August 03, 2004

The Harley Catalog

One of my favorite brand experiences arrived in the mail today, the Harley Davidson 2005 catalog. I don't own a Harley (I ride an old Kawasaki) and I don't particularly like the bikes...but, oh, the catalog. It's the size of a phone book, with full-color pictures on every page and it takes the "brand promise" of technology fetishization to an amazing extreme. Starting from the beginning, where the catalog suggests that

Before customizing your VRSC model, you should get to know it from front to back. Identifying where parts are located and the impact they have on your bike is a crucial part of the process.

it's all about the minutia of decorating, personalizing, worshipping your motorcycle. To help you maximize the impact, they custom make variations of every single part on the bike. The catalog realizes that people don't buy Harleys to ride Harleys, they buy them to customize them, to project themselves, not to use them. Riding is secondary, and--in fact--riding the bikes is pretty de-emphasized. All the parts down to the washers, on the other hand, are lovingly photographed on a white background, with descriptions worthy of Martha Stewart:

The Lower Triple Tree Cover dresses up the unfinished underside of the triple tree for a complete custom look. The chrome-plated steel cover installs easily, concealing the brake splitter fitting.

It's a complete sensual immersion in chrome and steel, with barely any reference to anything outside of the world of the bike, and speaks lust on about five levels, and there are two words that appear at least a dozen times on every page: Harley-Davidson. Yet, somehow, it's not annoying Harley while at the same time being overwhelmingly Harley. A pretty amazing document from a company that knows where their value lies. Hell, after reading it, I want to chrome something on my bike, even though I haven't washed it in 6 years.

Posted by mikek at August 3, 2004 04:26 PM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?