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Buy a Harley, join the club?

Public lecture: listen to marketing expert James McAlexander’s novel take on brand subcultures
October 9, 2013
By Yuri Mytko

Harlistas, Women Riders and the Iron Elite. Three distinct groups of Americans with a shared affinity for one brand: Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“People value respect,” says James McAlexander, the Dean’s Professor of Excellence in Marketing at Oregon State University’s College of Business. He will be exploring “Living and Leaving Brand Comunities” in a free public lecture at the John Molson School of Business on Friday, October 18.

“Experiencing ownership is very different from possession. The status that comes with it offers a sense of belonging and accomplishment.”

McAlexander is fascinated by how marketing institutions and consumers interact with one another as they jointly participate in the formation of brand communities. In the past 20 years, Harley-Davidson, Jeep and Nissan have all used his findings to build and strengthen their connections with customers and potential customers.

James McAlexander James McAlexander

“We have found that products that provide compelling experiences through consumption or use, especially when the benefits are visible and shared with others, tend to foster community,” McAlexander says.

“In our research, we observed the power of shared experiences when Jeep owners navigate technically difficult terrain with fellow Jeep owners, and also with Harley owners as we have toured and ridden in compelling environments — Death Valley, Glacier National Park.”

Market research has traditionally tended to focus on ethnic or other ascribed subcultures, but these groups display such a diversity of consumption preferences that their usefulness in market segmentation is limited. Brand communities and brand subcultures are, on the other hand, self-selected on the basis of shared consumption interests.

McAlexander has focused on these in an effort to better understand consumers, and the manner in which they organize their lives and identities.

What:  “Living and Leaving Brand Comunities” with James McAlexander
  Friday, October 18 at 10 a.m.
  Room MB 2-130, John Molson School of Business Building (1450 Guy St.), Sir George Williams Campus

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