Aston Martin’s bonkers brand extension bites the dust

Four years I posted on "brand stretch madness" from Aston Martin: the over-priced and under-powered Cygnet city car. I predicted it would be a horrible flop, and this has indeed proved to be the case. The company put the gun to the head of this brand abmonination a few weeks ago, as reported here.

The annual sales target was 4,000.

The TOTAL actual sales since the 2011 launch were…. 142. And that's 142 more than I thought they would sell.

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So, what went wrong and what can we learn from another entry into what I call in my book "Brand stretch"  "the over-crowded brand extension graveyard"?

1. All sizzle, no sausage

Back in one of my first ever posts I talked about the problem of brand's relying on an "image wrapper" made of emotional sizzle, with the lack of a great product sausage. Well, the Cygnet is the ultimate in brand image wrappers. The car is a bloody Toyota IQ with a fancy paint job, ice leather interior and Aston style grille. But under the bonnet is an IQ's 67 horsepower engine. As I said in 2009, "Your hair dryer would make more noise."

The utter madness of this product is illustrated by Aston Martin craftsmen working on the clay model of the Cygnet with a poster of the beautiful, powerful DB9 behind it.

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2. Pricing that takes the piss

Its bad enough creating a tarted up version of a Toyota IQ and calling it an Aston Martin. But the company really started to take the piss when they priced the Cygnet at £30,000+. This is three times the price of the IQ. Who on earth would be stupid enough to pay that money? It turned out there was a grand number of 142 people. 

3. Failing to add value in the category

So, does all this mean it was impossible for Aston Martin to stretch into the small city car category? It would have been hard, but the company would have had a better chance if it had tranlsated the brand values of "power, beauty and soul" into the category to add value. Look at the Mercedes A Class, a little car that has done OK, by delivering premium quality and comfort in the small car category.

Perhaps Aston Martin would have been better off stretching into the SUV category, following the incredible success of the Porsche Cayenne launched in the 2000's that I posted on here. This transformed Porsche, making up c. 50% of the brand's sales. It succeded by bringing power and performance to the SUV category, so that 911 drivers could drive a family car with similar values. And its a brand extension route now also being taken by Jaguar and Bentley.

In conclusion, the Cygnet is a great example of how NOT to stretch your brand, by betraying your brand values rather than using them to add value in the new category.

Thank god its gone.