Is Your Brand the Volkswagen of its Category? Maybe it Should Be.
March 2, 2012 ‐ 1 comment

A recent article about the plight of NYC financiers grappling with smaller bonuses is a must-read; not only for its general hilarity, but also for a thought-provoking statement from a hedge fund manager who refers to his Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet as “the Volkswagen of supercars.”Высокогорьяwatch full movie The Intern 2015

While that’s actually kinda sorta literally true, since automobile manufacturer Porsche AG is owned by Porsche Zwischenholding GmbH, which is a sister company to Volkswagen AG (both companies are owned by Porsche SE), we assume Mr. Scheiner  intended his comment metaphorically.

To us the Volkswagen stands for good value with a bit of style. We’re not sure we’d describe a $109,400, 385hp car as the Volkswagen of anything, but we get his point. Which got us thinking – can your stakeholders categorize you as easily as Mr. Scheiner categorized his car?


These phrases describe very clearly how a brand could be positioned in a given category. The reason they  work is that each of these automobile manufacturers made the difficult decision to build its brand around a clear value proposition: luxury, value and performance, respectively.



Let’s be clear – the Yugo didn’t fail because of its brand. It failed because it was the worst car of the millennium. But many organizations offering good products and services don’t build the brands they could because they can’t decide what value the brand should stand for. Rather, they hype features, chase fads and broadcast a mixed bag of messages that never get real traction in the minds of their customers or of their employees.

So go for it. Become the Jeep, Bentley or Alfa Romeo of your industry. Or the Nordstrom, or the Southwest, or the USAA  – car brands aren’t the only ones capable of rigorous focus. Strive for the same level of positioning and communications discipline that these brands exhibit. It may not get you name checked by hedge fund managers, but if you choose your focus wisely it will help cement a powerful reputation in the minds of your customers and it will help galvanize your workforce around a common cause.

And if that fails? Well, there’s always The Force.

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March 4, 2012 11:10 pm
A question to be used wisely! Brand consultants get quite a bit of criticism for the "What kind of car is your brand?" line of questioning because it sounds like a stock question from the "How to Build a Brand" handbook. It's a valid question, but should obviously be followed up by a healthy dose of "Why?" and "What would it take to get there?" and so on. Otherwise it can quickly descend into a "pick your brand from a hat" exercise, which is an unproductive oversimplification---the same problem I have with Jungian archetypes, by the way. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

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