Harley-Davidson Homecoming 2023: Creating a sense of community and marketing success

The focus on belonging or community is a new tactic in marketing today. Creating a sense of community and belonging is also a major initiative of many marketers.

Increasingly consumers are drawn toward companies, products, experiences and services that offer a sense of belonging or community. The consumer may or may not even realize that this is a quality they are embracing but savvy marketers are certainly aware of the value.

Fostering belonging as part of a larger marketing effort is a good thing to strive for today.

I want to share a personal story. Recently I had an experience that really brought this home to me during a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I was visiting Milwaukee with my husband about a month ago and didn't know prior to our arrival there that our day in Milwaukee was the final evening of Harley-Davidson Homecoming 2023 - a once-every-five-years meetup of motorcycle enthusiasts celebrating the Harley-Davidson brand.

We arrived in a city literally buzzing with excitement. Something like 40,000 riders were already there, and the biggest corporate party I've ever experienced unfolded around the city culminating in a ticketed Foo Fighters concert on the lakefront. We did visit the art museum and then we spent the rest of the day, quite unexpectedly, enjoying the city, the Central Market for dinner, and meeting Harley fans from all over the world and we even stayed for a concert of somewhat epic proportions.

What was the take-away?

I learned that day that Harley-Davidson owners have pride of ownership unlike any I've encountered. I also learned that Harley-Davidson is masterful at creating moments and experiences for their customers and their fans.

Though I am not a motorcycle rider I came to appreciate just how connected this group is and how proud they are to get together and ride, swap stories, check out each other's bikes, and just bask in the glow of the international community that loves this brand.

Dealerships along the various highway routes into Milwaukee even offered refreshments to riders coming from all over North America and beyond. We met people from many states, Canada, Asia and Central America. Everyone was kind and completely enthused to be together and reveling in the brand. What a perfect marketing moment.

Now, this is an extreme example of how it is possible to create community and belonging and tie it in masterfully to a brand. But we can all learn from this and think about how we might gather our fans, and our brand evangelists, and bring them together meaningfully. There is a lot to unpack around this idea. I invite small business marketers and local organization marketers to think about how creating a feeling of belonging can be so powerful for stakeholders.

Give thought to how you might convene your brand's fans. What opportunities can you devise to gather people who love what you do? Of course, you might not have 40,000 motorcyclists in your midst, but that is OK. Even small groups have a magnetism, a power, that when spotlighted can do wonders for a brand.

Think about it and try to get your fans together. I wish you many happy marketing moments with your fans.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communication and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients around Chicagoland and nationally.

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