The Porsche Cayenne: successful stretch

Last week I posted on the one of the most bizarre brand extensions ever: the Aston Martin Cygnet. This is a re-badged and tarted up Toyota IQ (£11,000 RSP) sold for £33,000+.

As I was writing, it got me thinking about another example of bold brand extension in the car market: the Porsche Cayenne SUV. This was also controversial, as the maker of the 911 sports car was launching a car more likely to be seen dropping off kids at school than on a race track.

Here’s why Porsche got it right when stretching their brand.

1. Brand added value = big sales

The key difference in Porsche’s approach was to use the brand to add value in the new category, in this case SUVs (sports utility vehicles). Before the Cayenne, if you wanted an SUV most of the choices were rugged, off-road brands like Jeep and Land Rover. Mercedes was also in the market with the M class.

With the Cayenne Porsche brought luxury and sports car performance into the SUV category. Unlike the Cygnet, the engine and body shape of the Cayenne was authentically Porsche, creating a distinctive and premium priced value proposition. If you had a Porsche 911 but then had a family, here was a Porsche your family could fit in.

As a result, the Cayenne was a big hit in sales terms. You can see in the UK sales figures for Porsche that the Cayenne, launched in 2003, fuelled growth of 60% over 3 years. Globally, the Cayenne made up 50% of Porsche’s volume.

2. Brand image management

The Cayenne was got a far from unaminous thumbs up on launch. Here’s one piss-take from a motoring website.

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And a more serious car magazine article, below, had the following to say: “Porsche has no more business making an SUV than McDonalds has selling hamburgers by candlelight”.

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But Porsche were smart in the way they communicated the Cayenne. They had a pre-launch campaign about the Cayenne targeted at existing Porsche owners. This cleverly drew on Porsche’s history in building off-road cars that competed in rallies. In this way, they were able to explain in detail the rationale behind the Cayenne. Porsche 911 drivers still might not have loved the Cayenne, but they could be made to feel neutral.

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Brand communication emphasised the performance of the Cayenne, carefully sticking to Porsche codes. The ad below has the tagline “Hairpin bends: a different perspective”.

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Screen Shot 2011-11-01 at 16.26.18By a couple of years after launch even the sceptics had started to see the positives in the Cayenne launch. And journalists who had been slagging the car off were now singing its praises.

In conclusion, Porsche got it right by remembering and refreshing what made them famous: luxury, performance, sportiness. They took these values and used them to add value in a new market category.

In doing so, they dramatically grew their business, whilst protecting their brand image.

What a shame that Aston Martin didn’t follow the same principles with their brand stretching.