Tag Archives: Brand promise

Volvo: keep your brand focus on safety or be toast!

In every brand book or brand program  there is usually the example of Volvo, the brand that has positioned itself in the car category synonymously with the word “safety”. Unfortunately, unless Volvo changes its current course this good example will turn in an example how to destroy a unique brand position.

Let me explain…

About two years ago everything was still very much on brand positioning. Take a look at the screenshot below taken from volvocars.com/us. It shows the Volvo S80 page with the key sections: Safety, Design, Performance, Environment. Yes! Safety FIRST, of course and exactly what everybody expects from Volvo! Design is obviously second. A car designed in Sweden does bring magic! Both safety and designed in Sweden are great differentiators! Performance third, it simply cannot be first because nothing can jeopardize safety. Finally the environment: Volvo is a good citizen. Everything simply makes sense!

When clicking on the Safety section it will give you all the details you need to know in order to believe that Volvo is the safest car on the planet! The above navigation structure was very consistent implemented with all Volvo models, below an example of the XC90 Safety section.

Now fast forward to 2011… and a lot of brand building has been destroyed.

Look at that same S80 web page:

That’s right! Safety has now moved to the 4th place of the “5 things to know” about the S80. Also note that it is not anymore just “Safety” but “Safety innovations”. Why is that? Would I not expect the safest car brand to innovate by default? Why would Volvo want to stop owning that one word “safety” and make it “safety innovations”?

The list of “5 things to know” consists of:  1. Sleek exterior design, 2. Interior Luxury, 3. T6 AWD Engine, 4. Safety innovations, 5. World class entertainment. Wow… It feels I am looking at audi.com…

If this was not enough Volvo is happily positioning itself away even further from Safety by introducing the concept of Naughty cars. Just check the Volvo S60 pages and you will find out that the Volvo S60 is everywhere named as the “All-New Naughty Volvo S60”. Wow! What happened at Volvo headquarters?

Naughty Volvo? What is that all about?
It obviously should look like this! Volvo = safety!

Volvo this is really bad… you really had the best position in the car category, who after all does not want a safe car? Now you give your positioning away by trying to be Audi. Your consumers will not understand because to them you always will be the brand that is about safety. That is, till you proof them wrong a little too long trying to be somebody you are not. Please change or you will be toast.

Continue reading part II, written three years later.

Hugo… I am still the Boss!

Walking by the Hugo Boss Store in the Friedrichstrasse, Berlin I noticed a very interesting window display:

What is this all about? Is Hugo Boss company trying to:

  • Tell me the Hugo Boss brand benefits/ brand promise? Should wearing Hugo Boss make me feel sophisticated, elegant/modern?
  • Reflect characteristics of their target audience?
  • Inform me about perceptions consumers have of the brand Hugo Boss?

Either way it felt disturbing to me. I do not want to see in a window display who I am, what I should be or what the brand I am buying things wants me to believe it is!

The only thing I ask for from Hugo Boss is to not lose focus of your brand. That way everybody can figure out why to buy Boss and how it will make you feel once you have it!

Iittala – against throwawayism

Iittala paper shopping bag

The word “throwawayism” gives a little over 24000 hits on Google. Iittala has an opportunity to start owning this new made up word! Well, hopefully in the construction “against throwawayism”.

From the Iittala philosophy :

Have you noticed how easy it is, in our shopping-oriented world, to crowd your home with meaningless things? You find yourself with short-lived items that eventually cease to function, or go out of style. So they are thrown away, adding to the growing mountains of unusable rubbish on our planet, while you keep on shopping for new things.

I admire this approach and while many will argue that a really well designed product is by definition timeless (which I believe as well) it is so hard to actually live up to that. An interesting fact is that in pretty much every Finnish home you will find Iittala products and that is across all generations. In fact two of their popular “everyday drinking” lines Aino Aalto and Kartio have been around since 1932 and 1958 respectively.  They are simple in design and totally timeless.

Iittala found a very nice point of difference.I hope the make sure not to jeopardize this with more time sensitive products or by focussing on short term revenues. Stay true to the brand and brand philosophy.

Avis… what happened to “we try harder”?

AdAge lists the Avis “we try harder” campaign (1963) at #10 in the top 100 advertising campaigns. And for a reason: it was a well executed campaign combined with a well executed total brand experience.

It is still one of the best examples of what repositioning a brand in consumers mind can do. If Hertz is number one, Avis made an asset of being number 2!

