Aston Martin – can the brand ever regain relevance?

Aston Martin – can the brand ever regain relevance?

Aston Martin may be the oldest sports car company in the world but recent performance has been poor.

Since 200 its sales have been spiralling downwards and the new owners are running around trying to find ways and means to get some dynamism back into the brand. However, having lost almost 50% in car sales since 2007 it is clear that both brand and reputation must have taken a similar sized nose-dive.

But is this actually any surprise? What have they actually done in the last seven years to create a meaningful and sustainable brand relationship? It may be a prestige brand and esteem will be high – but as for relevance and meaning…well I reckon they lost that some time ago.

Aston Martin seems to be stuck in a similar rut as many small car companies with a proud history. Basically, what to do next when all they can think of is the past. Unfortunately, if you listen to their ideas it seems that they believe that they can reverse the trend in short time scale…mmm…looks like hockey stick forecasting….

Changing such a strong downward trend requires more than hope. And neither does making the same mistake as countless other brands of trying to recreate the past. Cars need to move forward (sorry for the pun)…and nostalgia for James Bond’s DB5 should not drive your brand strategy – especially not when the front of the car looks like a Ford Fiesta.

Competition in the luxury sports sector is huge and Aston Martin cannot tempt people away from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Mercedes, Porsche and possibly even Jaguar with a brand image based purely on past glories. The number of automotive brands who tried that and failed are numerous. Look at Rover, MG and more recently SAAB whose last CEO proudly stated “I don’t need new customers, I just want the old ones back’. Well…those customers are no longer yours…they’ve moved on, and unless your product and image moves on then you will continue to struggle.

Better to take a look at what Jaguar and Maserati have done successfully. Jaguar, unencumbered by Ford ownership has blossomed – new models, great technology, a nod to the past but with an eye on the future. Maserati still has some way to go, but if you consider the brand image today versus where it was in the 80s and 90s the change has been revolutionary – both product and brand based.

It all reminds me of my days at British Leyland…remember them? They were convinced that wood and leather was so ‘british’ that it was a differentiating feature….yep…just like a pipe and slippers.

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