DownsideUpDesign

Icon

Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

Authenticity in branding and where the car industry has got it all wrong

20120103-114331.jpg

During the interminable wait to get on a rescheduled flight to Tasmania I started idly flicking through my blog feeds.

More often than not I hit “mark all as read” rather than actually doing any reading.

But my eye was caught by a post by Steve Jones on the Fast Company blog titled Authenticity Vs. Perfection: How To Brand Like A Rock Star.

A lengthy excerpt from a book, my sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled brain skimmed most of it.

But the central thesis is one that has resonated with me since I started my journey into brand strategy in 2005.

Here’s my riff on it: humans are imperfect but imperfection lends individuals their character. It’s character, our unique mix of our perfect and imperfect qualities, that acts as our emotional magnet, attracting or repelling fellow humans. It could be said that the more honest we are about our mix of perfect and imperfect, the more authentic we’re being. And, in my experience at least, authentic people have deeper, more engaged and longer-lasting relationships.

And so it could be (should be?) with brands.

Because we want brands to be our best friends after all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Petroleum-powered Peccadilloes for Plutocrats

Aston_martin-cygnet_concept_2009_1024x768_wallpaper_02

If austerity is all the rage, someone forgot to tell the manufacturers of city runabouts. Aston Martin’s much-maligned £35k Cygnet -based on the humble £10k Toyota iQ- is just starting to hit the streets. It’s also available in an even more exclusive Colette edition.

Fiat-695_abarth_tributo_ferrari_2009_1024x768_wallpaper_01

The amusingly named Fiat Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari has been terrorising residents of Belgravia since late last year at an unamusingly steep £30k.

Fiat-500-gucci-12

And the £11k Fiat 500 on which the Tributo is based is now available in a Gucci edition for a £5k premium.

Citroen-ds3-by-orla-kiely-collection

Even Citroen is in on the act with the Orla Kiely-fettled edition of their quasi-premium DS3.

It doesn’t stop there, however.

0001rollsroycemini

Having the last laugh -as is so often the case in the Automotive world- are the Germans.

BMW Group brands Rolls Royce and Mini recently had a pash behind the bike shed and produced the Mini Inspired by Goodwood.

What do you get for your £25k premium over a standard £16k Mini? Leather, leather (everywhere), walnut veneers made at the Rolls Royce plant in Goodwood, “deep-shag” carpets and the smug satisfaction that, if you hadn’t worked it out already, you’re one of 1000 willing to pay £41,000 for a Mini.

Downsized luxury is everywhere these days; nary a day goes by when a report crosses my desk telling me that, despite the economic uncertainty, people are still enjoying luxuries, just in smaller portions. Now consumers can do it with their cars. Just don’t expect it to come cheap.

005rollsroycemini

Winning by sticking to your roots; Volvo and Range Rover


So that makes two brands trotting out old cars in a bid to highlight just how good their new cars are.

Firstly, we had Volvo asking journalists to drive old workhorses like the 240, 740 and 850 at the UK launch of the naughty S60. Joe Simpson, writing for Car Design News remarked on how much improved the overall performance of the new car was. Read the rest of this entry »

PSFK’s 2010 Good Brands report is out

This is the second year I’ve been invited to contribute (I’m a Purple List member y’see) and it’s always interesting to see how the final report plays out. So just who are the top 15 brands in the world?

  1. Google
  2. Apple
  3. Jamie Oliver
  4. MIT
  5. Ace Hotel
  6. IKEA
  7. Nike
  8. Twitter
  9. Foursquare
  10. Nintendo
  11. Facebook
  12. Starbucks
  13. Lady Gaga
  14. Nokia
  15. American Apparel

Companies are judged on their innovation, corporate and environmental responsibility, their relationship with the broader community and , somewhat nebulously, imagination. Yeah, you’ll have noticed there’s not a single automotive brand in this years list (and last year, we only managed to get Zipcar in there) but when you have once-gold brands doing things like this and this, it’s little wonder.

Note to the automotive industry: Must. Try. Harder.

To download the full report, replete with explanations of the rankings, just click here.

First Impressions: Lexus gets it’s guppy on

lfa_front_crop

In what seems to be a growing down-road-graphic trend (you’ve seen the Nissan Leaf, right?), the new £325, 000 Lexus LFA has splashed onto the intertubes wearing a face that would be right at home on the Great Barrier Reef.

First previewed as a concept a scarcely believable 4 years ago (that’s a long time from concept to production these days), the LFA represents the first foray into the supercar market for Toyota’s luxury brand. And to say that the collective reaction has been lukewarm would be an understatement of oceanic proportions.

From the ever-humourous @BreakingAuto‘s tweet that “CEO Akio Toyoda confirmed that the Lexus LFA’s ’45″-high-shoulder-line, 4″-tall-side-windows’ design theme won’t expand to other Toyotas.” to old aunty CAR coming right out and saying

“…this is not a £325k car. It doesn’t look like one, doesn’t accelerate like one and, whether Lexus likes it or not, it doesn’t have the badge or motorsport/supercar pedigree that many image-conscious supercar buyers demand.”

