C'mon Scion. I need you. ~ Brand Mix

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

C'mon Scion. I need you.

Crikey (as they say more often in Australia than England these days). What's that? The first reversible car/truck? No, it's just a new concept car from Scion called the Hako (rhymes with wacko?), shown at the New York Auto Show this week.

I have to believe in Scion. It's trying so hard to do everything right. It's taking risks. It's focusing on a specific target: "The trend setting youthful buyer." It has all sorts of innovative marketing programs. It's certainly making distinctive products. But still it's struggling.

According to the Financial Times, its sales have dropped for each of the past 16 months compared to a year earlier. Some of the problems seem to be self-inflicted (supply chain mistakes) but mostly it just shows how tough it is to succeed in the auto industry these days.

But I have another and more selfish reason for wanting Scion to succeed. It's one of my favorite examples of the innovative application of brand architecture and one I use in presentations all the time.

When companies introduce "value brands," they have to think about how much distance they should try and establish between these brands and the rest of their portfolios. Value brands often benefit enormously from association with the stature, quality and reliability of their parents but this benefit has to be weighed against the potential risk to the parent's reputation.

This dilemma is often resolved by using a parent brand endorsement. Fairfield Inn, by Marriott and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi are just two examples. Sort of like a parent signing for one of their children. But what's so interesting about Scion is that its relationship to Toyota isn't explicitly stated. It's just implied by the fact that Scion cars are sold at Toyota dealerships. (As opposed to Lexus cars which have their own dealerships.)

So I talk about Scion whenever I want to make the point that brand architecture can be executed in different ways: yes, verbally but also visually and sometimes even via channel like the Scion.

It's a nice point to make but it just not going to work if they have to close up shop.

1) Toyota finds Scion tough going: Financial Times

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