Car brands over the world

Categorising brands and their features is a much written-on subject that has really found its traction over the past 30 years. New theories and perspectives constantly seem to find their way into our media folder, with a great range of usefulness and complexity to them. One that recently came across our desks was one with an admirable simplicity that paradoxically got us thinking.

Consider an average high-school class, the one that you yourself attended a few years back. Now, consider the different kids that made up your class. There are usually four ki(n)ds;

There are, of course, the cool kids. The ones with the newest phone and the flashiest shoes, and they seem to be good at almost anything. Overall, there aren’t that many of them, and there shouldn’t be as they wouldn’t be as ‘special’. But they certainly give the sparkle to the classroom. Then there is a large group of ‘normal’ kids. They make up the general population and set the tone for the class, in terms of the overall study level, what to wear, say, do, etc. They are the ones that are described in the teachers lounge when the headmaster asks on the status of the class. The third group is are the grey mousses. There is not that much that separates them from the second group, only that nobody seems to acknowledge that they are in fact there. Their level is often as good as any of the other kids, but they fail to reach any limelight due to the lack of any admirable accomplishments. Shifting from this third group into the second, or vice-versa, is as easy as that; doing something worth noticing (or lacking it). Finally, there are the eccentrics; often designated as such by their clothing and style, but also by their preferred activities, food preferences etc. They stand out in much the same way as the first group, although their eccentricities aren’t of the aspirational kind as those of the cool kids. In some occasions, these weirdos grow up to become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk of this world. Mostly they remain weirdos, underlining the ever thin margins between genius and crazy.

Fast Forward

Fast-forward about 20 years. Have a look in how this class has assimilated into our working population. Our group 1 has remained what it was; the cool kids. Think Harvey Specter here, the select few with the top jobs and dito lifestyle. Again, not a big group in terms of volume, but boy do they sparkle. Work hard, play very hard. Then we have group 2 and 3, which are pretty much the workhorse of the bunch. Group 2 will be your hardworking, hard earning and ambitious salarymen, always looking to make the next step in their career. Group 3 is working equally hard, maybe not making as much though, as they fall short in showing their added value to superiors thus halting their own path to a more prosperous career. Finally, the weird kids are still the weird kids, but their special skillset has often set them up for the higher echelons of the the working world. Again, their type isn’t omnipresent, but they do tend to stand on the cutting edge of many new developments and companies and have the earnings to match their elitist position.

Brand Class

Say that this class of kids is really a certain market – automobiles, beer – and consider each brand in that market to be a kid in that class. Now you get it. And that is exactly what these guys at the Harvard Business Review did. They plotted brands on a map using the factors centrality (how representative is this individual of the entire group) and distinctiveness (the ability of the individual to stand out from the others) in a way that allowed these factors to complement rather than contradict each other.

This research is done with from an ‘American’ perspective. However most of the car- and beer brands that represent the different groups 1-4 will show the differences in brand image and their similarities with the kids in the classroom; Porsche & Guinness, BMW & Budweiser, Mazda/Hyundai, Tesla & Stella Artois. This Guinness activation campaign underlines their exclusiveness that has positioned them in Group 1, whilst this Budweiser add speaks to the larger public and emphasises operational excellence to underline their Group 2 image.

Our ‘fast forward’ shows the impact that ones brand has in terms of sales volume and pricing; Although distinctive (group 1 & 4), this does not always result in shipping large volumes, which again makes the product and brand more special. And the centralised groups 2 & 3 do appear to the larger masses, but do not always succeed in charging a higher price. The sweet spot does seem to lie somewhere between group 1 & 2, although positioning is also something that focusses on seeing a missing piece in an existing market and diving into that void.

Of course this is all far more complex that a classroom metaphor. But being able to explain branding in terms of children, cars and beer does make it accessible for a larger public. Because if you don’t like children, cars or beer, than what good are you?

Come find us at The Hospitality Group Amsterdam or ‘s-Hertogenbosch to talk more about branding, but don’t drink & drive here.