Rebranding of a global icon

In our latest Tech N Trends, we take a look at the rebrand of a global icon.


Here’s a question for you. Whose logo is this?

How about this one?

Now this one?

It goes without saying there has been a rebrand of Harley-Davidson!

Rebrands are notoriously difficult to pull off successfully without thoroughly examining why the process is taking place.

First of all there has to be a need. Why do you need to rebrand? Is the demand coming from your customers or is it from within?

At some point there has to be a driving force – rebrands don’t happen organically, there has to be a decision made, and once it is made it sets in motion a chain of events that can make or break a business.

At the most extreme end of the spectrum the company changes its name, identity, culture and pretty much throws the baby out with the bath water as the firm becomes a new entity.

But what to do if you’re one of the world’s most iconic brands? One that not only is recognisable in every corner of the planet but is synonymous with a lifestyle, a feeling, a movement, a whole reason for living. “There’s nothing more liberating than riding a Harley-Davidson” was the previous brand promise.

That was the challenge for the creative team behind the new brand for Harley-Davidson.

So why was Harley-Davidson making a change? Simply put, the world is changing around them so they felt forced to respond.

A Harley’ has a certain image which struggles to cut through with a new audience. Like many legacy brands its customers are ageing and, while remaining loyal, are a dwindling market.

The average age of a Harley rider was 48 when the company last published that information way back in 2008.

Add to that the shift through personal choice and via push and pull economics to electric vehicles and the old school diesel engine which produces the iconic Harley-Davidson full-throated roar is gradually fading away.

As a creative director I’m interested in how other agencies and brands go about their work. Being handed the brief to rebrand Harley-Davidson would be a dream for any creative agency and I can only imagine the time and effort that went into completing this body of work.

The world has changed a great deal since 2019 – when this rebrand happened – so it’s probably fair to say the brief may have been different if it had been approached in a post Covid environment.

In terms of an overall impression I think I’ll reserve judgement for a while yet as the success or not of the rebrand will only become evident over time.

Let me come back to the question asked at the start of this blog; would you immediately know it is Harley-Davidson?

If the brief is to make the brand instantly recognisable then this new concept is probably not hitting the mark for me.

So, I suspect there’s an element of trying to disassociate the immediate thoughts of people when they see the old Harley’ brand. In their place they want to make a younger audience more curious and interested.


There are many elements to the new brand which on their own aren’t obviously apparent that they are Harley-Davidson.


When paired together – and placed on a beautifully manufactured machine – it all makes sense.

Time will tell whether the new brand elements will become instantly synonymous and recognisable as Harley-Davidson without a need for the brand name – and this will be the defining success.



Is it a risky strategy? Maybe. But it has also got us talking about Harley-Davidson whether positive or negative.

And there’s only one thing worse than that, which is not being talked about. In that regard, then, it is mission accomplished for the agency.


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