How the Green Motorcycle Curse Was Broken

When it comes to one of the top brands for innovative sports bikes built for speed, it’s no surprise that Kawasaki tops that list. the History of Kawasaki Motorcycles tells a story of a brand that has built their roots and foundation on being one of the fastest brands out there, which is typically why they’re so beloved by millennials.

Kawasaki is a brand that can stand on its own two wheels and compete against even the best of the best, and have been doing so since 1963 when they started gracing the motorcycle industry with their bikes. There’s a variety of words that come to mind when you think ‘Kawasaki,’ and all those words are rightfully earned. But the first word-other than ‘speed’ or ‘ninja’-that rolls of the tip of the tongue? Green.

Kawasaki didn’t always sport its bright, neon green color, even though many riders and people consider it a staple in their image. But that wasn’t always the case, according to the timeline of Kawasaki Motorcycles,  the story behind the color choice started with two men, sitting around a table, enjoying a beer. It might be hard to picture now, it did take courage, because the color that Kawasaki used was one that was notoriously seen as ‘unlucky.’

When you’re waiting on the race track to see who’s the top dog, starting off that race with unlucky color isn’t usually the place to go. However, that classic green color would provide Kawasaki with all the luck they could want.

It was 1968, and Kawasaki was having a difficult time trying to establish a particular image for themselves. The A1 Samurai had just been released, and Kawasaki understood that they had a real chance at capturing the heart of the consumers with their bikes. But as Harley Davidson has taught us, along with motorcycle brands around the world, a great bike isn’t the only reason a brand excels. The brand, story, and foundation of culture are just as important as the level of bikes they’re introducing. So, in that light, Kawasaki was struggling with what moves they needed to make in order to keep their name in the minds and hearts of consumers.

That’s where the beer comes in. This big issue was that, on the race track, the bike didn’t stand out well. The most traditional colors on the track tended to be reds, whites, and blues (‘Merica), and despite the speed that Kawasaki tended to blend in with all its competitors. This was an issue that George Hamawaki, the President of Kawasaki, noticed the acknowledged needed fixing. So he tasked the National Sales Manager, Don Graves, with the mission altering qualities of the Kawasaki brand.

Video source: Television Archives

Originally, no one was on board with it, including Hamawaki. Everyone was confused by the color choice, especially since green wasn’t seen as a lucky color. They felt as though the bike would stand out too much and for all the wrong reasons. But if you can’t join them, beat them, and that’s exactly what Sanders was suggesting. He knew that the green color would not be showcased on the track by their competitors because it was a color that involved too much of a risk. But as any thriving business will tell you, at some point, taking a risk is necessary to the potential success of a company or brand.

And so the color continued to live on through the other models. Since they were the original green crew, Kawasaki was able to create a very distinctive brand and monopoly over the color. No other competitor would be able to make a similar color choice with Kawasaki popping up in the mind of the consumers, or people thinking that another company was trying to mimic Kawasaki. And when a company can achieve that, they've created a whole other level of standing.  

As Kawasaki would say, they are a company and brand that was built on overcoming challenges. They wouldn’t take no for an answer and would continue to strive for what was typically considered ‘impossible,’ and it was incredibly fitting that their brand would dive into a challenging color choice. It’s almost funny, too, that they were so excited about a challenge that they were willing to take a traditionally unlucky color and completely change any associations with it.

And because Kawasaki isn’t afraid of a challenge, they continue to be one of the top performing motorcycle brands in the world.

Comment down below and let us know what you think of Kawasaki's iconic green color!


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