Inside the Hells Angels’ Brand Strategy

By Patrick Coffee Comment


What do you mean, they haven’t sued the Pope yet?

In case you missed this New York Times piece over the holiday weekend, it’s a must read about how the Hells Angels have gone from being a bunch of criminals on motorcycles to being a real-life brand, complete with the merchandising, reputation management and lawsuits this shift entails.

While they do not technically have a PR rep, they do have a lawyer—and they appear love a good suing even more than they love the way their leather jackets perfectly complement their leathery complexions.

Our favorite takeaways:

Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation, a nonprofit established in California in 1970…owns and protects the club’s intellectual property.

In the United States, the corporation has 18 trademark registrations covering the use of seven different marques, including a half-dozen or so variations of the death’s-head icon, and additional trademark registrations in more than a dozen other countries.

Here’s the group’s leader on what he would do to an average Joe on the street who refused to relinquish a t-shirt bearing the number 81 (that’s “H” and “A”, the eight and first letters of the alphabet):

“I’d beat him up and take it.”

Is that what “brand advocate” really means? You should really read the whole article: it’s well worth one of your ten monthly freebies if you’re not a subscriber.

And yes, we know that those are different bikers in the picture. Do you want to get sued?