In our book "Brand stretch" we talk about the over-crowded "brand extension graveyard". When we share this in workshops, people laugh at the examples, such as Cosmopolitan Yoghurt, Levi's Suits and Harley Davidson Cake Kits. Well, get ready for another candidate to join these failed extensions. Aston Martin are working on a a small city car to be created in partnership with Toyota, based on their IQ model, as reported in Mark Ritson's latest column.
According to the CEO of Toyota Motor Europe, Tadashi Arashima, ''This
collaboration represents a natural pairing of strategies: a small
yet spacious package, perfect for the city driver, finished off with
Aston Martin's iconic design language." The fundamental flaw is there at the end of his sentence: "iconic design language". It may have the same front grille as an Aston. But under the bonnet? Your hair dryer would make more noise.
I wondered if April Fools had com early. But no. It really seems to be true. Crazy, but true. I love the picture above, with the Aston Martin craftsmen working on this clay model of this funny little thing, with a poster of the beautiful DB9 behind it.
We analyse any brand extension using a simple framework of brand build and business build. You want hero extensions like the Apple iPod and the Gillette Fusion razor that do a great job on both dimensions. You can also accept a big business builder that had a moderate or neutral impact on the brand image.
Well, the Cygnet could sell OK. As Mark says, "Reports suggest you will soon be producing 5000 Cygnets a year, making it your company's number-one production model."
But what about the brand building effect? Well, you have to work really, really hard to create an extension that is SO bad it has a detrimental effect on your brand that harms the business. But, the Cygnet could be one of those. Clearly the product is a betryal of the brand values of "power, beauty and soul." And this is likely to piss off the drivers of V8 Vantages (c.£86,000 a pop) and DB9s (c.£100,000 a ride). Piss them off to the point they fall out of love with the brand.
This happened to the Porsche with the ill fated 924. This low priced model was, like the Cygnet, at odds with the brand's "product DNA", and had a negative effect on drivers of the core 911 car.
Learning from other examples
But what about the Mercedes A Class? That's a little car that has done OK. The difference is that Mercedes already had a broad product line across a range of product categories, from sporty to family to off-road. It just needed to deliver premium quality and comfort in the new category of small cars.
But Aston Martin is different. It only makes high perforamance sports cars. And you can't apply this product DNA to a city run-about with 67 horsepower.
I think we will need to wait a few weeks to check this isn't a hoax. If its not, then I can't wait to see the reaction when its launched.