There aren’t many brands in the Fortune 500 that can inspire a person to get their logo proudly tattooed on their skin forever, but Harley-Davidson has done it countless times over making their most loyal Harley Owners Group (HOG) members branded billboards for life. Few other companies can even touch the level of iconic imagery that comes from just hearing the company’s name. Harley-Davidson owns the row of bikes lined up in front of small-town bars. It owns working-class cool. It owns the freedom of the open road—and what’s more, they’ve created a global community out of wildly independent rebels. There’s an unlikely intersection of health care and motorcycles, but that’s where you’ll find an essential lesson on building loyalty.

The Harley experience doesn’t end when you walk out of the dealership. It continues through endless merchandising, yearly celebrations and rallies all over the word. Successful brands take their customer relationships beyond a product lifecycle or a service touch point. Identifying opportunities to make meaningful connections is key—and in health care, those possibilities outshine even the brightest chrome trim.

The health care industry generates an impressive amount of data. That data can be used to identify where to empower a customer and build the trust necessary for creating a long-term relationship. Where can wait times be more bearable? What resources can you offer patients with chronic conditions? What healthy habits should be rewarded?

Harley-Davidson is the finest company in the world. — Evel Knievel
Harley Davidson

Finding a way to elevate common experiences is the difference between just buying a bike and becoming the newest HOG member. People need to feel a shared connection. Offering relevant information or more streamlined experiences isn’t enough. You have to be in tune with your customer’s emotions to help them feel valued and recognized in a way that resonates with them. A welcome kit, personalized quarterly summary or a card that simply thanks them for continuing to choose your service can go a long way.

Love is the feeling you get when you like something as much as your motorcycle.
– Hunter S. Thompson

Harley Davidson rally at Timisoara Airshow in Romania
Ion Sebastian

Harley-Davidson’s most powerful storytelling is done by word of mouth. The story of the unique roar of the bike and sightings of long leather-clad trains of riders is told again and again to friends and family. It’s often overlooked that health care isn’t consumed in a vacuum. One study shows that when faced with a health event, people follow the treatment advice of friends and family 86% of the time. There’s valuable opportunity in strengthening a personal network. A sense of community and belonging can encourage customers to achieve personal goals, like losing weight or keeping up with regular appointments. Being part of that community gives health care companies an easy way to share new offerings and spread important information.

The kind of loyalty Harley-Davidson inspires in legendary. A Harley rider wouldn’t even dream of riding anything else. Their commitment to the customer experience has brought the company on a ride that’s lasted over a century long—and counting. A health care patient isn’t so different from a motorcycle rider who craves empowerment and community. They may never brand themselves with your logo, but the health care industry would find some good in trying on a leather jacket. There’s an elusive cool to be gained, and it’s a lot more comfortable than it looks.

Shannon Langrand

Even a simple idea can transcend the limits of technology and ripple onwards through time.