Harley-Davidson Bets on Artificial Intelligence


The President of Harley-Davidson of New York City, Asaf Jacobi, gambled that artificial intelligence would be the best way to drive the retailer’s ad campaigns, and hit it big. One of several Harley-Davidson franchises to team up with “Albert,” an AI-driven marketing technology by Adgorithms, Jacobi employed the new technology to execute self-driven digital advertising and marketing efforts.

“I said I have to be much more targeted, I need to get to the right audience and online is going to be the channel for me,” noted Jacobi. So he read up on what solutions in AI were available. “I put the bet that artificial intelligence will outperform anything that I would be able to hire.” 

Harley-Davidson launched its first AI campaign, “48 Bikes in 48 Hours,” in 2016 to reduce seasonal overstock and determine how quickly Albert could ramp up audience knowledge to meet the brand’s conversion goals. Prior to Albert, Harley-Davidson NYC’s all-time sales record was eight motorcycles in a single weekend. In the  first two-day campaign, Albert almost doubled this record, selling 15 bikes.

“I’ve been working with Albert for a year and a half now,” Jacobi explained. “What surprised me from the start was how easy the implementation was and how fast it adjusted to our benchmarks. I would never have guessed it in a million years how big and fast the improvement would be. I wasn’t prepared for such a rapid growth in such a short period of time.”

Rapid growth is almost an understatement. The retailer went from three to five leads per day to 50 leads per day in around two months. 

Harley-Davidson NYC initially projected only 2% of New York’s population to be potential buyers. Albert identified new audiences by correlating online behaviors with their likelihood of conversion, and then autonomously targeted them with individualized creative and copy combinations.

The retailer now relies on Albert to handle every aspect of digital campaign management and execution. Working with campaign creative and KPIs provided by the brand, Albert autonomously executes holistic digital ad and marketing campaigns, learning as it goes, in order to identify the audiences most likely to convert, eliminate low-value audiences, apply insights gained from one channel to other channels, and engage in over 20 other digital ad and marketing activities necessary to meet the given KPIs. 

For example, when Albert learned that Facebook ads with instantaneous product views generated a conversion rate 8.5 times higher than other Harley-Davidson ads, it automatically discontinued low-performing ads and applied a similar user experience flow across new ones. Similarly, Albert discovered that ads with the term “Call” were performing 447% better than ads with the term “Buy,” so it began optimizing text and creative accordingly.

“For there to be a technology that knows nothing about us, yet can come and outdo us in its first shot was incredible,” said Jacobi. “We have since increased our commitment to Albert and are currently building a call center to accommodate the leads it generates for us.” 

After just six months, Harley-Davidson NYC credited 40% of its motorcycle sales to Albert and hired approximately six new employees to keep up with resulting leads. 

Jacobi advises other retailers, as the younger generation comes into the workforce they are looking for solutions online. 

“The owners are going to be obviously much more comfortable and confident to use those type of tools because we’re coming from that generation, and the solutions are only going to get better, so I think it’s just going to skyrocket.”  

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