Along with the branding foresight to artfully capture Winston's musings, and Pol Roger gabbing a priceless opportunity for celebrity endorsement, the Second World War advanced pop-art posters, science, engineering and medical capability. Now the price the world paid for each of these was nothing short of horrid, but here we are.
And now people have the freedom to worry about the Political correctness of posters, and the precise value of, well, value due in no small part to the sacrifices made in those dark days.
So, what is a brand worth? Do corporations know the price of everything and the value of nothing?
My thanks to all who post in reply to my articles, I value every reply and when I think I have something of value to add to the discussion I'll post back. I usually find it a most enjoyable flow of ideas and thinking.
So in this case my thanks to those who got me thinking about the value around the brand, marque, manufacturer, finance basket case, that is Aston Martin.
Why do we value it, or any other brand icon, so much? Many people around the planet love the Mini. The original Mini for its design purity, genius, and affordability. The new BMW reinventing-history-better-then-it-ever-was Mini because it somehow captures the spirit of the old, while making it all new. By which I mean it is now far more comfortable, crash worthy, and reliable. Oh, and remains relatively affordable. Most people in full time employment with a reliable income could afford a Mini if they so choose. So BMW have a huge potential market. And they have milked that cash cow long and hard, morning and night with special editions, "limited" editions, art paint schemes, and a list of options longer that Teresa May's Brexit wish list.
That's what in finance circles is called a good return on investment (ROI).
Desired product, affordable development and production costs, large market, good profit margins.
So despite hocking them for all they are worth on every street corner the Mini brand has survived Bavarianisation.
Well they have a solid history, joyful race wins, and a stable full of stunning automotive art, cars that make grown folk cry.
They also have very limited model runs, some in the mere dozens, some in the low thousands. Massive production costs, and, critically, losses per car sold rather than profits. That's a horrid return on investment.
And at their current price point only the Russian mafia and founding OPEC members are likely to order them as company cars.
And don't forget the on-going service costs that, as with Ferrari, can over a decade make the purchase cost look trifling.
For the faint hearted they are not. For the Mini loving, motoring on a budget public, they are not.
So how much stretch is there in the Aston brand before the elastic snaps and jolts the company owners awake?
No one believes Tag Heuer engineered an F1 engine the other winter, at least I hope not. We know they had some excellent badges made (probably in China) and stuck them over those naughty Renault badges that Mr Horner gets so angry about.
For reasons rather unguessable, this suited all parties. I can only ponder that cheeky Mr Horner had a brilliant set of clauses in his engine supply contract that allowed him to give Renault a hearty public kicking, and still get engines, and place a mate's sticker on them for good measure. Who knows?
Jaeger LeCoultre is the modern version of the watch making firm founded by Antoine LeCoultre in the town of Le Sentier in Switzerland back in 1833. It has a history of remarkable horological accolades both from the genius mind of its founder, and many remarkable specialists since.
It was in 1921 that LeCoultre formed a vehicle instrument company, in Britain, in partnership with Jaeger of France, creating the company name still used today. By 1937 this company was called British Jaeger Instruments limited, and continued producing remarkably elegant instruments for the most refined of cars.
One of these cars was the Aston Martin 1.5 Litre LM. A regular class winner during the pre-war years. In 2004 Aston Martin teamed with Jaeger LeCoultre to generate a limited run watch, the AMVOX1. These now change hands for many thousands second-hand. A rare example of genuine history being used to generate new brand value in a manner most would respect. Especially if one has seen the results of Bentley teaming with Breitling for a vehicle linked watch, one should be doubly thankful for the elegant restraint that both Jaeger LeCoultre and Aston managed to channel for their watch.
A fine branding link, a new product generated, profits taken, wealthy punters happy. What's not to love in this cheerful capitalist tale of success?
Both Aston and Jaeger artfully exploited a meaningful link. Certainly one can ask how many $10,000 wrist watches the world needs, but that's not the point with luxury goods. Do we respect the branding proposition put forward, does it "stay true" to the companies core values, does it generate money? Bottom line, does it "feel right" to the fans, regardless of whether they can afford it or not?
Does it fit the Aston brand to rebadge a Mercedes engine and claim it as their own?
Enzo Ferrari commenced running Alfa's, and then rebadged Alfas, that morphed into the very first track-based Ferraris. Does that humble start devalue the mighty brand celebrating 70 years as I write?