I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t the reception Toyota bosses were looking for. Read the rest of this entry »

Do I detect a movement? Car design gets more social by the week.

Screen shot 2009-08-31 at 08.20.33

I’ve just spent two fantastic days volunteering, presenting and learning at the sensational UXAustralia user experience conference in Canberra, Australia.

It seems appropriate, therefore, that this morning I learnt of another socially-led automotive design project.

Following in the vein of GM’s The Lab, Local Motors and Peugeot, Fiat Brasil has now launched the Mio project. Read the rest of this entry »

Detour Ahead: DownsideUpDesign has a new home, becomes DownsideUpDesign.com!

3003593749_31e4235d92_b

As a little treat to myself (and, hopefully you guys), I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted WordPress.org set-up for DownsideUpDesign. In the short term, this wont meant a great deal for you but will make my job a lot easier. It also opens up a whole heap of exciting opportunities for the future.

Although the old downsideupdesign.wordpress.com address will continue to work for the next 4 weeks, join in the fun and change your RSS feeds/bookmarks/permalinks to downsideupdesign.com and let’s keep the party rolling!

[Image: Robin D Hinton]

BMW Project-i for Isetta

Way back in March I wrote a piece discussing BMW’s Project-i. In it (you can read it here), I roused on BMW for taking such a high-minded approach in describing the project.

I also suggested that if they wanted to provide new forms of popular (as in “for the people”) urban transport, the wonderful Isetta brand was ripe for the picking, leaving the precious BMW unimpeached.

Lo and behold, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer has just announced that the vehicular outcomes of Project-i will be marketed under a sub-brand called… well, we still don’t know for sure yet. But take a look at the wonderfully feel-good, BMW-produced video above and there’s no prize for guessing what it will be.

Thanks to @bjkraal for the RT from @tmrnews: http://bit.ly/dIQxJ

Antonella gains a voice, brain, pulse and a… well, becomes a boy

me_and_molly

There’s a risk that I may depart on some vainglorious romp here, but I figure a little self-indulgence is warranted given that DownsideUpDesign has just kicked over the 10,000 visitor mark.

While I was out in Broken Hill, I had to good fortune to catch up with Mark Charmer at the Movement Design Bureau and, even more fortuitously, Rob Hunter and Amy Johannigman, whose work I had the pleasure of reading as part of the Sue Cischke project back in May.

We ended up having a mind expanding conversation (they come along with pleasing regularity when in Mark’s company), discussing the potential for a highly personal style of social media to help generate really meaningful dialogue around design and sustainability.

It’s dialogue that companies like Ford need to be having yet can’t seem to get started. I have a sneaking suspicion, as do Mark, Amy, Rob and many others, that their reliance on mute personae like Antonella has something to do with it…

While I’ll let Mark and Amy fill you in on the details, I’m honoured by the profile they’ve put together and the concept Mark discusses is something that resonates with me on so many levels. It speaks of a bright future for not only  this DownsideUpDesigner and the others out there like me, but also a more open, responsive and sustainable future for the automotive industry, which I seem to have been destined to be a part of for a while now.

If you’ve got this far, then your the kind of reader I love to have. It’s even better if you leave your thoughts below because without the dialogue we share, DownsideUp is just another tree falling in the woods.

Thanks so much for being a part of the first 10,000. I’m looking forward to many, many more.

[Image: Juliana O'Dean-Smith. "Glamorgan", Manilla, North-Western N.S.W, longer ago than I care to remember]

Ford Pits New Taurus Against Luxury Brands, hands Mercury/Lincoln a Noose

800x600_Taurus_ads_01

Up until now, confusion has reigned supreme regarding Ford’s positioning of the new is-it-premium-or-isn’t-it Taurus and how it relates to the Lincoln/Mercury ranges.

Well be confused no longer because the online ad campaign for the new car, going live on August 4, pits the new EcoBoosted sedan against… the Lexus LS460!

In a move that’s sure to mightily upset the brand guardians at Lincoln and Mercury (if indeed there are any…), the campaign gives a blow-by-blow account of how the butch sedan bests the behemoth from Japan, along with the Audi A6, Infiniti M45X and Acura RL, while being up to three times cheaper.

The Detroit News quotes Jim Hall, an analyst at 2953 Analytics LLP as saying the approach is “smart and necessary”. “None of the cars in its segment have these features… when people think of your car as more upscale than it is, it’s only going to help you when they see the price.”

Indeed! Why bother with less well equipped Mercury or an overpriced Lincoln?

The words home and goal are coming to mind right now…

[Source: The Detroit News via Autoblog]

About DownSideUp Design

I'm Drew Smith and I'm an ethnographer and strategist. By day I shape culture and strategy at Seren. By night I sleep (mostly). And once a month, I host an event called Rising Minds, at Shoreditch House.

DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. All views represented here are mine and mine alone and do not represent those of anyone else.

Get in touch at drewpasmith (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

Want DownsideUpdates sent to your email address? Click here:

Latest Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Archives

Legal-schmegal

© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.