I just finished a very upbeat story about Katy Perry’s ‘Harleys in Hawaii’ song and videos for the New York Times, and was thinking, “Finally. Harley-Davidson may start to like me as a journalist,” when I saw a Facebook message arrive from Roger Willis, who covers motorcycle business news from his base on the Isle of Man.
Roger asked me if I’d heard any scuttlebutt about the sudden firing of Neil Grimmer, Harley’s short-lived president of Global Brand Development. Not only had I not heard any rumors, I hadn’t even heard the news because I had my nose stuck in Katy Perry all last week*. But a quick check confirmed that last Friday, Matt Levatich sent out an internal memo confirming that Grimmer had been reaped.
A company statement cryptically explained the reason. “His departure comes after an internal inquiry along with a third-party investigation into concerns that his judgement and conduct as a senior leader did not align with our culture and the values we expect all our employees to demonstrate.”
For all its intentional vagueness and corporate double-speak, they might as well have ended it with, #MeToo.
Where would I start with a venerable company selling a legacy brand deciding to hire Neil Grimmer, in the first place? BTW, he was only hired in April. Eight months ago. His background was as founder of Habit, a company that uses an at-home diagnostic test to design personal nutrition programs.
For fuck’s sake, Grimmer’s a minor character out of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. Leave aside the fact that the whole ‘personalized nutrition’ space is full of charlatans – even if his system worked, how would experience running a trendy wellness startup apply to motorcycles?
I mean, really. Who else did they interview? Gwyneth Paltrow?
Terrible marketing hires are not limited to Harley, either. Motorcycle companies are facing structural headwinds in the U.S., but God damn it, they compound their problems almost every time they hire a marketing executive. They either choose some flavor of the day hipster, or promote from within – picking whoever is best at wheelies. That’s usually a guy who can only be photographed if he’s sticking his tongue out and flashing fake gang signs. Those two marketing honcho archetypes do have things in common; tattoos, and the inability to understand a motorcycle brand or resurrect the market. (To be fair, OEMs don’t give those losers big enough budgets to move the needle anyway, but I digress.)
What did Grimmer do, to get fired? I don’t know. But…
if I was writing a completely fictitious novel about the #MeToo movement coming to a legacy motorcycle company, I’d have a big shot marketing executive impregnate a much, much younger direct report. And to make matters worse, the girl would be a second-generation employee related to someone who was, previously, a very senior executive with the company.**
The craziest thing about this is, before joining Harley-Davidson, Grimmer sold Habit to the Campbell Soup Company and reportedly pocketed something like $80 million. This begs two questions…
Why was he working at all?
Why the hell not just hire a world-class hooker?
You know, as a motorcycle journalist I have the reputation as some kind of really negative guy, blogging about all the worst aspects of this business. Here’s my message to the motorcycle industry: stop doing this stupid shit, and I’ll stop putting up these snarky, critical posts.
*In the Katy Perry story, you pervert
**Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.