Automotive: May 2007 Archives

To Masterbrand or Sub-brand? That is the Question

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One of the oldest debates in branding is whether you introduce a new product under the existing parent brand or create a sub-brand name. Some marketing consultants essentially say that sub-brands don't work. That seems like an over-simplification to me, as well as not a universal truth.

toyota_prius.jpgToyota is extending its Prius sub-brand for its hybrid vehicles, removing the Toyota moniker, and, in effect, creating a new parent brand. Does Toyota know what they're doing? I think so.

In the consumer's mind, I believe, Prius equals hybrid, green and good. Therefore, I think its wise that Toyota's new hybrid models, which we'll start to see in 2009, will be called Prius A, Prius B and Prius C.

However, I think the A, B and C nomenclature is a mistake. Anyone that's received a grade in school would much prefer to get an A than a C. And what happens when Toyota introduces its sixth Prius model? Would you want a Prius F?

If you've read this far, I've fooled you. The Prius A, B and C are only internal code names, once again demonstrating that Toyota knows what they're doing.

cingular_ATT.pngAs you're probably aware by now, AT&T, which, a few months ago, was acquired by much bigger SBC Communications, which renamed itself AT&T despite its much larger size. That "was a bit like France marching into Brussels and renaming itself Belgium," said Stephanie Mehta of Fortune, in her article yesterday, Meet the new AT&T.

Although controversial, AT&T did away with the very well known and probably much hipper Cingular name. I predict that long-term, the Cingular brand will reemerge in some place in some way, like many other zombie brands.

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Did Cerberus Save Chrysler From The Underworld?

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Chrysler_logo.pngBrian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press wrote a wonderful article about Cerberus, a leading private investment firm, the company that bought Chrysler this week for $7.4 billion, and asks “why a company with $60 billion would name itself after a three-headed monster.”

By the way, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed dog.

Seems that some investment groups like using terms from Greek mythology in their company naming—one of the least effective name changes from 2006 was Prime Rate Investors’ move to Summus Works. Say it fast, it sounds like “some of us works”.

cerberus.gifBut I would say that a quick look at a list of Investment Company names shows that names from mythology certainly do not dominate the field.

Because there are regulations over what an investment company can call itself, it seems logical that names from history and mythology that just look good—and neutral to regulators—may get some play.

Why would the founders of Cerberus choose that name? Chances are they liked the fact that it looked like the word “cerebral” from “cerebrum”, the Latin word for brain, neither of which have any relation to Cerberus, which is a Greek word.

cerberus_logo.jpgBut it is amusing that an investment company would (probably inadvertently) name itself after a three-headed dog protecting the gates of Hell. I have to say I do like Cerberus’s response: "Our firm was founded to keep companies that are in pretty bad shape from entering the underworld."

Which is exactly what they have done with Chrysler.

Nice save, guys.

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