Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Brand Perception and the Vehicle Industry

The following post was written for the Institute of the Motor Industry's (IMI) membership publication - 'Motor Industry Magazine'. It has been quoted from in an article concerning the predicament of decreasing work volumes for traditional bodyshops and how the vehicle repair industry is responding.

The way that you present yourself, your business, product or services provides instant information about the nature of your organisation. As the old saying goes ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’. The initial impression you make is the first of a series of touchpoints in your brand experience. If a potential customer or employee does not like what they see, they may take a lot of convincing to change their mind.

We are all expert consumers and from an early age we become skilled at making choices based on our preferences for smell, feel, sound and sight. Before we can read we can interpret the signs that communicate the qualities that we admire. Branding has its origins in a pre-literate society. For example, Pub signs helped the illiterate to recognise an Inn. Consumer branding really took off in the Industrial Revolution when retailers like the Co-Operative introduced colourful brightly presented packages of Soaps and Flour to help a largely illiterate society recognise their favourite products. The branded packaging communicated the message that the product was authentic, trustworthy and distinctly different from the other products on offer and a century later Brands are still fulfilling this role today.

The boom in consumerism and branding coincided with the birth of the motorcar. This industry has had 100 years practice at brand building and its leading brands are evocative, emotional and powerful. Automotive brands are so resonant that they can sell other products seemingly unconnected with motoring and imbue them with new values. So keen are people to be associated with the messages Motor Brands convey they will pay a premium for branded produce. ‘Porsche Designed’ Clothing and Accessories, Bentley endorsed Brietling watches, Caterpillar Boots and Jeep branded leisure wear are some examples of transport brands transferring their values into successful lifestyle brands.

The benefits of creating a brand include:

1.    Differentiation –
Branding highlights the differences that make a product or service better than anyone else’s.

2.    Connecting with people -

Branding creates a bond between the brand and the consumer that leads to loyalty.

3.    Added value -

Brands create value by adding an emotional significance that exceeds the basic value of the product or service.

4.    Signify change –

The launch of a brand is an effective way to communicate change in an organization.

Examples of successful rebrands in the automotive sector include:

1.    RAC –
The British Royal Automobile Club (RAC)  has been a fixture of British Motoring since 1897 and had a conservative image suited to pottering around the lanes of the home counties in a Rover. In the late 1990’s the organization realized that their brand did not connect with a new generation of younger Motorists and was keen to break with tradition to attract new members. The rebrand was unmissable with the Breakdown Vehicles becoming the hero with a bright orange livery and a distinctive typeface for the initials R A C. The organization has 7 million members today.

2.    Daewoo rebrands as Chevrolet –
This year General Motors confirmed the rebrand of Daewoo as Chevrolet in South Korea. This continues a complete rebrand that began in 2004 for Europe when the troubled Korean brand relaunched under the evocative GM Chevrolet Marque. GM Daewoo Auto and Technology Co. President Mike Arcamone is reported to have said that about 50 per cent of GM Daewoo customers paid extra to replace the GM Daewoo badge with that of the Chevrolet, showing their “overwhelming” desire for the brand. (Source: http://www.asianewsnet.net). The hugely successful film franchise ‘Transformers’ introduced the Character Bumblebee into many households. The ‘Autobot’ transforms into a Chevrolet Camaro and it’s not hard to imagine how a brand with such rich imagery will not fail to improve its old Daewoo perception among cost conscious families with children. The excitement and aura of the Chevrolet brand and its ‘Bow Tie’ are now applied to the rebranded range, including the award winning Matiz - now sold as the Chevrolet Spark.

Great brands depend first and foremost on great products and services. A brand provides a rewarding experience, backed by an excellent reputation and these factors are down to you and your colleagues.

Considerations for building a meaningful brand:

1.    Put some personality into it ­-
The founder of an organisation is typically the Brands Champion and the brand is often an extension of their personality. Putting your personality into your brand can be very effective and obvious examples include Richard Branson and Virgin. Body Shop was founded by Anita Roddick who put the campaign for ‘against animal testing’ at the forefront of Body Shop’s image. She was a prominent human rights campaigner and champion of fair trade.

2.    Courage of your convictions -
Henry Ford, is famously quoted for saying: "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse ". When Apple’s founder Steve Jobs launched the iPad, he invited us all to play with it and decide how best to use it. Now every electronic consumer brand has a me-too product - but none of them occupy the same space in our consciousness. The lesson is that those who anticipate future needs can lead the market by thinking differently.

3.    Loose talk ­-
The successful investor Warren Buffett said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently".  There are many examples of CEO’s who have put their foot in it and lived to rue the day. Big name brands often pay a high price when off guarded comments shatter the market perception.  Christian Dior recently ended its relationship with their high profile designer, following the reporting of offensive comments.

4.    It’s not what you say but what they say that counts -
The best introduction to a brand can be a personal referral from a trusted source, friend, colleague or family. WD-40. A brand name with instant familiarity, found under sinks and in toolboxes is a great example of a brand built on personal referral and reputation. This multi-purpose lubricant does exactly what you expect it to without relying on flashy packaging and a persuasive marketing campaign.

5.    Consumer satisfaction -
A brand can offer value above and beyond the price label by granting the customer the satisfaction of owning a leading brand. Every organisation can focus on its quality and service levels to offer a higher level of care and durability. For example: Snap-On Tools. The premium tool manufacturer cements its reputation as the tool of professionals with its prominent use in Auto sport and offers a famous lifetime warrantee.

You can’t avoid having a brand, so why not make it work to your advantage?

Article by Paul Hitchens –

Paul Hitchens is a Founder of Brand Consultancy Verve (verve.co.uk) and the Author of ‘Create the Perfect Brand’ published by Hodder Education and Nominated for the Chartered Management Institutes ‘Management Book of the Year’ Award 2011/12.

Contact - info@verve.co.uk

©Verve Interactive Ltd 2011