Automotive Brands.

So I was stuck in Boston traffic for a couple of hours the other day (construction on 93 x basketball and baseball game traffic … UGGGH, come on!) which gave me some time to ponder car brands. I was behind one of those Pontiac G8’s and a few other new American cars. I couldn’t help but think that the product design was really not bad… and I thought I could probably pick one up at fire sale prices… but the brand. I just couldn’t get myself there.

I know with my cars, there are certain things that the brand compels me to forgive. Like when the Air Mass sensor goes in my turbo every 20k - 30k miles in the TT costing $200… “oh, those eccentric Audis”, if it was a Pontiac I would be cursing Harley Earl to hell.

So my question was, if you take a car you kind of think is OK, and photoshop a BMW logo on it, is it way cooler? Or can you break through brand and appreciate design?

For myself, I can appreciate good design outside of brand recognition. But there is something to the pedigree of a brand that boosts my confidence in my purchase. I am on the same boat with the Pontiac G8 and a few other American cars. I think the G8 has great proportions and a great story behind its performance, one of those sleeper type cars. The design is not anything spectacular but it still is very solid. And for what Pontiac has designed in the past I think only amplifies the G8 appeal. If BMW had come out with the G8 design I do not think that it would have held such great appeal. I hold different companies to different standards (based on what they have created. Not all companies can be judged on the same design standards all the time due to politics, etc) and Pontiac is not a company that I consider to have great design in its production ready vehicles (solstice is an exception). So when a product comes along that changes the paradigm of the company (even if it would be considered not as great a change or even a step back in another company) really heightens its appeal.

That being said I am considering buying a 2009 Cadillac CTS sometime in the next 2 years. I would not consider it great design but it has an appeal that I feel Cadillac has not created in a car for awhile. And its design creates enough of an identity to appeal to me over say a BMW or Mercedes, etc. I guess you can say that I have strong feelings for the underdog.

I do think branding has a lot to do with the general public’s perception of the design and quality of the product. I also think that the brand especially in the case of bmw and pontiac is understood from more than just their logo.

With BMW or Audi, their ads, their method of unveiling, even the colors they use betray a certain aloofness. Does BMW even offer yellow as an option?

I’ve always been under the impression that the brand is more than the logo and letter head.

I will agree with you on the design, it’s not bad. Plus, sometimes it’s destructively fun to have a car that can incinerate your tires on a whim.

Does BMW even offer yellow as an option?

I believe in around 2003 they did on the M3. It was a very BMW yellow though.

Hey Yo,

somewhere here on core there might have been a piece about the positive preconceptions, that are triggered inside our brains by brand recognition.

If a product is branded with the logo (trademark) of a brand that is held highly by the recepient the internal reaction toward that product is fully different than the reaction toward a similar product that is branded by an inferior make.

If you show a coke guy a new product by coke the measurable anticipation is much higher, but even the sense of fulfillment or “reward” after consumation is better.

With that in mind I see your reactions towards the new “hot” Detroit Cars as fully natural. But your sense of self observation might be not (; )

I had a similar problem, when buying a non branded notebook, that had all the right internal specs but was neither Sony or Apple but a wholesaler item. It`s perfect for my needs and performs flawlessly, but I´d forget to save it, if the camp was on fire…

yours mo-i

(F*ck I am running into language restraints with this post, as English is not my mother tongue, forgive me, If I stumble along…)

Its really cool subject. Does the design of the car enhance the brand, surely the style has to match the brand values? And what comes first the brand or the design of the car. I guess the brand values are intrinsically linked with the design values?

I think the automotive industry is one of the the last few areas where I still equate brand name with engineering quality, reliability, performance. Design and “emotion” seems to transcend brand these days…you’re just as apt to get a great looking Hyundai or Kia as a real brown bag Mercedes but I think a big part of that comes down to the global nature of design teams. But in terms of the bits that make the car go, I still lean towards the European, Japanese big names. note. I have never purchased a car…only ever driven and crashed my parents’ cars.

if you take a car you kind of think is OK, and photoshop a BMW logo on it, is it way cooler? Or can you break through brand and appreciate design?

