When the world’s car-makers were feeling the pinch a few years back I wrote a piece speculating on the future shape of car manufacturing in Europe. Now we are facing double-dip recession and a double-dip car-sales slump in Europe, so maybe its time to dust off my predictions and start again.
Last time around, the many trade-in schemes and new cars for scrap programmes put in place by governments desperate to save their critical motor industries and minimise unemployment were, in typical fashion, exploited by manufacturers with no ideas, intent in salvaging the old ways. The changes that were really necessary never came about. We’ve struggled on with a Sellotape solution for a while, but there looks like being three million fewer cars sold in Europe this year than in 2007 and the French and Germans in particular haven’t scaled back production. It’s true that luxury marques like BMW and Mercedes continue to sell, which also suggests that manufacturing standards also need looking at, but both countries still have all the overheads without the sales. What’s more, cash-strapped governments aren’t in a position to bail them out again, so it’s becoming clear, even to the industry’s ostriches, that they are going to have to bite the bullet.
The idea I was expounding previously was that car design and marketing would be separated from manufacturing in much the same way that The Coca-Cola Company separates marketing from production. If the automotive industry were to adopt this approach local manufacturers would build cars for global brands who would design and market them.
If you think this is far-fetched, you should know that its a model that is already up and running. The Finnish Valmet company already produce cars with other firm’s badges on them and look set to start producing the Mercedes A-Class. There seems no reason why businesses that specialise in production wouldn’t have a better chance of meeting the quality and volume demands of the shifting market. There may be other advantages to this arrangement too. For example the carbon footprint of car production is increased by the distance they often travel from production plant to showroom. There seems no reason why we shouldn’t see production lines for VW and Fiat running side-by-side in the same specialist local plants.
Posted: August 10, 2012
As a Brit, particularly one who is keen on sports, I find myself swelling with pride at the performance of both the 2012 Olympic committee and the British athletes. In short, from planning through building to competing, we nailed it! However, as a marketer I’m even more delighted to see signs that whoever is driving this also knows what to do next – because, when you’ve invested 14billion quid in something there has to be a “next”.
I’ve said before that one of the reasons that countries like the US and Australia have in the past achieved such high national branding equity is that they have used their sporting successes as a vehicle for campaigns designed to boost national pride. I’m a great fan of events of any kind designed to generate publicity for my client’s brands and I have invested heavily over the years in initiatives designed to grab press attention. To be honest I had not really expected the Brits to rise to this occasion. After all, we are renown for not blowing our own trumpet. However, London 2012 has been an astounding success and the media have been managed better than I think anyone could have hoped. The UK habit of highlighting negatives like shortage of security personnel and drugs cheats, rightly failed to gain traction, and once the medals started flowing the PR guys were out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, steering the hacks in the right direction. This is looking like PR as it should be, but there’s far more mileage in this yet and managing the post-event campaign is a whole new challenge.
Its easy to see why, when the soccer-players of our football-mad nation are better at rolling around on the floor than they are scoring goals, the masses become cynical, but I think the great British public have received a really well orchestrated education in the last couple of weeks in the hardship, grueling challenges and absolute dedication demonstrated by champions worthy of the name. We’ve had our attention drawn to the personal stories of real heroes we never knew we had. We Brits have certainly had our values re-aligned and now the marketers have something to work with.
It will be interesting to see how government and commercial enterprises responds to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build national brand equity. There is nothing like sport to engage a community, kids love it, young adults rise to the challenge and even armchair sportsfolks get behind it, as we have seen over the last couple of weeks. Will we have an even bigger squad of champions in 2016? There’s no reason why not, but there’s whole lot more that Brand Britain can gain from this both domestically and internationally. Its up to the marketers, politicians and organisers to rise to the challenge set by our new sports heroes.