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How Triumph conquered the US motorcycle market

How Triumph conquered the US motorcycle market

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

How does a British fashion motorcycle brand go on to be the top selling European player in the US market?

This is exactly what Triumph has achieved, with the company turning over $440 million in 2007 alone – up by 10 per cent year on year. Global sales of motorcycles also rose by 10 per cent to more than 41,000 units.

One of the reasons for success is obviously down to product. The brand has always had its own distinctive character and a reputation for producing bikes that have become design classics, following the creation of the Bonneville model of the 1960’s.

But in one of the biggest motorcycle markets of the world marketing has obviously also played a pivotal role.

“In the US Triumph is the only European manufacturer to offer a full range of motorcycles,” North American Marketing Manager, Jim Callaghan, told us. “It’s also seen as a luxury brand in comparison with the mass produced Japanese models on the market.”

One of the successes of the brand has been a range of factors which it’s been able to capitalise on in its marketing.

“It holds a mystique for consumers in their 50s and 60s today,” Callaghan said. “When they were younger owning a Triumph meant you were the goldenchild.

“In the heyday of Hollywood it was the choice of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Steve McQueen amongst others. Today it’s more likely to be Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaghy and George Clooney.”

He added, “The bottom line is that an all-American movie star now needs a Triumph for the complete look.”

Key messages in the marketplace include talking up the brand’s pride in the unique nature of the products it delivers from engineering and design, allowing finished models to sell themselves with a degree of individuality.

For Triumph riders owning a motorcycle is more than, simply owning a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle statement. But it’s the heritage values of the brand that continues to lead the brand’s positioning.

“The importance of heritage taps into three distinct generational groups,” Callaghan revealed. “There’s the baby boomers of the 1940s and 50s who see Triumph with a degree of nostalgia and see the bikes as representing the days of their youth.

“This nostalgia carries on through their sons, and sons of sons. Today the brand is seen as retro and appeals to those who want to relive the golden days when a number of people helped define what our country stands for.”

He added, “For consumers it’s a unique opportunity to live that dream again today.”

Surprisingly, considering its role in the market as the European top player, advertising only plays a minor role.

Rather efforts are focused on PR and driving marketing messages through associating the brand with key cultural icons and securing editorial placement in lifestyle media.

“We have a limited advertising budget and tend to use it to deal with immediate issues such as a new product launch,” said Callaghan. “But the USA is a gigantic country, it’s like six European countries rolled into one.

“It can be difficult to make impact over such a huge territory so we try to find which style of marketing model will work best for each project.”

He added, “Digital is becoming increasingly important for us as the world id going digital more and more. We produce glossy corporate videos for the web and update the site daily to encourage engagement and provide up to date information.”

A newsletter is also sent out every two weeks to a database that once numbered 5,000, but now comprises of 100,000 names one year later.

It’s used to inform consumers about new motorcycles, events, store openings, promotions, clothing and so on.

Sponsorship opportunities are always available but the brand shies away from those which involve no more than slapping a logo on an event.

“We find its not the best for engagement and will only get involved with events where we can truly connect with consumers,” Callaghan added.

Instead the brand is fortunate to have it’s own fan network. The Riders Association of Triumph (RAT), is an official factory-run owners' group that organises everything from track days to touring adventures for owners of Triumph bikes.

It’s a valuable way to encourage brand loyalty by instilling a fun and entertaining social element.

“One out of every two dealers has a social and events programme with sponsored rides and an opportunity for owners to meet others,” Callaghan said. “We also work with the Motorcycle Association of America and are a major backer of their annual Vintage Motorcycle Days event.”

This three-day two-wheel celebration held in Ohio is one of the biggest in the calander for motorcycle fans. This year, VMD will name Triumph as Marque of the Year, honouring its position as one of the most popular and enduring brands in the industry.

“Naturally we’re aware what the other brands are up to with their marketing, but to be honest we’re more concerned about delivering for our customers.” Callaghan added. “At events where different brands lay on demo rides we always draw the biggest crowd by far.

“In terms of how we market globally, every country with its different culture means we have a different set of guidelines. However, Triumph does bring the different territory marketing team together on a regular basis to explore best practice and how we can learn from each other.”

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