Lexicon® Blog

The Commoditization of the Car (Exterior)

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, Consumer Goods, High Technology, Naming, Uncategorized on August 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

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Cars’ outward appearances will become much more homogenous in the future. Why is this and what will that do for branding?

If you happen to be in a city right now, you can order a rideshare that will pick you up wherever you are and take you pretty much wherever you want to go. And, compared to a traditional taxi service, it’s dirt-cheap. But that’s all that ridesharing really offers because, at this point, there’s barely enough demand to make ridesharing feasible. In the near future however, demand will likely increase dramatically as autonomous vehicles drive down the price of this service.

Though this topic was previously covered in our post, “Sharing Interests, Not Rides,” it’s an important place to start because as demand increases, you’ll suddenly be able to get a lot more out of your ride than simply traversing from A-to-B. You’ll be able to socialize with like-minded people, eat or drink restaurant-style, or catch a ride with your groceries and packages so that you and your orders arrive home together.

As a result, the way cars are branded is going to undergo a major change. Brands will come to represent the experience, rather than the car itself. As more and more niche brands and rideshare interiors are launched—and eventually take the spotlight away from the car exterior—the aggressively styled exteriors we’ve come to know and love are going to fade away.

And why will this be the case?  For one very simple reason: each interior experience will become a modular part that rideshare companies can swap out as-needed to meet demand and support a hyper-segmentation of autonomous transit.

Why keep both a fleet of 1,000 latte-serving CaféCars alongside a separate fleet of 1,000 beer-servingCarBars when they hardly ever operate during the same hours? By swapping out the interior of a single car, you could serve everyone their coffee in the morning and their beer at night with the same fleet of 1,000 cars. You don’t need a degree in economics to know which is more cost effective. Half as many cars cost half as much to buy, insure, and maintain.

It just makes economic sense.

The net effect is that cars destined to be autonomous transit vehicles will, in effect, become mere shells that wrap around these kinds of modular interiors. Think about it: how much do you care what kind of car shows up when you call a Lyft or an Uber? Probably not a lot, and regardless, we’d wager you’re more likely to notice the color of the interior than the color of the exterior. As the interior of the ride offers more and more, riders are going to care less and less about the exterior. We will no longer “consume” the ride from the outside; we will instead experience it from the inside.

Essentially, the exterior of the car will become a shell. And, once branded, each Shell’s technology will cater to certain functional benefits.

A Shell’s ability to protect its users from harm will be a huge selling point for security-minded individuals. Names will draw on future technologies that might include Premonition braking systems or Insulome nano-fibers designed to absorb impacts in the event of a crash. Combining these components could result in a CrowsNest package that could cut your likelihood of injury due to a reckless driver by 90%. That way, you’ll know you’re choosing the lowest-risk ride possible.

Tomorrow’s autonomous shells may strongly resemble bullet trains or other types of elegant public transit that we currently have today. Car brands like Oyster will necessarily signal a sleek exterior—like the smooth lines of a bullet train—but with a luxurious, perhaps even complex, interior.

Shells that interface with their infrastructure could provide clear functional benefits, just like trains and other means of public transit. Where will Amtrak or other commuter trains stand in this mix? Specific Shell packages could offer the ability to interface with existing forms of long-distance travel. Traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles or traversing the East Coast? Make sure your Lounge Deck interior is fitted with a Shell featuring Amtrak’s Caboose Technology, allowing you to by-pass traffic by commuting on train tracks instead of the highway. Not only might the great American railway system offer an excellent way to loosen up gridlock for interstate travel, but also could provide access to the nation’s most incredible scenic routes that are currently inaccessible by car.

Now, this is not to say that car exteriors will become meaningless in the automotive landscape of the future. They will simply no longer be the main selling point because they will be sidelined by the various inter-changeable and highly specialized interiors soon to be offered. Although ingredient and exterior branding will continue to be critical factors, interior branding will offer a whole new dimension: it will holistically capture the ride experience and potentially become a defining feature of autonomous vehicles . Interiors will no longer be confined to type of leather, color, or technology. This new, apparent limitless space creates the opportunity for companies outside of the automotive industry to make their mark in this territory by launching—and branding—unique interior experiences.

Aaron Snyder

Ingredient Branding: An Automotive Essential

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on August 11, 2016 at 8:31 am

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

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LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification has changed the way we see buildings. Any building, from private homes to corporate headquarters, without LEED’s stamp of approval is a public sign that it is not resource efficient. Originally considered the benchmark in green building, LEED has since trickled into the automotive industry. Cars can now be LEED-qualified if they are fuel efficient or low emitting. Consumers overwhelmed by a dealership’s sea of cars can look for a LEED symbol on the car’s exterior to help make their final purchase decision.

But what if we went beyond LEED certification for cars? Sure, a car can be eco-friendly, but does that necessarily guarantee it’s passenger friendly, too?

With a lingering distrust—perhaps even a fear—of autonomous vehicles, automotive companies will need to launch new vehicles that assure consumers they are not only energy efficient, but also safe and reliable. This opens the doors for new types of certifications and ingredient brands—such that meet new safety requirements, communication standards and convey efficiency and eco-friendliness.

Ingredient brands and certifications have the potential to revolutionize the industry and become game changers in consumer decision-making.

Ingredient branding has been in business for decades, and whether we are aware of it or not, it has played a critical role in elevating brand value.  A brand itself serves to distinguish products in like categories, however ingredient branding pushes the product even further by giving it its own additional value. Dodge is a classic example of using ingredient branding to elevate its collection. Its 2004 campaign, “Does it got a Hemi?” created a new playing field. Previously, average car buyers did not think to ask what type of engine was in a car. But Dodge’s campaign prompted buyers to ask this unexpected question that Dodge’s competitors did not want to answer.

