Hidden in the folds of last month’s edition of Wallpaper magazine was an advertisement for an electric version of the smart “ForTwo,” two-seater.
The ad came as a surprise for a few reasons. First, it has been a while since I've heard from smart, the iconic compact automobile brand. With sales under pressure and the passing away of its conceptual “father” earlier this year (Nicolas Hayek, founder of Swatch), there have been rumors questioning the brand's continued existence. Second, what really drew my attention was the fact that in the corner of the ad, appeared the words “smart: a Daimler brand.” This is an interesting development, and not one with a strong precedent in the automotive industry.
By attaching the Daimler name to the smart brand, Daimler is clearly trying to attach certain equities to the smart brand: legacy, supreme quality and continuity. Interestingly, the Daimler brand name still holds a lot of traditional values in our minds. The move made me wonder if Daimler's main brand, Mercedes Benz, could do with a similar seal of quality.
It will be interesting to see how the other automotive conglomerates will react to this strategy. Will we soon see “Skoda: a Volkswagen brand,” “SEAT: a Volkswagen brand,” or heaven forbid, “Volkswagen: a Porsche brand"? And if the latest news is to be believed, how about “Alfa Romeo: a Volkswagen brand"?
It seems extremely unlikely that we will see “Opel: a GM brand,” but “Saab: Spyker brand” may have some merit.
Then again, these examples are not entirely aligned as Volkswagen, GM, Spyker and Porsche, are still actively in used as car brands – and Daimler is not.
Even so, we should continue to watch this space to see how car brands and their masterbrands’ relationships continue to evolve.