industry, objectives, and customer groups. In the end we want to positively shape the brand reality in the minds and hearts of consumers.

When we think of experiences, we are essentially talking about 2 realities: the aspirational, perceived reality and the stuff we are actually experiencing when it happens. There is tremendous opportunity in the aspirational realm for brands as it frames and influences our actions and perception afterwards.

In the end it is always about people and their interests. I think the challenge of the age we are in right now, is to acknowledge that it is not enough to wait for customers to come to us as brands but to have the courage to place ourselves in the midst of what matters to them.


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