Last summer I had the “privilege” of driving a Kenworth T600 based truck for a few months. If you are from the US you are more than likely familiar with it even if you are unaware of it’s model number. It’s form is “cleaner” than most big trucks on American highways and has been manufactured by KW since 1998. It is not an uncommon machine in the US.

One afternoon I found a VW badge lying along the roadside, and discovered it to be exactly the same size the the circular portion of the KW hood badge. Thinking it humorous, I folded over some duct tape and taped it over the KW badge.

A couple of days later, when coming out of the parts department at a truck dealership, I encountered two guys looking over my truck. They asked me how it handled on the highway, what engine group it had in it, and other questions you’d ask if you’d never seen a particular vehicle before. They had seen the VW badge on the front and told me they didn’t realize VW made heavy trucks.

In light of this discussion, it is interesting that in addition to the hood badge, this truck has chrome “Kenworth” badges on both front fenders, right behind the turn signals. When I reached up and lightly pulled on the VW badge it came right off, and the two gentlemen were more than a little embarrassed by their lack of attention to detail. So much so that they overlooked an entirely familiar truck based on the 4 inch diameter logo on the front.

[Removing my cone of incredible jealousy]

That’s a pretty funny! Mercedes has been making utility work trucks for years.

I remember seeing one when I was a kid thinking it must be really nice on the inside because it’s a Mercedes. I also thought German taxi drivers must get paid a lot because their cabs were MB’s. Funny how you associate brands like that.

Along the lines of the BMW badge… I remember seeing some import tuner car show on TV after the Great Fast and Furious Wave of 2001, where some guy took a Honda Civic and put the hood (and vents of course) of an M3 on it. Gross.

Something like this…

I was going to mention this phenomenon as well.

Most of these guys are adding these badges to their rice burners to impress their friends and turn heads… but there’s also a percentage of this “modification” that is for personal gratification. I think they’re actually tricking themselves into believing that they now drive a BMW, Audi, etc.

Its funny how KNOWING you drive a Honda, but you YOURSELF add a BMW badge to it, makes you believe it may be a BMW. Strange concept with branding.

Same with knock off fashion designer brands. You KNOW if you were to buy a Tommy Hilfiger tshirt in Mexico at a corner store, that its fake. But when you’re out on the town, you FEEL as if you’re “better/cooler/trendier/with it” since you’re wearing a designer shirt. Though in the back of your mind you know its fake.

(FWIW, I’ve never added a BMW badge to my Honda, or ever have worn a tommy hilfiger tshirt)

A brand is a promise of an experience.

Premium brands have worked hard to build that promise, but I think many would be surprised by the result of blind-taste-testing. They get fat and lazy, while lower tier brands get leaner and meaner, and “draft” off their innovations.

It’s been said that in an age of commodity, where everyone has access to the same information and technology, the last remaining differentiator is experience.

I just came across this link through BoingBoing

You get shown a brand and using just one word you need to describe it. They are hoping to get all these brands tagged with their globally recognised values… really interesting idea. Check it out…

It’s interesting to see how other people tagged brands.

Here check out BMW…

hahahaha, arrogant comes up big

funny to read about the fast and furious M3 there is however a worse example of pimped up fakery - in Lincoln (UK) there was a Honda badged up and even sprayed Ferrari red

it is an interesting point that the brand offers a gaurentee of perserved reliability, especially for cars

in the UK there was a people carrier/minivan that was released branded differently for sale at different price points although no doubt some of the components must have been of diffent specs I can’t imagine that the SEAT branded option ws 100% different to the more expensive VW option

the perception of quality due to branding is also interesting when considering that due to the small number of actual separate manufacturers compared to brands parts are often shared throughout the whole group such as the cheap plastic Ford switches in the DB7 and the regeneration (partial) of the Skoda brand after it was bought by VW

This is a really interesting topic, especially in regard to modifying one’s own car to be something it isn’t. It’s quite apparent that this need for brand recognition is overpowering what created that brand in the first place. For instance, the civic turned M3. Ok, it looks like a M3, well sorf of, but it sure as hell doesn’t perform like one. This is an obvious trend in the fashion world, specifically women’s handbags. You find these all over the place in NYC especially in Chinatown as everyone knows. Girls will go out and spend $50-$100 or who, i don’t know, just to have what looks like a coach, LV, Gucci bag. Maybe it’s just that I’m a guy, but I look at the features of this product versus the name. Ok, I have bought one product over another because of the brand, but the product comes first. If i was a female I would never buy a knock off bag because it’s going to fall apart. These bags are crazy expensive because of the name, but also because of the materials used and the build quality. To me the coolness factor is overshadowing the product itself and that’s a little scary.

