Here's a post on Aston Martin, inspired by an article I read in a French magazine, L'Optimum. The article featured an interview with the CEO, Ulrich Benz, and had several nuggets of insight about their way of brand building:
1. The power of independence: Benz actively encouraged the sale of Aston Martin by Ford. He says: "True luxury today is the power to say no, to not have to follow the codes of the market. In a group we might have to say 'no' to something on the basis the customer won't see. But its this demanding attention to detail our customers buy."
2. Fanatical attention to detail: a lovely little story about the seat adjustment in the new DBS. Benz complained about the seats, and the supplier explained there was a variance of 2 to 3 mm in the production. He demanded this be fixed, by buying a new and more accurate machine, at a cost of £100 000. Its not so much the seat itself that matters. Its more what this says about the company's attention to detail. 1000 of this little details does add up to make a difference.
3. Leading the customer: Benz is a guy who has a vision about his brand. And he does NOT believe that the customer is always right when it comes to innovation. For example, Aston took out the gear shift from the cars with Sportshift gear changing, replacing it with a control on the steering wheel (bit like a Formula 1 race car). Research showed some customers also wanted the conventional gear shift, to which Benz said "From the moment the new system worked perfectly, there was no need for the conventional gear shift. For those who don't like this, they can go and look elsewhere".
This is a brand with a point of view. One that listens to customers, but also leads them. A tricky one to pull off...the line between brand vision and brand arrogance is thin!
4. Let the product do the talking: Benz talks of wanting to fight against the dominance of advertising in the car market, that tries to "impose a point if view, at the cost of millions". He wants to find alternative ways of brand building, that rely more on PR. And to do this, you need a bloody brilliant product that is PR'able, one that has a true story to tell. And Aston Martin is clearly one of those brands.