Later on, Pantene revolutionized hair care with its launch of “Pantene with Pro-V.” Its effective marketing campaigning of the Pro-V ingredient led to Procter & Gamble’s most successful launch in its 175-year history, leading to the fastest recorded growth of a P&G brand and highest sales for Pantene.

Now take Teflon, Gore-Tex, and Intel’s Pentium (a Lexicon credential). These three distinct brands share one thing in common: they are all ingredient brands. And, each brand has become part of our everyday language. Consumers no longer settle for regular pans or rain jackets; they seek out the products made with Teflon and Gore-Tex because they know they will perform the best.

So what if ingredient branding were applied to cars (outside of engine type)? How can we go beyond a simple LEED certification?

As autonomous vehicles begin to replace—even dominate—the automotive space, ingredients inside them will matter more than ever before.

In addition to using energy efficient power, autonomous cars might offer ingredient packages that contain specific features. These packages can serve to create new standards across the board—in energy, technology, and safety related are just a few ways they can do this. To comfort autonomous vehicle users, they might contain Securo, a safety package that includes early warning alerts, back-up cameras, and an enhanced form of computerized ABS break systems.

Passengers prone to heart attacks or seizures would no longer have to worry about having an attack on the road. They can purchase a feature like Pulso, a health and fitness package that includes seating that constantly measures your heart rate and senses changes in behavior and wellness. That way, it can adjust accordingly to rising stress levels and can even take you to the nearest ER if needed.

In conjunction with ingredient branding, the rise of autonomous vehicles in the market will open the door for new endorsement brands. The American Dental Association (ADA) for example, currently endorses certain brands that meet their health requirements. Major brands like Colgate and Arm & Hammer benefit from this kind of endorsement; their packaging signals to consumers that their products are ADA accepted. A similar form of endorsement can be launched for autonomous vehicles—perhaps even in the form of an American Autonomous Vehicle Association.

Though these are only a few examples, it is apparent that ingredient branding is about to take on a much greater role—that simply cannot be ignored—as autonomous cars launch in today’s world.

– Kennedy Placek

Paving the Road with Good Intentions

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on August 3, 2016 at 8:30 am

From our 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

Paving

The Roaring Twenties were an iconic time in American history. A time of economic and social change, they quite literally paved the way for the age of the automobile. Between the Federal Road Act of 1916 and the Federal Highway Act of 1921, opportunities abounded for cities to embrace the change and grow alongside the booming auto industry. One city in particular did just that: Los Angeles set out to brand itself as the city of the automobile.

At the turn of the century, Los Angeles was much younger than the centuries-old cities of the east coast. Towns like Boston had been built around horse-drawn carriages and pedestrian traffic and thus could not adapt their streets for cars easily or efficiently. Los Angeles, however, could expand alongside—and in conjunction with—the automobile. The rapid incorporation of the car into LA’s identity allowed for car-centric retailing to explode in the area. Not surprisingly, LA soon became the city of angels, drive-ins, and roadsters.

The 2010s may be like the 1920s in terms of automotive revolution. Autonomous cars are just around the corner, ride-sharing is booming, and many individuals are moving away from car ownership altogether. Will the city and state governments of today take advantage of this change in the same way LA did nearly a century ago?

Many places are doing just that.  In 2011 Nevada became the first state to grant licenses to autonomous vehicles. As a result, Google began testing their self-driving cars there, and other companies soon followed. Even European agencies are bringing business to the state in order to test autonomous prototypes. With this accommodating regulatory structure, Nevada has shown its willingness to welcome innovation and change and, by doing so, has attracted companies and stimulated economic growth.

In contrast, Detroit spent the first decade of the 21st century in economic decline. Both General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy during the recession, and unemployment soared. The same companies that laid off workers a decade ago, though, are now developing self-driving cars and launching ride-sharing apps like GM’s Maven. Similarly, Amazon has opened a new corporate office in downtown Detroit: a symbol of the company’s commitment to Detroit’s rapid growth, in and outside of the automotive industry. The city is promoting its base of well-educated residents alongside low residential and operation costs. Recent reports have shown that Detroit is on par with Silicon Valley in tech job growth, and it’s branding itself as such.

Unlike Nevada and Michigan, certain places in Europe are moving in the opposite direction and distancing themselves from the automotive industry. Cars are viewed as detrimental to society because of their high carbon emissions and congestion of city streets. As a result, many envision the cities of the future to be completely car-less. Such cars were never necessary, and some cities never adopted them in the first place. Venice, Italy, for example, has always thrived without them.

Oslo, Norway, is leaning into this idea and has recently announced that cars will be banned from the city center by 2019. The city plans to promote walking, cycling, and taking public transport to enhance local businesses. Lanes once reserved for cars can be turned into public spaces which would knit the city together and contribute to Oslo’s brand image: green, safe, and community-centered.

Autonomous vehicles, however, will introduce new challenges. How will cities fund themselves to keep abreast of this changing cityscape? How will they pay for public safety programs without the steady income of parking and speeding tickets? How will public transportation fare? As the price of autonomous ride-sharing drops, the middle class may abandon public transportation, resulting in a struggle to fund the bus or rail routes still needed by lower income households. In order to transition seamlessly into the future and to improve both their image and brand, cities will have to understand and solve these issues before they even happen.

Efficient and forward-thinking transportation will forever be the hallmark of a thriving city, and cities that capitalize on these ideas will be the ones that pave the way into the future. If successful, they will set up potentials for economic growth, social reform, and citizen safety. The question is: which city will come out on top?

 

– Sarah Schechter

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