Jon Christoph Berndt®

Brand Essence

If You Do not Have It, You Will Fail in the Market

BMW is a perfect example of how you should manage the essence of your brand: Their brand stands for "pleasure" (which is also what the slogan "Sheer Driving Pleasure" says) with the values: innovative, aesthetic and dynamic. This manufacturer does not stand for "technology" (which is Audi’s brand essence), or for "longevity" (Mercedes), "sportiness" (Porsche), or "fun" (Mini).

Few would disagree with the notion that BMW stands for pleasure, and even fewer have no opinion at all about the brand essence. After all, the brand team in Munich has spent more than 40 years continually working to ensure that an idea is conveyed to the customer at every possible point of contact: All communication is an investment in the brand essence—pleasure—as the ultimate benefit for all BMW drivers, passengers, and aficionados. This is just as true for the advertising of cars and motorcycles as for the services, accessories, and events. The brand values are used to more closely define the type of pleasure being communicated. It is a subtle, more restrained pleasure, not a hedonistic, brash form of pleasure, and certainly not at the expense of others. This explains why BMW engages with sailing, tennis and equestrian sports, but no longer with Formula 1: Loud, smelly and mindless driving in circles is neither innovative nor aesthetic; it is at best dynamic, but it certainly does not contribute to the brand essence.

The automobile manufacturers in the premium segment clearly differentiate themselves from one another with the help of their brand essence, as well as distancing themselves from the less desirable brands in the volume segment. What do Italian Fiat and French Peugeot stand for? They do not have a strong identity, in the best case they are Italian or French, but they have no desirable brand essence. These cars are sold based on their price. Furthermore, they have an exaggerated opinion of themselves and try to extend their product range into premium categories. But they do not stand for premium vehicles, which is a shame because larger cars have larger margins. The French car producer Citroën was never able to join the premium market because its brand is situated in the mid-size class. However, a car that costs 60,000 Euros—without any extras—does not fit to the mid-size segment. And so the non-existent brand essence became even more dilute. This is why the last luxury-segment Citroën C6 rolled off the production line briefly before Christmas, 2012.