Musings of an Aussie design strategist gone North

Brand Capital and How Not to Spend It

Picture 4

Over the last decade I’ve noticed an increasing number of brands willing to cash in on their previously unimpeachable images in the chase for bigger margins.

Sloppy strategies and even sloppier products have dealt manifold blows to companies like Mercedes-Benz (1st gen. A-Class, R-Class and Maybach), Porsche (Cayenne) and BMW (X6, X5 & 6Ms and 5 Series GT). For now, these brands can manage it. Decades of superb, focussed products have established strong brand perceptions that will take a few cheap hits (although I’d argue that Mercedes is really starting to try the patience of even the mainstream car nut with products like the new E-Class).

There are other brands, however, that can’t afford to play so loose and free with their brand capital and Aston Martin is a prime example. Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Adventures in Brand Extension, Branding, Car, Car Culture, Design, Design Strategy, Eco, Premium, Sustainability, Things I Hate, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Same sausage, different length


There was a time when BMW was accused of reproducing the same design theme while only varying the length, thus giving rise to the phrase used in the title. Don’t get me wrong, having owned an E36 3 series coupe and allowing myself unsavoury thoughts about the E38 7 series and an E34 M5 (which were the groß-wurst and uber mittel-wurst to my 3 series würstchen), the Ercole Spada/Claus Luthe BMWs were beautifully resolved vehicles that I still look longingly at. The strong visual link between the cars was always part of the appeal.

Chris Bangle changed that, with the 3, 5 and 7 all adopting distinct design themes. The concept of a highly unified family look seemed to have disappeared with the other proponent of the sausage concept, Mercedes, also pursuing inconsistent design themes across it’s ever-expanding range.

BMW stablemate, Rolls Royce, has done us proud however and fans of  strictly evolutionary design can rejoice. The image you see above is not of the gargantuan Phantom but of the slightly less enormous 200EX concept that’s to be revealed in Geneva. Looking at the rear 3/4 view, even I had to do a double take. Perhaps, once appreciated in real life, the relative scales of the cars will be a signifier but as far as the photos are concerned, the 200EX is the Lincolnshire Chippolata to the Phantom’s whopping Cumberland.  

We know that people associate a strong family identity with feelings of longevity, stability and depth of experience (both of those producing the vehicle, and the experience one has with the vehicle), all qualities that are highly valued in the premium market. From a strategic design perspective, Ian Cameron and his team have made a safe bet that, market conditions notwithstanding, will attract customers by enabling them to attain the Rolls mystique in a Phantom-lite package. Those A8600 iLs are starting to look even more boring…

(Images courtesy of Rolls Royce Motor Cars Ltd)

Filed under: Car, Design, Design Strategy, Premium, , , , , ,

About DownsideUpDesign

I'm Drew Smith and I'm a freelance design strategist and journalist for the automotive industry. DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. Get in touch at downsideupdesigner (at) me (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.