Your Prejudices Are Sabotaging Your Motorcycle Marketing

Your Prejudices Are Sabotaging Your Motorcycle Marketing

Did you know that about 20% of motorcycle owners are women? How about that this percentage increases with younger demographics? Over a quarter of generation Y owners are female motorcyclists. It’s time to say goodbye to the outdated image of the grizzled and grey haired biker. The modern motorcycle rider is evolving, and your motorcycle marketing strategy needs to keep up.

If you are making digital marketing decisions based on an old way of thinking, then you are missing out on a valuable and growing target market.

My Experience As a Female Motorcycle Rider

I started riding motorcycles by hopping on the back of my dad’s Harley. He had a relaxed cruiser and a sportier Screamin Eagle Anniversary Edition. I instantly fell in love and knew that one day, I would have my own two wheeled steed. To my dad’s dismay, I wasn’t never a Harley Girl, they just didn’t have anything I felt comfortable on. I like my legs tucked up under me and not out in front. I blame a youth spent riding horses.

When I turned 21, I signed up for a course and learned how to ride. A few weeks later I bought my first bike, a red Kawasaki Ninja 250. It was small and not very powerful, but it was perfect for my developing skills and confidence. Despite my excitement for my new found passion, I quickly learned I was entering a world that wasn’t quite ready for me. Proper gear for a female rider was hard to find. It either lacked the safety features that the men’s gear had, or it came in a sickening pink or purple color. (I hate both of these shades) I ended up buying men’s gear, which was safer, but never quite fit right on my frame.

I eventually got better and decided it was time for an upgrade. I sold the 250 and bought a Kawasaki Ninja 650R. Instead of dealing with the local motorcycle dealers, I looked for someone selling their bike. Despite the dealer incentives, the thought of dealing with the salesmen a motorcycle dealership was disheartening. To them potential customers are not young women. Walking in, they never want to show me the latest product launches. Instead, they steer you towards the small 300-400cc bikes. I loved the 650R. It was lightweight and nimble, making it perfect for zipping around the mountain roads in North Carolina near parent’s home in the Blue Ridge. I didn’t realize how easy I had it when I road this bike. People left me alone and I was free to enjoy myself.

Then I decided to upgrade. I traded the 650 in and bought a Kawasaki ZX14 with abs. It’s the bike own today, and I love it as much now as the day I bought it. However, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for when I bought it. No, I’m not referring to the power and handling of the bike, those I fully expected. What I didn’t realize was the uninvited comments, attention, and judgement that would come. At this point in my life, I have been riding for 15 years, which is not quite half of my lifetime. I fall into the Generation Y or Millennial demographic. Yet the industry is only just now catching up to the fact that women love owning and riding motorcycles. These are just a sampling of the comments that I hear pretty regularly when I am at an event or bike shop.

  • Sorry, we don’t carry women’s gear in store.
  • Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable on this 300?
  • You can’t fix your own bike, just trade it in.
  • Motorcycles are too dangerous for women to own.
  • (Insert some sexually explicit offensive remark)
  • That’s a man’s bike.
  •  That bike is too powerful for a woman.
  •  We have women’s gear! It’s Pink, you’ll love it!
  •  You must be lost, the scooters are over there.

As you can see, these comments demonstrate a basic lack of understanding of who women motorcycles riders are. The target audience is changing. Women are now buying, riding, and working on their own motorcycles. They are embracing the freedom, adventure, and power that comes with riding out onto an unknown back road. They are no longer content to ride on the back of someone else’s and be referred to as property.

Let’s Start With Numbers

  •  19% of all motorcycle owners are women
  • 22% of Gen X owners are women
  • 26% of Gen Y owners are women
  • Now let’s consider that motorcycle sales overall increased by 11.4% in 2021 from 2020.

These numbers should tell you there is a small but fast growing market. This means there’s potential for you to develop brand loyalty early on as these women learn to ride and buy their first bike. That despite the overall bike market declining, the number of women that own motorcycles is exponentially increasing. This presents a prime opportunity for business growth and expansion into previously neglected market.

Motorcycle Manufacturers

We all know that big name motorcycle makers only do something if they think it’s going to make them money. So when these 800 pound gorillas of the motorcycle industry start in a new direction, it’s time to take notice. Otherwise, you risk getting lost in the wayside as the industry moves on without you. By staying agile and acting quickly, you can stay relevant in the industry.

For decades, women had to find bikes that were meant for men, but were ridable by women. These were typically the smaller and lighter bikes. They learned how to modify them to their tastes and needs. All of this without the support of an industry who all but ignored them. However, these days are quickly fading into the past. Honda, Kawaski, BMW, and Victory have all taken steps to specifically design bikes with women in mind. They have dedicated marketing money to create campaigns motorcycle marketing that speak directly to women.

