The Feb 2, 2015 edition of The Times of India announced on its front reported ‘Royal Enfield races past Harley in global sales’. Royal Enfield sold round 3 lakh units in 2014 making it zoom past the sales of Goliath Harley which notched reported global sales of 2.67 lakh units. Enfield grew by an impressive 70% compared to Harley’s 3% in the year 2014.
The comparison between two brands may not be justified on many accounts. First of the actual product range in terms of price and power are very different. For instance, Harley’s entry level model costs around Rs 5 lakh which is more than double the price of Enfield’s top of the line bike which comes come with a price tag of Rs 2 lakh. The actual or real differences between the two brands in terms of their physical specifications do set them apart. Enfield product range is slotted broadly in between the top end powerful bike space dominated by the likes of Harley and Ducati and the lower end less powerful called commuter bikes like Hero and Bajaj.
What has made a bike like Enfield click with the market? If one takes a pure engineering and rational view then the conclusion is likely to be that it is a bike with different product specifications like engine capacity, size, weight and displacement. And notwithstanding these differences, this is a bike or motor cycle which is essentially provides benefit of commuting or transportation. It is machine whose function is mobility. Though human beings are also mobile but its apparent utility lay in modifying this innate mobility with the twist of speed which provides freedom to move along the axis of place my gaining control over time.
The utility embedded in the machine aspect of the brand does not allow an effective escape from destructive forces of competitive parity. Rather the brand’s manages its success by an act of subversion of what its product inherently stands for and what it is made to stand for in the realm of imagination. Although the Royal Enfield produces a mechanical object by assembling different parts into a unified whole but its marketing department manufactures a subtext, a myth, a meaning that transforms the bike into the realm of a symbol which draws its power from its role as an architect and signifier of customer’s identity.
Enfield bikes in their construction are different in their appearance, size, and sound and engine capacity. All these features render them into the something masculine, beastly, raw and powerful. It is common observation many of their buyers fit their bikes with pressure horns and alter mufflers to add thunder to their sound. The roads are ultimate democratic spaces where inhabitants get treated with same rules and their sheer number has an identity robbing effect. The identity defining aspects in a static condition of home and office fail to convey who you are in terms of power, status, hierarchy and class. In the typical metropolitan setting according to Crocker one feels lost and lonely in the crowd. It is here objects are pressed into service by people to a communication system to communicate certain aspects of self.
There are two sides of power. One side is that speaks to self in an inward manner which is summed up in the statement, ‘with power comes responsibility’. The typical Harley rides lives on the edge, believes in self with a strong sense of individuality and resists over arching system of conformity. Here the brand speaks to its customer in private dialogue to strengthen and reinforce identity. The other angle of power revolves around using it to get conformity out of others in dialogue that is external. Here the brand caters more to the need for expression of power to gain influence over others. The brand seeks to convert mechanical power into socio-cultural power to compensate for the void that people experience in life in a city. Many Enfield riders seek status of privilege and power though their sound machines by act of defiance of rules, humbling others by pressure horns and weaving through the traffic.
More is always not better in marketing. The user image can rub off and alter brand meaning. In the US market, once upon a time motor cycles became the vehicle of criminals causing them to become unpopular with the rest of the market.