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Automobile Branding – changing times

Vroom! The sound of a car igniting can bring in varied emotions to its passengers – Thrill, freedom, adventure, luxury, doubt, safety… it is these emotions that the marketers use to position themselves. These emotions make the brand attributes of the cars.

Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz say luxury and a lofty station in life. Jaguar and Porsche say excitement and swagger. Toyota and Honda say practicality and value. And Volvo of course is the ultimate car in safety.

Yet consumers today want safety as the most important attribute and hence manufacturers have made it as an important feature than a positioning attribute. Of course with so many players and the omnipresent web 2.0 the romance of the brands is over. Customers no longer buy for nostalgia and manufacturers need to address this. Today the focus is on value – customer value. With the use of social media many companies are making inroads into the customer community, but there is more to social media than Flickr and You Tube. Research says German automakers dominate the social media presence while Japanese and American brands are largely absent.

The other day Meheer had written on crowdsourcing and the automobile industry has come up with a new model based on crowdsourcing. Fiat Brazil is now bringing the same principles to the automotive industry and is designing a concept car using crowdsourced ideas collected through a dedicated project website as well as via social-networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Orkut. This initiative is dubbed the “Mio” project and the Fiat Concept Car III will be presented at the 2010 International São Paulo Auto Show in Brazil, though it is still to be determined if it will be commercially launched.( source: Brandchannel)

While there now seems to be a lot of importance on crowd sourcing, it needs to be recognized that crowd sourcing may not guarantee quality. Yes there is a lot to be said about the amalgam of many minds. Just make sure it is not a case of too many cooks!

5 Responses to Automobile Branding – changing times

  1. Meheer Thakare Reply

    October 29, 2009 at 3:00 am

    You are right Lata. Henry Ford while launching the Model T quoted, ‘You can have any colour of the Model T as long as it is Black!!’ The market dynamics then were pretty different than what they are today and the compelling factor for Model T success was the low-cost strategy.

    If Henry Ford’s statement was to be released today for any of the latest Ford cars, only his ghost could save the company from the rising losses. Its all about Consumer value. Companies for long have been wooing consumers with petty features in the cars, but that differentiation coupled with low-cost strategy is fast saturating.

    I reckon, in view of such circumstances, Fiat Mio’s Crowdsourcing strategy will be widely welcomed and adopted by the Big 3’s of Automobiles in the United States in the upcoming future. They’ll surely be able to filter out the maximum value generation ideas of their Crowdsourcing ventures.

  2. Ed Roach Reply

    October 29, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Lata, I think you are incorrect when you state that the public no longer buy cars for nostalgia. The new Chevy Camaro is absolutely based on the muscle car of the sixties and is so popular that there are waiting lists to buy. People are willing to pay a premium to get one sooner. The Mustang and Charger are also harbingers of a bygone era and are both selling very well. As is the Beetle and Mini.

    Emotion sells cars. Playing on nostalgia has buyers digging deep. Obvious to readers, I am stating predominantly North American cars, so maybe there isn’t the same lust for nostalgia in your corner of the planet.

  3. Meheer Thakare Reply

    October 30, 2009 at 2:10 am

    In my opinion, we should refer to it as a ‘long tail’ while syaing ‘Customers no longer buy of Nostalgia’. While the statement may not be entirely true, we must point out that not every well-performing car manufacturer today has the Shelby or Beetle Advantage. The Vintage nostalgia is at a different level altogether. Some of the rising names in Automobiles like Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Suzuki which arguably account for most sales in the entire Asian region (Being asian ofcourse), run their organizations on values other than nostalgia (somethink like lost-cost high-features startegy works wonders for them). Toyota has long been seen trying promote the legendary status of its ‘Corolla’ brand, but people (atleast in our part of the planet) only buy the car based on its offerings compared to the competition..

    I think I get your point Ed and agree with you too, with only one exception that most car manufacturers today are pushing their modernized image rather than promoting their century of experience in creating world class legendary cars.

  4. Lata Vijaybaskar Reply

    October 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Ed, NY Times had written an article on Oct 20th on the topic basically referring to North America. Pl chk: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/business/21auto.html?_r=1

  5. Ed Roach Reply

    October 31, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    That was a good article Lata, thanks. While for the most part I’d agree. Sure we all want value but if that were our sole concern we’d all be driving little boring vehicles that got us for A to B. Our passion for things that represent our self-image continues to define us. Myself I am a Honda and Macintosh person. These are two brands that I identify with. While I might be swayed to another vehicle (the Soltice for instance) essentially I look to Honda first. But I only buy Mac and have since it’s launch in ’84.

    I thought the article interesting that the author suggests the move from loyalty started in the eighties, I think it was more like the mid-seventies. Detroit built vehicles that were manufactured to disintegrate so the public would replace them sooner. This lack of quality stuck and we all know that even 30 years later they are dogged with a brand image of quality problems where none exist. The perception of poor quality became their reality.

    In your part of the world, what is the perception of the Big 3? Can their cars be purchased where you live? What car do you identify with?

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