What Motorcycles Are Women Riding?

About 1/3 of women motorcycle owners prefer to rider a cruiser. This is great news for Harley if they can turn their image around. After decades of targeting white affluent baby boomer men, it’s a long tough road to become cool again. Sport bikes only account for about 10% of female motorcycle owners. I happen to fall into this smaller demographic with my ZX14.

What Do Women Motorcycle Riders Want?

The same thing as men. Too many companies assume that all women care about is looking pretty. Women don’t ride motorcycles for the sole purpose of looking good. Just ask any of them what happens to their makeup when they take their helmet off after a day of summer riding. (It’s a sweaty and smeared mess). Women want a combination of performance and looks. For example, take a look at motorcycle jacket reviews. You will see comments about the convenient features, safety qualities, and looks.

Just like men, women like all colors of the rainbow. Contrary to what manufacturers will have you believe, we like more than just pink and purple. In fact, most of us would rather wear men’s gear than either of these colors. Don’t be afraid to offer products that are in colors other than these.

Women want to customize their bike, just like men. We don’t need “women specific” parts, either. You could communicate inclusivity by offering a how-to video that features a fellow female rider installing your product on her bike. If you have products that can help women riders specifically, focus on how it can improve their ride.

Ladies Only Events

There’s the standard assumption that if you have a booth at a motorcycle event, you are getting in front of the vast majority of riders. However, this is not necessarily the case. Sure there are women at these events, but not all of them ride or own their own motorcycle. There are also significantly more men in attendance than women. If you have a new product that’s geared towards women, you’re not maximizing your motorcycle marketing dollars by showcasing it at a generic event.

A better option is to showcase your women-centric products at women only motorcycle events. Coordinate your online marketing with in-person initiatives. Then women riders with the budgets for buying new gear can get an up-close and in-person experience with your brand. These events are heavily populated by your target market, women who own and ride motorcycles. Check out Black Girls Ride, Women’s Motorcycle Tours, Women Riders Now, and Babe Ride Out. Then there’s International Female Ride Day where women all over the world celebrate their passion.

Do Your Research

It isn’t enough to decide that you will put marketing dollars and effort into targeting women. If you don’t put in the research, you won’t sound authentic. In come cases, it goes beyond inauthentic and crosses into down right insulting territory. Create a target audience profile of the type of female rider you want to reach. Establish the demographic information, type of bike she rides, hobbies, income, and anything else that helps you to create a fictional character that embodies the real women you hope to reach. This will help you establish authentic and relatable motorcycle marketing. You will have more success with this approach.

Harley Davidson’s Failure

Take a look at Harley Davidson and learn from their example of what not to do. The bike manufacture put serious effort and money into marketing campaigns and bike production specifically targeting women. Yet despite all of this effort, it hasn’t translated to a noticeable increase in women motorcycle buyers. Why is this? Despite the company creating specialized women-centric motorcycle social media marketing and bikes, it made no effort to evolve the overall brand image and turn women into new customers. This makes all of the company’s effort seem forced and inauthentic. The company never took the time to actually find out what women motorcycle enthusiasts want in their bikes or gear. What they ended up with was a “man’s bike brand” designing products by men for what they thought women wanted.

Some examples of this: Men’s gear will have 4-6 color options, including a Hi-Viz option to make riding safer. Women have two color options, white or pink. The lighter weight bikes meant for women lack the power and torque that the men’s bikes have. You can buy a competitor bike from Yamaha, Indian, or Honda in a similar size and weight class with considerably more performance capabilities. Unfortunately, Harley missed the mark completely. Take a walk through the boot rack and every single pair has a heel. I’m not trying to break my ankle by riding in heels. I also don’t want to spend the entire day walking in them when I go to an event.

Triumph and Ducati Success

Two companies that have successfully cracked the female code are Triumph and Ducati. My personal negative opinions about Triumph as a company aside, both companies designed bikes that simply fit women, from the position of the handlebars, softer clutch, and better weight balance. The bikes are comfortable and enjoyable right off the showroom floor. This is a stark contrast to Harleys that are expensive to purchase and then require a small fortune in aftermarket customizations to make comfortable.

Both Triumph and Ducati offer real riding gear. It looks and performance just like the men’s gear, but cut for a woman’s body. The motorcycle content marketing imagery for both companies features both men and women in full protective gear. Sometimes, the rider is in a full face helmet, obscuring the gender completely.

Are You Ready to Evolve Your Motorcycle Marketing?

Are you ready to recognize that there is a growing market that you may be missing out on? There’s no better time than now to start reaching out and speaking directly to female riders. It’s time to strategize your search engine optimization (SEO), increase your female email marketing subscribers, and start attracting more female potential buyers. What better way to do this than by hiring a content writer who is also rider? I can help you gain a unique perspective on this growing demographic.

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