Marketing departments bestowed the task of making sales for car manufacturers always reference “Brand Identity” and “Brand Image.” In marketing malarkey there is a direct correlation between these terms and any mixed message between the two can have a detrimental effect to the companies’ worth. When does a company become a brand and why should it?
Automotive manufacturers go to great lengths to tell us about their history, pedigree and heritage, often through whichever means and media the marketing agency deem appropriate.
How much of a difference does all this make? Does it really make you want to buy the car? And if you do, why are you buying it?
Do we as customers really fall for something such as a brand image? And what gives a brand a favorable image? What attracts the customer and does this transcend the expectations of their current offerings which maybe substandard?
Take Aston Martin for example. When you hear those words what do you think of? The connection with 007 has only gone to strengthen the brands image. If you could afford a super car what would make you buy an Aston Martin over any other car in its class and why?
I’m intrigued as to how the legacy of a brand means so much and the relative history of the brand can mean so little. For example, in the case of Aston Martin the initial company went bankrupt after only 10 years. In fact, even decades later, Aston Martin was once for sale for £20,000.00 advertised in a newspaper.
Aston Martin now is owned by a consortium and doesn’t seem to have the investment needed to develop new cars and designs with the frivolity of other more lucrative brands. It struggles to bring out new models without using the underpinnings of models of the past. Yet it remains an iconic and prestigious brand. Why is this and how?
Other automotive manufacturers seem to use bizarre tactics to get you to purchase one of their cars. I’ve seen adverts for cars featuring iPod, Bluetooth and other electronic device connectivity. It’s a car. Shouldn’t the advert be showing that?
I guess that’s the difference in brands. It depends on the audience. Certain manufacturers are intending to sell their cars to a younger audience and they think this is the way to attract them.
Let’s look at Mercedes Benz. They were a company synonymous with quality and reliability. Inventors of the ABS system and so many other innovative systems. Arguably even the inventors of the motor car itself. Then in the late 1990’s they decided they didn’t need to be good as they were previously. Decisions were made to cut costs. The company presuming that their brand image was enough to maintain their market share. It appears they were wrong. Quality suffered, customers noticed and stopped buying their cars in the numbers they did. Now, Mercedes Benz has improved quality and is regaining the customers it lost.
Look at Skoda. Would you buy one? If not, why not? Their brand image goes before them. Even though they are principally Volkswagen’s in different bodies and is much cheaper, Volkswagen still holds the market share in each segment. Is that clever marketing or customers missing out on a good thing?
What I am suggesting is this. Some people buy cars on the image they are fed and the image that has been created. This can hark back to years of the brand existing, in whatever guise and however shaky. Once this brand image is established the thinking seems to be a company can then almost sell whatever it likes, however poor. In some instances this is true, and others it isn’t.
It also depends on the customers the company is trying to attract and already has. For example Toyota has had numerous safety recalls in recent months, yet its brand image seems relatively unscathed. Why? Well, Toyota makes good products, treats their customers well, seems to care about their customers and takes safety very seriously. Customers have faith in the brand.
Jaguar for example, they are only now being able to slowly shake off their ‘old boy’ image and are still struggling to attract younger buyers.
I for one would like to see manufactures step away from this brand fixation and try and trade on the here and now.
I have certain adoration for Alfa Romeo and BMW. I won’t make a secret of it. Both manufactures diametrically opposed to each other in many ways. I adore in one what I despise in the other and vice versa.
Alfa Romeo has struggled for years with image problems. I won’t go into them. I would like to see a manufacture such as Alfa Romeo try many new things, and for one trying something new in their quest for buyers. A slogan such as: – “Non si tratta di un marca. Siamo un produttore di automobili.” Which I hope in translation means: – “This is not a brand. We are a manufacturer of automobiles.”
Mark Scotchford © 08/09/2015