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Differentiation In Cars

What Three Words Do You Want Customers To Think About You?

SEO expert Nikki Pilkington reminded me recently of the three words test.

The idea is simple and works for business branding and personal branding.

What three words do you want customers and clients to think of when they hear your name or think of you?

Three Word Branding Examples

When I challenged Nikki, her answer was “SEO, social media, helpful” – OK that’s four words including one acronym but you get the idea.

When I thought about it for me, I want you to think “profit from differentiation” or something similar – in particular I want you to think of profit and differentiation as a united concept.

If I think of Maserati, I think of “fast, stylish Italian car”. Lamborghini is similar with “fast, flamboyant Italian car”. Ferraris are “red Italian racing cars” to me because of their grand prix heritage.

Aston Martins are “luxurious British grand tourers”

Mercedes means “prestigious, German engineering” to me.

Or for Kylie Minogue I think “Australian singer with a nice bottom.”

Applying The Brand Concept To Your Business

This simple test shows how clearly your brand is positioned in the mind of your customers.

I suggest you stop for a few minutes and ask yourself what you want your customers to think about you in three words.

Then ask a few of them.

If what they say echoes what you want them to say, then you can be reassured that you’ve done a fine job of branding yourself.

But if what they say is radically different, then you have a problem.

You don’t see yourself in the same way that your market sees you.

What To Do If Your Branding Isn’t What You Want It To Be

You have a choice.

Either you adapt your self-image to match what the market thinks and focus on using that to its best advantage.

Or you have to try to change the perceptions of the market to match what you want.

If the market doesn’t have a clear view, then you need to reinforce your brand through constant repetition of a few key ideas. Branding expert Ben Mack calls these “verbatim vitamins” because they pep up your brand.

But if the market has a clear view and it is wrong, then you’ve got a tough time ahead.

Look at Skoda cars as an example.

They used to have a terrible brand image and were the butt of jokes like

“What do you call a Skoda with a sun-roof?”

“Answer: A skip”

Since the takeover by the Volkswagen group, quality is much improved and the brand is strengthening.

But I bet there are people who don’t buy Skoda cars because of the old image.And others who buy despite reservations about the image.

Alfa Romeos have a similar problem. I can’t justify buying a Maserati, Lamborghini or Ferrari but I can afford an Alfa Romeo. I’m drawn to the brand because they are “Italian fine driving cars” but I can’t shake the old “unreliable rust-buckets” out of my mind that was the reputation the brand earned from the 1970s. I think I might need a second car if/when the Alfa breaks down and that makes buying an Alfa prohibitively expensive in my mind.

Why is this clarity so important?

Because it works the other way around as well.

When I think of Nikki, I think of an SEO expert.

And when I am asked about experts in SEO, I think of Nikki and a few others.

That top of mind awareness is powerful.

It’s where the money is.

Any other SEO expert who contacts me faces a big challenge.

He or she has to show me in great detail that they are worthy of being ranked alongside Nikki, Dan Thies, Leslie Rohde and Jerry West.

And it’s an even bigger challenge to create a preference because the space as SEO expert is filled in my mind. It would take a lot of time and it’s time I’m not ready to give willingly because I don’t feel any need to.

You have a simple choice.

You either stand for something and get remembered.

Or you stand for nothing and get forgotten and ignored.

What three words do you want customers to think about you?

It’s Your Turn

You’ve got the chance for a little self-promotion by leaving a short comment for your three words or phrase you want customers and clients to think when they hear your name.

No comment spam around keywords – it won’t be published.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, 4 – Lead Generation

The Aston Martin One-77 – The Ultimate Aston Martin

The Aston Martin One-77 is what I call a car. It’s been described as the ultimate Aston Martin and I can understand why.

I was critical of the branding decision for the Aston Martin Cygnet but the one-77 really is worthy of the marque and then some.

As a child I used to collect car brochures – now can see them as pdfs and here is the brochure for the Aston Martin One-77

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Maserati Kubang : Is This A Branding Mistake?

I love Italy, I’m fascinated by cars so it’s no surprise that I feel a huge attraction towards Maserati but the new Maserati Kubang looks like a branding mistake to me.

Fiat have done a great job in reviving the Maserati brand after the dark days in the eighties. I fear the Kubang is a step backwards.

What is the Maserati Kubang?

Estimated to cost about £100,000 the Maserati Kubang  is a luxury 4×4 rival to the Range Rover and the Porsche Cayenne.

Maserati hope that it’s going to be a huge success but its image clashes with just about everything I associate with the brand name… Maserati.

Here is a short video of the Kubang being launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2011.

A Jeep Grand Cherokee With A Ferrari Engine

The V8 engine comes from Ferrari and the four wheel drive technology comes from the Jeep Grand Cherokee so it’s got a proven pedigree of performance.

But it’s not a traditional Maserati.

The Ghibli is a classic Maserati from the 1960s. It’s low and sleek and very desirable as it epitomises the glamour from the sixties along with the Jaguar E-Type and Lamborghini Miura.

The Attraction In Building The Maserati Kubang

Two words.

Porsche Cayenne.

According to figures I’ve taken from Wikipedia, Porsche sold 100,806 Cayenne vehicles between 2003 and 2010, 42% of their total sales.

Yes the Cayenne is ugly.

But it is so popular that it is changing what the brand Porsche means.

