Al Ries teaches us that there should be only one word (or concept) behind your brand name, just like there is the word “computers” behind IBM and “fast food” behind McDonald’s. One of his immutable laws of branding, “The Law of Perception”, also says that marketing is not a battle of products but a battle of perceptions – winning the battle means winning the consumer’s mind. In fact, that means that your product doesn't have to be the best in the category – you should rather manipulate consumers to think that it is. But are there really products that are the best only in the consumer’s mind?
We decided to check these theories and we selected 11 car models launched between 2003 and 2008, in the lower-medium segment. One of the most popular examples of great branding is Volvo’s positioning – Volvo owns the word “safety”. Let’s check if Volvo really produces the safest cars. We gathered data from the most reliable source: The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) - the European car safety assessment company that performs the crash tests for every car and awards star ratings for 3 different tests (adult occupant protection, child occupant protection and pedestrian protection).
Surprisingly to some (us included), the owner of the word “safety” is not the safest car! The safest cars in this selection are Toyota Auris, VW Golf and Citroen C4. Al Ries was right, after all (as far as we know, he always is). Perhaps, a logical question would be “why Auris, Golf and C4 are not communicated as safe cars?” Al Ries has the answer again – because of “The Law of Exclusivity”. No one except Volvo has succeeded in getting into the prospect’s mind with a safety message, although some have already tried (for example, Mercedes had a very cool TV ad focusing on the brakes of their E-Class). No car is known to be safer than Volvo because Volvo were the first to occupy the word “safety”. Toyota, VW and Citroen probably know this because the Auris is communicated as the reliable quality car, Golf – as the dynamic car and C4 – as the hi-tech futuristic car. Of course, from consumer’s perspective, features like reliability and futurism are very hard to prove. But apparently safety isn’t.
Well, now you know what car to look for if safety is important to you. Oh, and be careful with Chevrolet…