Years ago, the enthusiast crowd and many industry observers were appalled at Porsche’s introduction of the Cayenne. Clearly an effort to build volume and profit for the company, many feared an SUV would destroy the Porsche brand.
The naysayers (me included) were wrong. The Cayenne has gone on to be the brand’s biggest seller and I think it’s fair to say that the 911 just keeps cruising along as one of the world’s premier sports cars. One of the reasons that the Cayenne did not damage the Porsche brand was that Stuttgart was incredibly clear that the Cayenne would be the “Porsche of SUVs,” in other words, a high performance SUV. Jeff Zwart (a Porsche factory driver as well as commercial director) directed, participated in and produced this Cayenne introductory video for Porsche:
Obviously, the sole purpose of this video was to establish the Cayenne’s performance credentials and lineage. Porsche successfully expanded volume by introducing a product true to the brand’s core values and marketed it successfully based on those values. In fact you could argue that Porsche is doing exactly the same thing with the Panamera (introducing the “Porsche of four door sedans”). We could debate whether the world needs another high performance sedan given Audi’s S models, BMW’s M series and Mercedes-Benz AMG models, but so far Porsche Panamera sales indicate that from a product point of view, Porsche judged the market well.
Porsche has successfully proven that it can expand volume by carefully developing line extensions that reflect the brand’s core value of performance.
So why, would they allow their latest marketing campaign to go so far afield? What would possess them to feature the iconic 911 and the very successful Cayman in communications designed to demonstrate that they are not “just” high performance sports cars, rather they are excellent everyday drivers:
Do the marketing folks at Porsche really think that a perception of a lack of everyday utility is holding back sales of 911s? Really?
Sounds like research run amok.
I hate to clue the marketing guys in, but the 911 and Cayman are not good everyday drivers. They’re not great in the snow, they don’t offer much room for luggage or bags of cement, nor do I envy that child that had to get in the back seat of the “school bus.” I will give them “getaway car,” after a long day at the office driving home in a Porsche would be sweet.
Seems to me that the designers and the engineers have done a very good job of defining the 911 and the Cayman. To quote an old BMW headline, the 911 and the Cayman are “The epitome of truth in packaging.” They are not particuallry utile but they are great looking and big fun to drive.
The essence of clear positioning is knowing not only what you “are” but knowing what you “are not.” The 911 and the Cayman “are not” good everyday drivers and they are not particularly utile. They “are” however, high performance machines that offer a very special driving experience.
I do recognize that a lack of utility prevents people from buying 911s and Caymans, but that’s the way it should be and marketing shouldn’t be trying to change it.
In the never-ending quest for volume, they may squeeze a few more units out of the 911 and the Cayman. The real question is, will it be worth it?