As an industry we’ve lost sight of our great brands. In some cases companies have gone bankrupt or been acquired and a brand disappeared, in others a world war got in the way. Studebaker, Cord, Horch, MG, Triumph and countless others have evaporated for a variety of reasons.
Today, as Detroit goes through an unprecedented upheaval, there will be more brands lost. Saturn, a once very special brand, will go away. So will Pontiac and Hummer. We can only wonder what will happen to brands like Jeep. Brands that stood for something, had a point of view, and marketed products that reflected a certain perspective. Brands that developed a loyal following because they stood for something! They weren’t for everybody, and that was OK.
As discouraging as it is to see a great brand go away because of a structural change in a company, it’s worse to see brands die of neglect by the very people charged with protecting and building them. Over the last 20 years we have watched a number of great automotive brands that automotive marketers worked very hard to create, begin to whither away. The aforementioned Jeep is one, Volvo another. Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, SAAB, Lexus and even mighty BMW feel somehow “less” than they did even ten years ago.
What’s happened? Expansion happened. Chasing volume happened. Brands that meant something specific and clear found themselves needing to be “more.”