I must admit, most of time I did rent with Avis. I kind of liked the idea of dealing with the “underdog” that tries harder. This, even though my New York City Avis experience was always the same: long lines, very slow service (I was thinking that the lines at Hertz must be even longer and slower!) but always I got the car I wanted.

One Sunday we went for a little ride to meet up with friends. While getting something from the trunk I accidentally left the key inside the trunk and closed it. All my daughters things like diapers, pacifiers, spare clothes etc were locked inside the car. Not having any spare keys I called Avis road service. The locksmith arrived after 1.5 hours and was able to open the front door (it was a Sunday but still). When the locksmith opened up the door the alarm of the car went off and the electric mechanism to open the trunk got locked. This happens as prevention. Unfortunately we couldn’t open the trunk from the inside… so, we had to call a second locksmith who was able to copy the key and open the trunk. The whole thing took 5 hours with numerous calls to Avis … I was all the time thinking…. Avis… we try harder? Why did the road service not know that our rental car did not have access to the trunk from inside the car? It would have really made my day when the road service would have told me “normally we would send a normal locksmith but with your car you cannot get to the trunk from the inside, so we send somebody special. And since you have a five month old baby we will make sure we help you super fast. No worries all will be fine”


Oeps… no access to the trunk from inside the car!

After this ‘accident’ I went to Avis’ website and found out that the slogan “We try harder” was actually not linked to their company logo anymore!  At least not in the USA. Perhaps it is a good thing. Once your brand promise and messaging does not equal the total product/ brand experience trouble is on the horizon. Brand authenticity will go in decline and people are up for a switch.

Avis.com, no more trying harder
Avis.nl, still trying harder
Avis.nl, still trying harder

Porsche Panamera – I wish Porsche would stick with 2 doors sports cars

panameraThere is no doubt about it: the Porsche Panamera is a great looking Porsche! It has all the beautiful Porsche design details and it looks way more part of the family than the Cayenne.

The Panamera advertisement in the newspaper reads:

Until now, you had to choose between a four-door car and a sports car. With the Panamera, the contradictions and compromises end.

And that was the moment I realized something was wrong! I would have hoped Porsche would just remained to be that 2 seat super sports car! If you would be interested in a 4 seat sports car you would after all compromise for a Mercedes CLS class or something similar. With wife (or husband) next to you and kids on the back seat there is not going to be so much sports as there would have been with a 911 or Boxter that you would drive alone.

Porsche is / was(?) the symbol for sports cars: in my mind 2 seat sports cars. No “sports” SUVs or four-door “sports” cars. There are not many SUVs and four door cars on a race track, for a reason… it’s not really sporty… So, surely, Porsche will make some serious money with the Cayenne and Panamera but the downside is that the Porsche brand imagine has changed in a blimp. It has gone from those desirable high performance sports cars to well…. all kinds of cars with a sporty feel to it.

What do you think? Right or wrong line extension?

Remakes, sequels and spin-offs… “old TV series” with a better promise?

Over the last year or so there have been many remakes, sequels and spin-offs of old TV series. We had The Knight Rider, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and now in the beginning of November we will see V.

Old logo
Old
New
New

I find it very interesting to follow feedback on these new versions of old series. It’s almost like the ultimate test to bring back a brand from the past. For those who know the brand it is about bringing back the good memories in modern context. For those who never experienced the brand in the past might have heard parents talking about it . Even though it’s not cool to like stuff your parents like(d) curiosity wins, you try and you are hooked. Mission accomplished: the brand has become relevant again.

I think that is happening with these series. It is a carefully crafted extension of the original brand promise, staying to the core of what made them cool in the first place but put in a modern context and adapting the stories to todays world.  So far it seems 90210 and Melrose Place are doing fine with exactly that. The Knight Rider failed miserably. You only need to watch 5 minutes of any episode on Hulu.com and you see why: it stayed too close to the original series. Back in the 80s a super car with talking robot (remember KITT?) was cool because it was hard to imagine it would ever exist, that excitement is lost when you put the story in the context of today. The Knight Rider core promise just became totally irrelevant.

V 2009 TV seriesWhat’s next: V!  I loved the series in the 80s! Then I saw it once in 2001 or so on TV and it was just… horrible. The characters and everything looked so fake… still the story should work still today, that is in a modern format with more professional effects. Cannot wait to see what ABC made of it: the visitors will arrive on November 3!