Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

Bentley: The New Sound of A Brand Down the Drain

Shell advertisement from the Festival of Britain featuring a Bentley

In 1951, a Shell advert proclaimed that one went “very fast very gently in a Bentley”.

In that same year, Bentley’s own advertising proclaimed that theirs was “The Silent Sports Car”.

David Ogilvy, in his imperious advert for the ’59 Rolls Royce, went so far as to say that the Bentley alternative was for the diffident.

And even when growing up in the decade that taste largely forgot – the 1980s – Bentley remained the choice of the discreet.

Indeed, all the way up until 2003 a Bentley was a luxuriously appointed ride under the radar.

Then Volkswagen came along and buggered it all up.

No longer was a Bentley solely the choice of uppers with names like Bunty, Binky or Babe.

New money was Bentley’s target. And new money Bentley made.

With peak sales figures coming close to 10,000 for the GT and its sedan sister the Flying Spur, came a time when the Continental Bentleys were vying with the black Mercedes S-Class for Central London ubiquity.

But, with costs shared with the Volkswagen Phaeton, the cash rolled in and I doubt anyone in Crewe (or Wolfsburg) really gave a damn.

I did. Bentley used to be special.

Now it’s common as muck.

I thought salvation might arrive in Crewe’s reposte to the marvellous Rolls Ghost.

What arrived was neither reposte nor salvation.

The Grand Bentley – as the pre-launch press material billed it – arrived as a beautifully-built, pig-faced bruiser called the Mulsanne, a car so vulgar as to confirm Rolls Royce’s new role as the luxury car for the discerning (if not discreet).

I honestly thought the state of Bentley’s brand communications – physical or otherwise – couldn’t get worse.

And then this video came along:

Once for the discreet.

Now for the douchebag.

So long, Silent Sports Car.

Rest in peace, my very fast, very gently Bentley.





Category: Criticism

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4 Responses

  1. Massimo says:

    Mostly agree, but when majority of your customer are cowboys rapper from LA; or footballer tasteless than an albumen plain egg without salt;
    you know already there, that something went wrong.

    And here we are still talking about ride and noise.
    Don’t even get near or closer to the look of the “Godzilla”.

    And then as you said nobody should give a damn.
    Just let them rest in peace.

  2. Sam says:

    Nobody appreciates unseen craftsmanship these days – if you can’t hear it, it isn’t there. You’re right though – it is a terrible shame that everything must be sacrificed at the altar of sporty and dynamic.

  3. Drew says:

    Indeed. In light of the Twitter conversation about the Range Rover Evoque’s shape-projectiv puddle lamp, on wonders if we’re all loosing the powers of deeper appreciation. Cheers for stopping by, by the way 😉

  4. Drew says:

    Max: one wonders, if/when the quick credit all dries up and the hire-purchase of a bling-ed Conti GT is no longer a reality for the neu klasse, whether there’ll be anything of Bentley that appeals to the people with the hard cash to spend.

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