It used to be clear – a 911, a 944, a 928 – all small, quick sports cars. Even the down market 924 had style.

You can see the attraction that this luxury SUV market has for Maserati or the big bosses in Fiat who wanted to make the vehicle and squeezed it into Maserati as the most suitable home.

Will The Maserati Kubang Succeed?


I don’t like SUV’s, so I must admit I am biased but the lure of the three-pronged trident badge is strong.

Who except for the extremely rich wouldn’t rejoice in saying “I drove down here in my Maserati.”

Mind you I don’t think it’s going to be much of a “pulling car”. I can’t imagine the lady lured into the car park with the line “Do you want to see my Maserati?” is going to expect a poshed-up agricultural vehicle.

Will The Maserati Kubang Damage The Maserati Brand?

The brand has proven to be remarkable resilient from the magic days of my youth – the Ghibli, the Bora and Merak, the Khamsin were all cars to drool over.

Then things got messy but Maserati bounced back.

If the Kubang is a commercial success then hopefully it will provide the funds to launch more proper Maseratis.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Aston Martin Cygnet – Is It A Branding Mistake?

The Aston Martin Cygnet is a small, luxurious car based on the Toyota IQ which will cost £30,000 to £40,000 new.

Aston have taken the IQ and given it a new grill, door handles, leather interior and the prestigious Aston Martin badge (and probably a few other little extras).

I have mixed feelings about this.


Is There A Market For A Small Extremely Luxurious Car?

I believe there is a market for a luxury small car. Not sure about something this small but I always liked the idea behind the Panther Rio, a car from the seventies based on the Triumph Dolomite.

I think the baby Aston will sell.

The Cygnet is a well differentiated product – there’s nothing out there in the market that can be easily compared.

I fancy having an Aston Martin keyring myself although I won’t be buying a Cygnet.

But I also believe that it tarnishes the Aston Martin brand name.

What Does The Aston Martin Brand Stand For?

Play the word association game with me on Aston Martin.

If you’re like me, you probably get words like…

  • Fast
  • Expensive
  • British
  • Sporty
  • James Bond (from the films and not the books).

The Aston Martin Cygnet

So how does the Cygnet do?

Well it’s certainly expensive for a small car but it’s not in the £100,000 plus range.

But it’s not fast or sporty.  It only has a 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine. I read that 0-60 mph was in about 11.5 seconds.

And it’s not British. When I checked on the Internet, it seems that the IQ is made in Japan.

Aston spend 150 man-hours to convert the IQ into a Cygnet so you can see where a lot of the cost comes from.

As for James Bond?

Well I can’t imagine him trading in the DB9 for a Cygnet.

Buying An Aston Martin Cygnet With A One-77

I’ve read that a lot of people who have bought the £1 million plus Aston Martin One-77 have also bought a Cygnet in a “his’n’hers” style deal.

But I think it will damage the allure of the brand.

Why The Car Damages The Brand

“I drive an Aston” will no longer create a mental picture of the beautiful, sleek DB9 or a Vantage. People are going to assume that you’re a wannabee with a Cygnet.

It would make me less likely to buy a proper Aston Martin although I can’t see me rushing into the market in the foreseeable future.

This branding move by Aston Martin with the Cygnet is the opposite to that done by Audi when they introduced the R8.

Aston Martin Branding vs Audi Branding Changes

I had the pleasure of taking a close look at an R8 last week and there’s no doubt that it looks a great car and again it seems to be differentiated as a practical super-car you can drive every day. But even if I was in the market, I have my doubts on whether I’d ant to spend £100k plus on an Audi.

However, having the R8 in the range has added to the prestige of owning an Audi and would add to the appeal of a TT, even if I prefer the design of the old model.

It’s a tough choice at the top end of the car market.

What Super-Car Brand Would You Choose?

How do you choose between an Aston, a Ferrari or a Lamborghini?

Brand image matters and this is an even bigger stretch than Porsche with the Cayenne, which has been a big seller.

Sure the Aston Martin Cygnet may sell plenty but it damages the brand.

What do you think?

If You’re Interested In the Aston Martin Cygnet Car And Not The Brand…

Here are some links for anyone interested in the Cygnet as a car

Aston Martin website

First drive on Autoexpress

Car review

Autocar news

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Briggs Mono – A New Kind Of Sports Car

If you think of a road-going sports car, what images come into your mind?

A red Ferrari, a yellow Lamborghini… even a Bugatti Veyron.

But I bet whatever car you think of has at least two seats.

Not so with the Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) Mono – it is the first single seat sports car to go on sale to the general public in Britain.

Think about it.

How many miles do you do on your own compared to carrying around one or more other people?

Now imagine the fun you can have if you take away all that size and weight.

That’s what the BAC Mono is all about.

I normally talk about differentiation by how much – this time it’s differentiation by how many – and is a great example of asking “why?”

“Why do we need two seats in a sports car?”

“Why compromise on the driver experience by pandering to a non-existent passenger?”

This way you can get a power to weight ratio of 540kg per tonne from a 2,300cc engine producing 280bhp.

And that means you roar from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds and in another mind-bending four seconds you could be doing a ton. If you keep your foot on the accelerator, you’ll get to about 170 mph although you’d be a braver man than me.

The BAC Mono is seriously fast.

And will it turn heads?

You bet it will.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning