WHEN is a motorbike not a motorbike? When it’s a Harley-Davidson. It’s not a daft riddle, as you might think. I know that Harleys are motorbikes. Indeed, they are God’s gift to bikers. But the real answer lies in the company strategy that has seen the business grow from three bikes in the first year (1903) to the 229,000 to be manufactured this year and a turnover of almost $3 billion, grown every year for the last 15 years.

You see a Harley-Davidson isn’t a bike, because it’s a brand.

What other bike manufacturer can charge upwards of £20,000 for a top of the range piece of chrome and leather? And then charge you hundreds and hundreds of pounds for a set of leathers emblazoned with the legendary H-D bar and shield logo. And then persuade you – implicitly – to spread the gospel according to Harley-Davidson the world over.

Visit the web site, where the opportunity to buy a Harley-Davidson dealership is billed as “one of the most unique business opportunities in the world”. Read that Harley-Davidson is not just a name, it’s a culture: “a lifestyle celebrated the world over”.

And then ask yourself this: does your company have the same opportunity to stand out from the competition, charge more for your product and pay less for your marketing? Is your product more than a name, your service celebrated the world over?

The answer – if you are truly honest – is probably not. So why the difference? It’s down to perception of value. Not the perception of value held by the customer, but the perception of value held by the H-D entrepreneurs who built their first bike in a small wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And the perception of value they have handed down over the years and instilled in employees and management alike.

The value they think most important is that of people, the intellectual assets held by their employees, and the intellectual property of their brand.

Can you think of any enduring quality Scottish brands, in global demand? Not many, I wouldn’t have thought. Edinburgh Crystal? Irn Bru? Tunnocks Caramel Wafers? Culture or lifestyle? I think not.

And how many Scottish brands would stand up at a recent conference about Intellectual Assets to talk about “Using Passion to Build Brand Value”? We just don’t think like that, do we? Our assets lie in bricks and mortar, in stock and cash in hand, in share value and ROI.

I once tried to work out the value of my company’s intellectual capital, i.e. what it would cost to rebuild my company if all my staff had sudden attacks of total amnesia, a killer virus wiped out my network and thieves stole my back-up dat tapes. It was frightening.

Taking it literally I had to work out what it cost to educate my 36 employees from Primary 1 through secondary school and in some cases university. I had to add in the cost of all the experiences they had amassed over the years of their lives (holidays, student gap years and the like) plus all the further training they received with previous employers and myself. I had to work out the cost of re-inputting all the data wiped from my PCs, and retraining my staff so they could remember all the important little details about our clients and their eccentric networks. I then had to add in all my marketing and advertising costs, the time it took to build a reputation, our trust-mark, our brand.

It went on and on. It ran into millions. My insurance just didn’t cover it. I panicked. I then tried to build this value into my balance sheet in a bid to reflect the vast reliance we had on our intellectual assets. But our accountants at the time couldn’t grasp the idea of intellectual capital.

As usual the States are way ahead of us. We are just beginning to awaken to the vague aroma of coffee. We could do worse than take a leaf from the H-D book and remember that the intellectual assets of most companies walk out of the door at 5 o’clock every evening. The value of a brand lies in your customers – and your employees.

The challenge lies in creating stimulating not stifling environments where people feel valued and are given the freedom to expand intellectually – for their benefit, for the benefit of the brand, and for you.

This article first appeared in Business AM 10 years ago today – but I challenge you now to try and calculate the value of your brand, that which lies in your employees and your customers. I bet you’ll be surprised at the result.