By Peter Nunn
Let’s talk about brand, one of the A-list buzz words in the car industry today and one that’s fast gaining traction here in Japan, too.
‘Brand’ as ever can mean a whole number of things. Drop the word casually into conversation in Japan and chances are most thoughts turn straightaway to classy designer goods with labels like Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. To many Japanese, especially young ladies, this is precisely what ‘brand’ (meaning status and luxury) is all about.
People in the car business are also talking about brand, but in quite a different way. In this case, brand is seen more as an identifier, a device to set manufacturers apart, create images and build expectations.
Today every manufacturer, from large to small, is working harder than ever to push its own identity, its own brand.
Design is an obvious place to start and Toyota, for one, has formed a new design philosophy called ‘Vibrant Clarity’ as a base to make its vast range smarter, more cohesive and identifiable.
For the Lexus premium brand, which launched in Japan on August 30, Toyota’s also formed a separate ‘L-finesse’ design philosophy with the new IS and GS sedans the first to showcase it.
Subaru has just launched a new corporate ‘face’ on some of its models. Nissan has also created its own design ‘look.’ So has Mazda, whose catchy ‘Zoom Zoom’ marketing campaign has truly done wonders to build recognition.
Nissan’s version of this image building tool ‘Shift’ has one central message but changes depending on the situation (ie you see ‘Shift_performance’ for new fast, Fuga luxury sedan, or ‘Shift_capacity,’ as relating to the load carrying abilities of the latest Serena minivan).
Mitsubishi engineers now talk openly about “our sports driving DNA.” Honda underpins everything it does now with the simple, clever and highly effective slogan, ‘The Power of Dreams.’ Four words that go right to the heart of what Honda’s really all about. Suzuki is another working on a new ‘house’ style for its cars.
Five years ago, little if any of this brand building methodology was in operation. Today in Japan , you see it everywhere. It’s just one example of how the car industry’s moving on up.