- Scott Murdock
Quick, what color shirts are Todd and Paul wearing?
If you’ve watched more than one Everyday Driver video, you know the answer to that question. If you’re channel surfing or scrolling through YouTube and see a flash of red and blue, you know it’s Everyday Driver. Branding often gets boiled down to a logo in many minds, but those who understand marketing know better. Simply put, good branding looks like comprehensive familiarity. It’s Steve Jobs’ outfit and Starbucks’ playlists. If an auto manufacturer wants to be seen as a luxury brand, they have to do more than build expensive cars. They should be reliable because waiting for a tow truck is not luxurious. The dealership experience should be relaxing and the building should be clean.
This isn’t just good marketing; there’s a financial strategy involved. I remember being told by an economics professor that when you compete on price, you lose. That makes sense because reducing your profit margin becomes your only means of staying relevant. You’re much better off creating a product that people buy not because it’s cheap, but because they want it. Here’s the trap: the more one person likes your car, the less someone else likes it.
You probably see this in action all the time. Miata owners love their nimble little roadsters because, with handling that good, power doesn’t matter. The Wrangler crowd has no interest in reducing body lean because that flexibility allows them to crawl over obstacles. Both groups are passionately loyal to a brand because of the advantages that come at the expense of other capabilities. Manufacturers can’t get that kind of reaction with a car whose best attribute is on the price tag.
That Brings Me to Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi has more than its fair share of history. When you put a diamond logo in your garage, you’re buying into a lineage of fantastic engineering. We all remember the championship-winning Lancer Evolution. Some of you probably grew up driving a sporty, accessible Eclipse. Maybe you were fortunate enough to experience the technological wizardry of the 3000GT VR4. There were even SUVs tough enough for Dakar, like the Pajero. If you think back to the 1940s, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero was an undeniably ferocious warplane in the skies over the Pacific.
All that history and innovation culminated in what is quite possibly the blandest lineup currently available. Stop by your local Mitsubishi dealership today and you’ll be greeted by the Outlander, hybrid Outlander, a totally different vehicle called the Outlander Sport, an eerily similar crossover claiming to be an Eclipse, the Mirage (which I’m pretty sure only exists in rental fleets), and the Mirage G4–a sedan so boring it doesn’t even get its own name. If there’s a brand identity here, I don’t see it.
Someone is buying these cars, but who? I’m guessing Mitsubishi owners bought their car because they got a deal on it. That’s because Mitsubishi is competing on price. That strategy might keep the lights on, but it won’t inspire brand loyalty and their customers will always have an eye on the sale across the street. Maybe Mitsubishi owners just figured all the company’s bad ideas went into their advertisements, so the cars must be good.
Dodge is the Polar Opposite
Some of you will never consider a Dodge because they’re big, heavy, loud, and a little bit crass. Instead of gentle alphanumeric names, there are words like Hellcat, Redeye, and Demon. Some of you are die-hard fans for the exact same reasons.
In branding, consistency is key. Pick up a Dodge brochure or visit the website and you’ll be met with taglines like “sculpted for speed” and “pride in power.” I couldn’t find a single beanie or acoustic guitar, but there were plenty of motocross bikes and footballs. In a world where SUV options are so plentiful that they start to blend together, ripping a four-wheel burnout in a 392 Durango is one way to stand out. Merchandise in the online Dodge Garage celebrates new models alongside classics, suggesting that customers are part of a tradition rather than a market segment. Big-screen appearances are also on-brand, with Dodge making sure Dom Toretto finds his way into some form of Mopar muscle at least once per Fast and Furious movie.
The people at Dodge chose their lane, and they’re driving it hard. At the same time Ford's PR team was telling us the Raptor would only be available with a turbocharged V6 because V8s are no longer viable, Dodge was cramming 707-horsepower V8s anywhere they fit–and some places they don’t. Their advertisements still feature burnouts because burnouts are cool and people who disagree were probably never going to buy from them anyway. Drivers cross-shop all kinds of cars, but if you want a Hellcat you just want a Hellcat. There are faster, more powerful, better-handling cars with more technology, but a segment of the market simply doesn’t care.
Thanks to consistent brand identity, cars down the food chain from the halo cars share the same flavor, if not the same performance. That familial product planning keeps inventory moving and creates an opportunity for minivan owners to feel a connection between their car and the aspirational muscle cars.
Kids today are idolizing the fastest new cars just like we did. They hang posters of the Dodge Demon and Hellcat Widebody on their walls. Because they’re kids, posters are all they can afford. One day, though, they’ll have enough money for a new car. It still won’t be enough for either of those; but, unlike some brands, Dodge has inexpensive options to hold their attention while they climb the product ladder. Dodge will sell them a base Challenger in their twenties, a Charger or Durango SRT in their thirties, and a full-blown Hellcat when the budget allows. Much of the competition, however, have to watch them chase other brands and hope they come back when they can finally afford a premier sports car. I’m willing to bet the kid has a long ownership history and maybe a Mopar tattoo by then.
That’s loyalty. That’s a brand.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the ’90s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. Scott works as a freelance marketer for Dingo Productions in Fort Worth, Texas. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.