Does it give the cartoon-like super car the LaFerrari Aperta meaning at nearly $6,000,000 US? Or Ferrari cuff links, leather pen cases, $10 baseball caps...? When does a branded product become cynical?
What does it say of an Aston owner that uses Aston golf umbrellas and branded cuff links? Or, given their far greater numbers, what does it say about the man driving a five year old hot hatch that cost less than an Aston front brake caliper who wears Aston cuff links?
What is it that attracts and holds us in a state of joyful respect for some brands?
Has Tag Heuer seen watch sales swing up because of the rebranded Renault engine? Has Renault seen hot hatch sales collapse due to Mr Horner's latest high temperature vexation?
Will buyers of Aston grand tourers that cost hundreds of thousands to buy, and then an equally eye watering amount to run, buy dozens more of them because Aston is writ large down the side of a Red Bull Formula One car?
Will Aston rebadging a Mercedes F1 power unit as theirs hold any meaning, brand value, or relevance, outside of allowing Aston Martin VIP guests to ho and hum in the Red Bull hospitality areas bursting with pride as their branded cuff links glisten in the sweet race day sunshine?
I spent many years, pre-internet, lusting after Breitling watches, when they were still (somewhat) rare, and mostly unknown to much of the watch buying public. Their history and honest awesomeness inspired desire and respect within the youthful engineering me.
Then with the aid of the internet and a mammoth marketing budget, the world knew of Breitling, and the company responded with cartoon versions of its earlier watches, they became more and more style over substance as time progressed. I no longer wish for a Breitling.
Not that Breitling mind however, the sound of highly profitable sales rings around the world with each tick of a Swiss-finished second hand.
Yet we, the modestly monied public, only have so much cash, and thanks to the internet spreading brand awareness faster than an exploding Honda engine can spray oil over a crank case, the whims of the great unwashed can ebb and flow rapidly and unpredictably. This year's must have, is very much next year's garbage.
Lucio di Montezemolo once said the perfect number of Ferrari's to build each year was "...one less than the market wanted." His point being that scarcity was part of the brand attraction. Under the new management production number have been increased several thousand. It will be interesting to see how far that can be pushed.
McLaren only ended up building 106 of a planned few hundred F1 road cars. So even at the hyper-monied end of town, brand desires only go so far.
Could Aston selling 50,000 plus cars each year, while making enough money to fund their own F1 power unit? Well based on the current engine formula I seriously doubt it. Not if they wanted to actually win with a world beating power unit that is. I'm sure they could "do a Honda" for only a few hundred million.
If the post-2020 formula is seriously simplified could they do it? Possibly they could. But don't you think that Ricardo the specialist engineers, Cosworth, and all the existing players such as Mercedes and Renault, will be even more capable of building cheaper mighty power units?
Regardless of the cost-point F1 power units are about stunning engineering capability. My money would be on Mercedes dominating at any price point as long as they have the desire to compete.
So in the branding wars for biggest, brightest, most rare, most numerous... what is it that Aston wants to stand for?
I believe Aston should be a uniquely British brand that, like Ferrari, needs to remain rare to retain value. Aston should look to the simple grace of their Jaeger-LeCoultre wrist watch and consider what their brand means to them.
Jaguar have already taken the brand position of British Porsche, and the brand has, so far, survived the war as they stretch to new horizons. Aston needs a position like Ferrari, not BMW, or Mercedes. How many wars based on sales volume can the Aston brand survive? It has value now because of a remarkable history of very rare vehicles, and a certain Mr. Bond preferring them.
And we all know just how exciting the drive was the last time James took a Ford from the company car pool.
Aston only continues because each decade a sugar Daddy underwrites survival to a new dawn. One needs to ask the latest Daddy where their moral compass points them. As they strap on the armour of awesomeness that is the Valkyrie, pop Mercedes wiring looms under the hood of their road cars, and as they check the time on their Jaeger Tourbillon they should pause for a moment. As the second-hand effortlessly sweeps around the watch face, is that the sound of respectful history and old fashioned values growing strong in the boardroom and on the factory floor, or is it the rabid flogging of the brand for every last cent the punters will send? Probably leading to worthless collapse into the arms of another starry-eyed iron-willed Sugar Daddy ready for the next battle in the Brand war?
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