Monday Night GMAT: Analysis of an Argument

The following article appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper:

“Motorcycle X has been manufactured in the US for more than 70 years. Although one foreign company has copied the motorcycle and is selling it for less, the company has failed to attract motorcycle X customers – some say because its product lacks the exceptionally loud noise made by motorcycle X. But there must be some other explanation. After all, foreign cars tend to be quieter than similar American-made cars, but they sell at least as well. Also, television advertisements for motorcycle X highlight its durability and sleek lines, not its noisiness, and the ads typically have voice-overs or rock music rather than engine-roar on the soundtrack”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.

The author makes a compelling, linear argument when discussing the merits of motorcycle X and its competitor. Indeed, the argument that the presence of an “exceptionally loud noise” would influence buying patterns to the degree indicated by the passage seems weak, to the point of of preposterousness. Unless of course, it was reinforced with market research which, in this passage, it is not.

However, the author’s counter-argument and allegory that cars can be an adequate comparison for motorcycles is equally weak considering the dramatically different motives of prospective buyers of the two products. On one hand, the car generally represents stability, safety and family – concepts you would not associate with an “exceptionally loud noise”. On the other hand, motorcycles represent freedom, a sense of danger and rebellion – concepts one would associate with the “exceptionally loud noise” mentioned in the quote.

While the author’s comparison is ill-placed, the analysis of motorcycle X’s advertising campaign is not. It is just poor and ill-conceived. While the advertising may highlight durability and sleek lines, both of which would not be out of place in a car advertisement, the author fails to see an additional metaphor whereby the soundtrack’s rock music serves as a symbol of engine roar. Of “exceptionally loud noise”.

Indeed, the loudness of the rock music is a direct metaphor for the loudness (and power) of the engine. Motorcycle X’s owners and buyers are not interested in the “exceptional loud noise” of its engine, but in what it represents – a powerful engine designed to imbibe the freedom, sense of danger and rebellion that the motorcycle itself promises.

While I do not agree with the author’s reasoning, nor of the argument it seeks to disprove, my recommendation would have been to place the stronger argument, the analysis of the advertising campaign, before the weaker argument – the comparison between car and motorcycle sales in America.

My conclusion is that both arguments are flawed, and do focus on issues not material to motorcycle X’s, and its competitor’s, sales. The real issue is the (perceived) quality and power of the engine, and not the noise it produces.

Both arguments also neglect to take into account additional factors such as a comparative analysis of the two motorcycle’s holistic marketing campaigns. Harley Davidson, a popular manufacturer of motorcycles created one of the world’s fastest growing brands by harnessing its customers’ passion for the brand into small pockets of intensely motivated brand evangelists as members of the “Harley Davidson Owners Group”  (HOGs). This movement meant that the Harley brand stood for more than just a machine and started to represent a way of life that simply couldn’t be replicated by foreign imports.

In the case of Harley Davidson, the “exceptionally loud noise” was immaterial to its success.

2 Responses to Monday Night GMAT: Analysis of an Argument

  1. […] Ed Lee wrote an interesting post today on Monday Night GMAT: Analysis of an ArgumentHere’s a quick excerptUnless of course, it was reinforced with market research which, in this passage, it is not. However, the author’s counter-argument and allegory that cars can be an adequate comparison for motorcycles is equally weak considering the … […]

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