The Rise and Fall of Harley-Davidson Perfume
The Smell of neither Success nor Money
Early on in its history, Harley-Davidson's founding fathers recognized the importance of good marketing. Co-founder Arthur Davidson was the Motor Company's advertising and public relations force at the beginning, and his efforts to expand the brand laid the foundations for Harley-Davidson's huge modern lifestyle brand. Not all the non-motorcycle products were successful however, and even the best branding ideas can fail in the face of a fickle buying public. Case in point: Harley-Davidson's abortive attempt to sell perfume.
A recent article by Megan Otto in “MIlwaukee Magazine” delves into Harley-Davidson's, shall we say, misguided mid-90s entrance into the world of boutique perfumes and colognes. The “Hot Road” selection featured the fragrant aromas of wooded glades with overtones of tobacco. If that sounds like a stretch in appealing to the Harley faithful, turns out it was. Seeing the bar and shield logo on shirts, jackets, vests, chaps, bandanas and underwear was one thing, but perfume? Harley-Davidson was bound and determined to make all of their loyal customers smell great though, as evidenced by these amazing product descriptions.
Here’s what they had to say about a cologne called Cool Spirit:
“The crisp top notes of bergamot, pineapple, apple, lavender, and cypress possess an almost mossy undertone. Perfect for the well-dressed businessman, Harley Davidson Cool Spirit also complements the casual attire of the avid sportsman. The heady aromatic blend of this manly fragrance is just what you need to start your day the right way.”
Then there were the aromatic delights of His Destiny cologne:
“Harley Davidson is best known for their rugged motorcycles, but they also have a lot of other products designed to make you feel like the manliest man out there. The scents found in His Destiny are chypre, amber, ginger, aniseed, sandalwood, leather, cinnamon, and cedar wood. Whether you ride a motorcycle yourself or only appreciate them, this cologne is for you.”
And of course Milwaukee didn’t overlook the ladies in the campaign to to enhance the odors of the road:
“Take charge of your day when you splash on Destiny for women. This divine fragrance mixes mint and bergamot with green leaves, red berries, and sea accords, resulting in a provocative scent that brings out your adventurous side. Dare to wear it as you jet down the open highway, whether you are on the back of the bike enjoying the ride or in the driver's seat calling the shots.”
Who could resist such purple prose? Turns out almost everyone. Harley-Davidson fragrances only lasted a few years until they were quietly shuffled off into the dustbin of failed branding exercises and everyone agreed never to speak of them again.
Twenty years have come and gone since H-D dipped its toe in the eau de toilette market. While the product line tanked in Harley showrooms, most of the scents remain available online on eBay and places like perfumes.com, and Fragrancenet. Perhaps, like good whiskey, the quality of fine fragrances actually improves with age.