The 240 employees at Colle+McVoy, the Minneapolis-based ad agency that bills $270 million annually, know a bit about two-wheeled passion. Their cycling culture has resulted in the shop being named a best place to work by Outside magazine for two years running, and they’ve done work for Schwinn and GT Bicycles. This understanding helped C+M prepare for another kind of two-wheeled passion: a campaign for Indian Motorcycle, owned by Minnesota-based Polaris Industries.
“There’s extreme passion for a brand,” says Mike Caguin, chief creative officer, asked to compare the two assignments. “It’s not just about buying the brand, but living it: Apparel, following social channels, reading and absorbing every piece of content that the manufacturer publishes, looking forward to the next engineering payoff. Those are all similar. But this is motorsports—there is a different payoff.”
This payoff was a long time coming. Indian ceased manufacturing in 1953, ceding the market for heavyweight American bikes to Harley-Davidson. “Although we were launching a bike,” says Caguin, “we were really launching a brand.”
But it’s a brand with legend and lore, which even Harley riders seem to acknowledge in a 60-second spot. In it, five riders on Indian Chiefs, the brand’s cruiser model, intersect with what looks like an endless line of black-clad Harley riders. All look as if they could be on their way to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. One of the bikers stops, checks out the new Indian motorcycles—and the riders—and with a knowing nod of respect lets the five pass. “Choice in American motorcycles is here,” the voiceover says, implying that the target market is those who buy American.
“American is very important for your classic heavyweight motorcycle rider, and it’s an American play within the states. But it’s an ‘Americana’ play once you get out of the country,” explains Rob Hagemann, account director, who notes that the brand sells well in Australia in particular.
The riders in the spot mirror the target demographic: Men ages about 45-64, according to Hagemann. Those happen to be some of the same folks who watch the History Channel. That was the media vehicle that Indian Motorcycle rode most skillfully. Magazines, radio, and Internet investments extended the campaign. (Per company policy, spending levels were not disclosed).