Friday, May 21, 2010

Having a product named after you

It is many people's dream - buying a product which is named after them, people will often pay a premium for personalisation at this level. Some people even change their name to show allegiance to their favourite products (is that why he is called Meat Loaf?). However it does seem that not everyone is happy about having their name used by manufacturers.

(quick apology here, it is another motor industry related story)

Renault are currently developing a range of electric cars to go on sale in 2012, and one of these is currently referred to as the Renault Zoe ZE (zero emission). A Parisian called Zoe Renault is not happy about this, and is trying to stop Renault from using her name on the car, and is joined by a group of people also called Zoe.

Now, whilst it would be possible to suggest that Zoe Renault is getting her 15 minutes of fame, or Renault are getting additional publicity for the car, she may have a valid point. But I struggle to see how this could really cause offence, but then no one has ever suggested that they name a car which could break down after me!

Of course, Renault could offer to give her a car once they are in production (I hesitate to suggest that someone I know nothing about would try to find a way to get a free car), and may well do so. In many ways it would be a good way for Renault to get more publicity for the car by using her in promotions, saying how much Zoe loves her Zoe. A great way to manage corporate reputation - find a way to ensure the customer is happy and gain positive publicity from it!

Details of the story are here

Monday, May 17, 2010

Morgan Motor Company

As you may have noticed from the recurring subject of my blog posts I am a bit of a petrolhead (OK, probably more than a bit!), enjoying cars and having a fascination with the motor industry and how it uses marketing. Because of this, I had a great day out recently when I went to Malvern for a factory tour at Morgan, possibly the largest British owned car manufacturer.

You may know of Morgan - they produce brand new cars which look like they are old, and some of the construction and technology they use is old, but they also produce a fascinating insight into satisfying customers.

One of the things I often read about the motor industry is that it takes large companies, each manufacturing millions of cars a year, to be able to make a profit - this is why manufacturers have joined forces with each other, taken over competitors, formed alliances and all sorts of things to gain economies of scale. And still some of them lose money! Morgan, however, seem to take a different route. They manufacture bespoke cars in very small numbers, and sell them at reasonably low prices, and yet still manage to make profits.

So how do Morgan defy the logic which other preach? I think there are a variety of factors, but the main one has to be through understanding their customers and providing what they want, allowing personalisation and a personal touch. Add in to that a very clear focus on manufacturing effectiveness, doing things in the most effective way to retain the traditional methods where appropriate, but bringing in technology for things which can be made more effectively this way, and the process works well.

The range of cars is tailored to suit different buyer needs - for those wanting an entry level model there is a choice of exterior colour, but otherwise the options are very few. This keeps costs down as there are fewer changes to make from one car to the next, and parts can be made in bulk (by Morgan standards). By spending more, customers can have a choice of colour and trim, engines, wheels and almost anything else. This costs slightly more, but does allow personalisation to a degree not available in other cars at similar prices. I guess this is a big part of the appeal - buying a car which is very personal, and probably not an entirely logical choice. The other benefit for Morgan, in addition to increasing the value of a sale through the options, is that they get to understand what customers really want - they have one to one conversations with their customers, and they can use the understanding they gain to make the basic models more appropriate to customer needs. Customers also benefit from resale values which are very good, the cars suffering very little depreciation even with the waiting list being much shorter than it once was.

What I found fantastic during my visit, however, was the passion that was obviously put into the cars by the people working in production - true craftsmanship at all stages making sure that everything fitted perfectly to that particular car, many things being done by eye and touch, making it look easy even though I know from my own experiences of working on cars that it isn't.

I left the factory wanting a Morgan, but also with great respect for what they do, and joy that a small company working with many traditional methods, mixed with the best of modern technology, can defy the people who say that big is the only way to go. It is great to see this happening in the UK at a British owned manufacturer - such a shame we don't have more manufacturing, across in a variety of industries.

And a quick, final point, I'll have one just like this please: