If that title does not get you to read this article I do not know what will.

By Steve Moran

If that title does not get you to read this article I do not know what will. Trust me, It will be worth it.

A few days ago we published an article that talked about three questions that came from Ken Schmidt, the former communications director of Harley Davidson. The article, titled “Could These 3 Questions Get You to 100% Occupancy?,” covered something he talked about at the Senior Living Innovation Forum in Napa. In answering those three questions there is one thing Harley Davidson did that just keeps pinging around in my head as a powerful lesson for senior living.  

I will get to Geoffrey in a minute . . .

Hell’s Angels

At one time, when you walked into a Harley Davidson dealership you would have had a difficult time figuring out if it was a place that sells motorcycles or a Hell’s Angels’ clubhouse. They would smell like oil, gas, and sweaty people. There would be trash and motorcycle parts right next to a few new “bikes”. You would see scantily clad women on posters and — if you went into the bathroom — even pictures of naked women from Playboy or something more explicit.

The bottom line was that you had to be really serious about purchasing a Harley or you were just a lowlife. No wonder they were on the verge of bankruptcy. They knew they needed to appeal to Boomers who wanted a bit of a “bad boy” image — but not too bad — and could afford a premium bike with loud pipes.  

They also knew that most of these (mostly guys) had families and kids. In particular, buying a Harley usually was/is a big enough investment that spouses are needed to sign-off on the purchase.

Creating an Experience

They required all of their dealers to completely revamp their stores in a fashion that would create an amazing experience for their target audience. Front and center they put a super tricked out Harleys that shoppers — and their kids — could sit on when they first walked in.


Because they would sit on the bike and have someone snap a pic, or have their kids sit on the bike and take their picture. Then they would share those photos on social media. This is the kind of authentic publicity one could never purchase. It was a modern-day version of “word of mouth” marketing.

Geoffrey the Giraffe

For many years a 16-foot tall Geoffrey the Giraffe statue stood in the lobby of Toys “R” Us. When they went bankrupt no one apparently wanted it. Finally, a children’s hospital in New Jersey agreed to take Geoffrey.  

I found myself thinking it would have been so cool if a senior living community had put their hand up first to take Geoffrey. The initial publicity alone would have been massive. Residents would have loved it and family members too. And, come on, who would not want to work for a senior living community that had Geoffrey in their lobby?

Most importantly, almost every single person would have wanted a photo that they would then post on social media.

Practical Application

This could be done by you. A Harley, an antique aircraft, an old car, movie memorabilia . . . there are so many really cool things that a community could do that would draw visitors and attention.

This is seriously worth thinking about.