How Harley Davidson Built Its Brand Using Community Engagement

5 min read
Helen Rankin
Helen Rankin
Chief Of Brand

Last updated: June 3, 2022

Build a community and they will come, they say. Well, anyone that has actually tried building a community knows it takes much more than just saying you are building one to have it be successful! The pandemic increased interest in how to build communities fast. Some even went as far as to say it is the only way to build a brand. While building a community for your brand isn’t a new concept, it also isn’t just a brand strategy. It should be part of your overall business strategy from the brand, marketing, sales, operations, tech, product, you get the point. The businesses that thrived in building communities didn’t just create a group of people with common interests. They had an entire operation force behind it. One company that has been building its brand community way before it was trendy before any marketer today turned it into a buzzword, is Harley Davidson. In fact, they started building their community in 1983. Similar to what we are seeing today, in times of need companies need to get creative to survive. For Harley Davidson, the recession hit and forced them to think differently. That difference was building a community. 

When Harley Davison decided to build a community they knew it had to be an overall business strategy that each part of the business needed to own. It went beyond adjusting its marketing strategy. Here are some key changes they did to build this… 

Embraced Their Customer Base 

This part is probably the more obvious start for building a community. While it’s not the only step it’s necessary to build the brand and position it to be the place of x in order for customers to build onto it. The thing with Harley Davidson was there was already a community-building within their customer base. Instead of ignoring it, they embraced it as part of their marketing efforts. They knew by leveraging an existing fan base it would be easier to create loyal advocates for the brand. You don’t get to choose your audience, they choose you and it’s up to the brand to embrace what they attract. 

Riding Become The Companies Ethos 

Harley Davidson took building a community a step further by ensuring it was part of the company’s overall ethos. New teams were created and different ways to look at the business were enforced. It was required for people within the company to spend time creating community events, talking to customers, and being part of the community they wanted to build. In turn, they began to see their own employees become riders and riders and then wanted to join the company. 

Providing Value To Community Members 

Part of community building is providing value. There has to be a benefit for members to continue coming and become loyal customers/ fans of the brand. For Harley Davidson, they created the Harley Club that included special insurance coverage for members, access to events, and other riding perks along the way. They also used the time with their community members wisely to gain a better understanding of the value they would want from their company. Just as you want customers to be loyal to you, you need to be loyal to your customers’ needs.


They continue to expand product lines for their members that align with their needs. Building a community for your brand goes beyond marketing and sales efforts. It needs to be part of your overall business strategy that includes operations Harley Davidson made their brand part of their culture and the entire ethos of what they believed in the most, riding. Lastly, provide value to your loyal customers. The closer you are to your customers, the quicker feedback your business will have to steer you in the right direction. Build for your customers and they will stay. 

For more on community, building check out our integration with Commsor here! 🚀

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