Magazine article Marketing

Wheels of Progress

Magazine article Marketing

Wheels of Progress

Article excerpt

Instead of tweaking logos, carmakers should push their technological offer, writes Alex Brownsell.

Peugeot has become the latest automotive manufacturer to carry out an overhaul of its visual identity in an attempt to reinvent itself as a progressive car marque.

It follows similar branding revamps by Audi, Citroen, Mazda and Vauxhall over the past 18 months. The car industry, it seems, has reached a consensus on how to preserve its future - with metallic three-dimensional logos. However, car marketers who hope they can transform their company's fortunes simply with a shiny new badge are sorely mistaken.

To be fair to Peugeot, as well as the fresh visual identity, it has announced a series of products, and will be putting its unusual-looking electric-powered BB1 concept car into production.

Ford is also attempting to excite consumers with real innovation, rather than simply tinkering with its brand. Its chief executive, Alan Mulally, made an appearance at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to promote MyTouch, the latest version of the Sync in-car entertainment system Ford has developed with Microsoft. This allows drivers to control their environment using a pair of dashboard touch-screen computers; it is predicted to arrive in Europe later this year.

Dashboard innovations

Ford credits Sync with a major role in restoring the company's fortunes The company's UK marketing director, Mark Simpson, believes that car buyers are looking for interesting technological developments. 'There is a place for trying to explain yourself better through branding,' he says. 'However, customers really appreciate substance - something new and exciting.'

On this side of the Atlantic, marques such as Fiat and Audi are targeting younger, more sustainability-conscious drivers with dashboard innovations. In 2008, Fiat teamed up with digital agency AKQA to create eco:Drive, an application to help drivers improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Alistair Beattie, head of planning at AKQA, believes the industry needs to adapt to an emerging generation of car buyer more at home with an Xbox controller than a steering wheel.

'We can expect cars to become a seamless extension of the at-home and personal digital environment in the next couple of years, as social networking, communication and entertainment brands find new ways to connect with consumers,' he says. …

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