National Parking Association
1112 16th Street NW, Suite 840
Washington, DC 20036
Branding Guru and Former Director of Communications for
Harley-Davidson Motor Company
The National Parking Association has announced that Ken Schmidt, branding guru and former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, will speak at the opening general session of The Parking Show of Shows, NPA’s 57th Annual Convention and Exposition, to be held Sept. 15-18 at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.
As former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Schmidt played an active role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history. “How the people of Harley-Davidson were able to turn this great company around, as successfully as we did, makes for one of the best business stories of all time,” he says. His presentation, “Make Some Noise,” is a fascinating story of building an entirely new corporate culture, of rekindling relationships with customers, and reaching out to new ones in completely untraditional ways.
Now an independent consultant, he has specialized in marketing and branding issues for such corporate powerhouses as Coca-Cola and IBM. An avid motorcyclist himself, Schmidt discusses his struggle to restore Harley-Davidson’s image and re-ignite consumer demand for its motorcycles. He details how successful corporate cultures must maintain relationships with veteran customers and innovatively pursue new ones.
One of the most in-demand speakers and communications consultants in America, Ken Schmidt has lived a life that most can only dream about. He has toured the world on two wheels, met with presidents and royalty, partied with movie and music legends, and appeared numerous times on network news. The longtime motorcycle enthusiast’s formal association with Harley-Davidson began in 1985. As a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations, he was asked to work with the then-struggling Harley-Davidson to help restore the company’s image and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, Harley-Davidson became one of the most visible and frequently reported-on companies in the world, while sales of its motorcycles rocketed upward.
In 1990, Schmidt became director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, and served as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. In 1997, Schmidt left Harley-Davidson to take an ownership position with a highly successful Chicago-based marketing firm, VSA Partners. In addition to Harley-Davidson, VSA serves many of the world’s best-known brands, including General Motors, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Campbell's Soup. In July 1999, he sold his portion of VSA to start his own business, Ken Schmidt Company, and slow down the pace of his life.
Now, Schmidt is a frequent speaker to business groups and academic communities throughout the world. Few speakers generate more positive word-of-mouth and referrals. “I love to startle people by exposing them to proven ideas and concepts they’ve never imagined,” he said. “Whether I’m talking about how perfectly average people can do extraordinary things - which is now an everyday occurrence at Harley-Davidson - or how to build an entirely new corporate culture, rekindle relationships with customers, or reach out to new ones in completely untraditional ways, I’m teaching people to throw conventional approaches out the window. I see opening hearts and minds as my life’s work.”
Today, Schmidt shares his expertise with many of America’s leading brands, but happily states that he is “semi-retired,” which allows him to pursue his other passions. He calls working with the grandson of one of Harley-Davidson’s founders to create the book, 100 Years of Harley- Davidson, one of the greatest highs in his lifetime. After all he has accomplished, his philosophy of life and business hasn’t changed: “Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to.”
Schmidt will be speaking on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 8:30 a.m. For more information, contact Denise Gable at 202.470.6303 or DeniseGable@npapark.org.
About the National Parking Association: The National Parking Association (NPA) is a network of companies comprised of parking industry professionals. NPA's mission is to serve as a resource to the parking industry and our members by offering quality education, networking opportunities, products and services. To learn more, go to www.npapark.org.