Recently a client asked me for a definition of “Brand Essence”. After she said how useful she had found it I thought I would share it, as the definition of terms is a perpetual grey area for so many marketing terms. I’m therefore sure there are other definitions but this one seems to work for us.
A ‘brand essence’ is most often defined as a very short summation of brand’s DNA, its raison d’être – hence its essence. It’s normally kept short – just two or three words, though it can sometimes be a sentence. It’s not as easy as it sounds as it should capture and distil a brand into a few memorable words. At their best they may be very short but they capture the long term heart of the brand – and stay with the brand as it grows over time and as it extends into new market sectors and territories.
A watch-out however is that a brand essence is not just the latest advertising strapline. Advertising campaigns come and go while hopefully brands last a lot longer. Their essences should remain consistent if not constant over many years. An advertising strapline is one changing expression of that essence.
BMW’s essence is “Driving pleasure”. It’s a good example of how the advertising campaign may have changed but the brand essence has remained the same. BMW’s advertising recently moved away from its long term strapline of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” to the clearly more emotive “Joy”. The Wall Street Journal reported on February 14th (interesting date) that Jack Pitney, vice president of marketing at BMW for North America said: “The new ‘Joy’ campaign is a big departure for us . . . We hope to really add some humanity to our brand.”
However while the marketing men felt there was a need to add some humanity to current perceptions of the brand, this doesn’t mean the brand has fundamentally changed. Now when you consider the brand more closely you can see that ‘Joy’ is simply a re-expression of the brand’s long term purpose. Its essence and on-going commitment remains to use its engineering expertise to create great driving experiences as the following copy on the corporate website demonstrates.
“We are BMW. We don’t just build cars, we create emotions – enthusiasm, fascination, goose bumps guaranteed. Sheer driving pleasure is our top priority. And so that it never ends, we constantly reinvent it. Making it more intelligent, more efficient, more dynamic. Because joy is what drives us – this most personal of feelings, in all its many different forms: Besides sheer driving pleasure, what matters to us is the joy of owning something very special, the joy of real values such as responsibility and recognition; the joy of success and progress. And not least, the pure joy of living. Joy is BMW”.
In the last couple of decades, brand extension has increasingly become marketers’ default growth strategy. Nowadays there are very few one-product brands and more and more brands stretch across categories and markets. An un-stretched brand can seem to the exception to the rule.
One category however where the jury is still out as regards to the benefits of brand stretch is the car industry.
When Mercedes announced its stretch into the small car market with the A class many were horrified. The launch of the Lexus brand as Toyota went into the luxury car market just seemed to highlight some car brands’ limitations. However Porsche‘s move into 4×4 market with the Cayenne re-opened the debate, where its success is countering the gainsayers’ initial scepticism.
But the announcement of BMW’s plans for the Mini brand seems to have opened the debate again. Mini is launching a souped up 4×4 Mini and looks like its considering Mini-vans and electric scooters, but many in the industry are not convinced: are these true Minis?
It’s a debate that highlights the key issues marketers need to think about when considering extending their brands. What is the core, the DNA of your brand and how does any extension fit with that? At The Value Engineers we have always said that ideas aren’t the only problem, structure, strategy and vision are equally if not even more important. Extension that are on brand are much more likely to succeed.
But from a business perspective it is also worth considering your organisations’ capabilities. Extension may be right for your brand but do you have the capabilities to deliver what would be required? Building new capabilities increases the cost and risk of an extension and out-sourcing or licensing your brand cuts potential margins. Using existing capabilities within your organisation (even if they are not currently used on that particular brand) has to be a better option.
So looking at the car brands it is not surprising that a number of the car brands stretch into other transportation markets – BMW do motor boats, whilst Honda’s engine expertise stretches across cars, motor bikes, boats and even lawn mowers.
So in discussing Mini’s planned extension two questions that have to be answered are:
In the age of global powerbrands, the classic Jaguar brand is being cleverly positioned and extended for new audiences. Now owned by the Indian TATA group, it has launched a new product squarely aimed at the Russian market.
The XJ Sentinel is an exlusive ‘price on application’ extension to the XJ brand – as this Guardian article cites, it’s “the ultimate vehicle for the security-conscious oligarch”. Bristling with security features, the car contains an interior armoured cell built to withstand 15kg of explosives, and tyres which will still roll when punctured by gunshot. You can even have your chauffeur sent on a security training course - all included in the price.
The video below even contains a handy reference guide of how it performs against an arsenal of weapons. Just in case you wanted to check.
This proposition is built on a very functional need for a select group of affluent consumers. With a stream of high-profile assassinations on the mean streets of Moscow, there is no better way for Jaguar to differentiate itself from the likes of Mercedes and BMW. In addition, the insight behind the car may be irresistible for any ambitious affluent Russian businessman to resist – after all, who would want to admit they’re not important enough to have a price on their head?
It will be interesting to see if the XJ Sentinel will also give Jaguar a new lease of life in the Russian market. Watch out for it – and remember how important the passenger must be…
Shakespeare was wrong, apparently. A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet according to Chevrolet’s staff or, more importantly, its customers.
Controversy was sparked in the States last week when a leaked GM Motors memo revealed that, for brand consistency, staff were to never use the name ‘Chevy’ when discussing the Chevrolet brand. “We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward” it read.
The backlash from fans of Chevy – perceived as a quintessential American icon – has largely been covered in the US media with negativity. But have they missed the point? Could it be that Chevrolet have just pulled off one of the most masterfully subtle marketing campaigns in history?
The outpouring of love and devotion to the Chevy brand following the leak has been simply phenomenal. Within hours commentators and bloggers across the country began vehemently extolling the virtues of Chevy. “Chevy is as American as baseball and apple pie” declared one blogger. “I love you Chevy” wrote another. Across the world people were being reminded of Chevy’s central place in American culture, from featuring in Don McLean’s American Pie to being named dropped in songs by Snoop Dogg and The Beastie Boys.
The release of this simple one-page memo triggered the emergence of louder and more visible brand advocates than any multi-million dollar advertising campaign ever could. Suddenly thousands of individuals were tweeting Chevy’s core brand image with passion and for free. Was the memo a deliberate moment of genius from GM? Their subsequent backtrack over the issue – where they claimed the memo was “poorly worded” and that actually “we love Chevy” – may suggest so. If not, they must be the luckiest brand in the world right now.
I’m in Milan, just after Christmas. Via Monte Napoleone is full of fashionable stores and even more fashionable shoppers – even at dusk.
The lights are lit, even on the trees lining the road.
The difference is that the trees are growing from creamy white Fiat Cinquecentos – new style of course (and moulded from immaculate plastic).
Volkswagen Beetles – eat your hearts out. All you had was that dinky flower vase. This is on a grander scale. But, alas not so easily translated from design show feature to real life – it’s not yet one of the configuration options!
Fiat claim to have set up the world’s longest one model traffic jam at 3 km. A fleet of Cinquecentos parading the street and blocking the parking and makes a much sharper style statement…