3/14/2011-Back to square one

New owner of aftermarket motorcycle brand makes changes at Symtec
CINCINNATI — A longtime executive who was feeling the burnout of being in corporate America for 20 years spent more than a year looking for a company to call his own.
“What I was looking for,” says Riley Harlan, “was a company that had a good reputation, good solid product and a distribution network so I could build from there.”
Harlan, whose corporate experience most recently included Target, found those qualities in Symtec, a Fridley, Minn.-based manufacturer of heated products for the powersports industry.
Harlan purchased the brand in August and displayed the results of the first six months of his and his staff’s work at the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati.
“What I found,” Harlan told Powersports Business, “was a company that was completely under marketed.”
So he concentrated much of his first six months on re-examining the brand’s marketing.
“We took it back to square one and said, ‘Let’s look at logos, branding, everything across the board. Who are we, and what are we trying to portray?’”
There wasn’t necessary one answer for that question as the company’s revenue comes from almost an equal division of OEM and aftermarket sales.
“On the aftermarket side,” Harlan said, “we’re trying to hit a brand that portrays something that appeals to both the V-twin and the X Games crowd.”
Harlan hired a Minneapolis ad agency to help with that branding endeavor. The result was a decision to keep Symtec’s brand name, Heat Demon, intact, but make changes to it in hopes of elevating brand awareness. So the company stopped using the existing cartoon-like flame brand image on its packaging and instead incorporated a more updated trident look.
The new logo will appear on the brand’s packaging soon and will eventually be part of the company’s website, which will be redesigned.
Besides marketing, Harlan also spent his first six months at the company examining its sales efforts. What he found was there wasn’t “a lot of proactive sales going on. Just sitting back and taking orders, hoping our distributors are out there pushing (the product).
“It was pretty obvious that that was the first thing we had to attack,” he said.
The sales effort now under way is directed at aiding distributors, which include Drag Specialties and Tucker Rocky as well as a couple of Canadian companies.
“We’re trying to partner with the distributors and asking, ‘What’s working? What’s not?’”
The company also, for the first time, will be active in consumer shows.
“We’ve got to go out and create some consumer demand,” Harlan said. “We’re not looking for consumer sales, but looking to educate the consumers about the product. It’s better for us if they go to their dealer and they’re asking for the product. Then dealers will start stocking us even more.”
As the company’s sales efforts continue to advance, Harlan will look more closely at Symtec’s production, possibly moving the company to a different facility in the same Twin Cities suburb they’re located in.
It’s all part of an effort to grow a small brand into a bigger industry presence, a brand-new experience for the ex-Target executive.
“I took a year, spending a lot of time researching different companies, different industries, and I landed here for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is it’s fun,” Harlan said, speaking from the floor of the V-Twin Expo. “I can’t think of anything more fun than a show like this. I’ve been to trade shows all over the place and they’re boring. This isn’t boring.” PSB

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