Here check out BMW…

How about…







Nazi (?!?!?!)



WOW! This is what the public actually thinks of BMW. Interesting.

Even more interesting I think is the dichotomy between what those who own/can own a BMW think of the brand vs. what those that don’t/can think of it. Aside from perhaps Apple vs. PC I can’t think of another brand really that has such polar opposites of perception.

I suppose to some extent those that associate with a brand, be it (to keep the auto thing going) BMW, Ferrari, Harley, or Corvette (or any non-auto) brand may have a differing opinion on it like vs. love than someone who is not a brand advocate or has any emotional connection to it, but the difference between the two is normally not so great. I may like Samsung, but I would guess very few people HATE Samsung…

I’d go out on a limb though and suggest that a brand (like any design) is in fact stronger the more it evokes a strong love/hate emotion than any brand that sits comfortably between the two, at best having a “meh” effect.

It’s a good case study though.


PS. I’m a BMW guy, so I obviously am not in the Douchebag perception camp, though at the same time have also had a MB, so am not a fanboi per-se either. I like the brand, think the products are good, etc. but for sure don’t see the crap as leveled towards Bimmer owners as really realistic. More sour grapes from those that can’t have one, if anything.

Great points. Liking this thread.

Even more interesting I think is the dichotomy between what those who own/can own a BMW think of the brand vs. what those that don’t/can think of it.

I’d go out on a limb though and suggest that a brand (like any design) is in fact stronger the more it evokes a strong love/hate emotion than any brand that sits comfortably between the two, at best having a “meh” effect.

BMW has great design, and a great product lineup.

Why do some people go so far, and reach into the dark side of their soul to call another human a “douchebag” for owning a nice product? Jealousy/lower income brackets are obvious points to bring up, for sure.

This isn’t so much the case if someone shows up with absolutely the nicest most amazing beer bottle opener in the world. “Cool!” would be a presumed response.

Nicest (read: most expensive) wristwatch: Yes
Nicest pair of socks: No
Nicest tailored 3 piece suit: Yes
Nicest pencil eraser: No

Cost has a direct role in this.

Brands are sticky places for our subconscious that product can’t always overcome, which was part of my original post. I think the Pontiac Solstice is (was) a great looking car… I just can’t drive a Pontiac. I owned one just out of college and it was such a POS it would be difficult to get me in another American car. That one product experience might have turned a consumer off from buying anything from the 3 American brands for a lifetime. The brand became a place to deposit all of my negative emotions of my product experience.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when we first got the Audi, my wife sometimes would not want to park it in the driveway, or not want to take it to see friends, for fear as being perceived as showy. I on the other hand wanted to enjoy it as much as possible and could give a rat’s ass what others thought, I just wanted to enjoy the design.

Cars tend to elicit very strong reactions and lead people to unfair stereotypes.

Think of a:
Volvo wagon driver
Camry Driver
Lotus Driver
Chevy Malibu Driver
Ford F150 Driver

and I 'm sure you can’t help having some quick stereotypes pop into your head.

I wonder if it varies by particular products. For example, many different people drive the 3 series, but maybe the 6 and 7 series get more of the negative stereotype?

I wonder if it varies by particular products. For example, many different people drive the 3 series, but maybe the 6 and 7 series get more of the negative stereotype?

Absolutely. I can see a driver of a 6 or 7 series seeing a 3 series driver and saying “Ugh… Just a 3 series?” I can also see a 3 Series driver saying “Ugh… why spend all that money on a 7 series, a 3 series is just fine.”