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Guest blog: The Battle of the Brands

"Following on from the announcement that Mercedes-Benz is the UK's top consumer superbrand, there has been a flurry of comments - not all of them positive. There are those that say Mercedes-Benz is outdated and past its sell-by date. Key really is to look more closely at what Mercedes-Benz are doing that has pushed them into the superbrand league.

Whilst it is true that the newer breed of eco electric cars is starting to gather speed, it does not appear to be doing so at the expense of the classic makes such as Mercedes-Benz. In fact Mercedes-Benz have been very clever, leveraging their heritage and spreading out into other industries - namely fashion.

It is interesting how, as yet, many car companies seem quite reluctant to make the jump into different sectors, and therefore are potentially missing opportunities.

One only has to mention the brand that is David Beckham to suggest that if dealt with strategically, developing a 'celebrity style' hysteria should not be beyond the ability of the top flight automotive brands and their marketing teams.

Yet reaching superbrand status requires a brand to transcend its own sector - becoming an uber brand means breaking free from the shackles of a single industry, the brand stretch needs to be strategic and deliver the same emotional cues across consumer’s lives.

Strange as it may seem, an economic downturn can offer many opportunities for brands to reach this status.

So back to those automotive brands that thrive no matter the economic climate - the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis of the world.

They have, for some time, been involved in stretching out into other sectors, their brand names are synonymous with style, class and glamour, as well as heritage.

They are out of most mere mortals’ league - but they are extremely aspirational. If we think Ferrari, we think ‘glamour and wealth' - traits that transcend the internal engine combustion draw - this is what a real superbrand is all about.

Those with potential for superbrand status are BMW, Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, although the latter appear to have moved up a notch to join Ferrari. These brands already equate to integrity, quality and class but have not as yet made any real impact outside of the automotive world - they are should be poised to do so.

Is it because they are more affordable, thus attainable, that they are a little less ‘special’ than the Ferrari or the Lamborghini?

Possibly, however, there are other ways of skinning the branding cat and cross-fertilization is one of them.

There is currently a real trend towards a fusion of sectors as brands extend their message.

Mercedes is a great example of an iconic brand that is extending the experiences - in this instance via fashion events in some 30 countries around the world.

Creating a superbrand goes way beyond what that brand represents to the consumer. Nike is a perfect example of a brand that reaches straight into the consumer's heart and psyche.

Everything is about the excitement, the thrill and the challenge - this is demonstrated experientially and via every touch point.

As for other automtive brands, what of the Volvo's, the Renaults, the Peugeots and so on - their potential to create a worldwide superbrand is a little harder to realise.

These brands are more synonymous of reliability, solidity, safety and economic affordability, traits which are marketable of course, but not ideal for brand extension, the emotional cues for these brands would need to be re-worked in order to really tap into another stratosphere of branding.

The fact that Mercedes-Benz is making in-roads into the fashion world is most certainly a good move for the brand, despite a distinct move away from overt-consumerism people are giving into their basic feelings and enjoying, once again, the ability to own and drive a beautiful car.

The fact is that even in an economic downturn, when non-status appears to be in vogue, consumers are looking to brands that make them feel good. It is worth noting that even during a recession, consumers still have a tendency to seek out the excitement in their lives by owning a cool brand, a superbrand."
 

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  • Dude! - 09/07/2013 10:24

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