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Porsche and the case for line extensions

Shoestring Branding December 1, 2010 Comments Off


Seven years after the Cayenne SUV was supposed to kill the Porsche brand, the German marque is not only alive and well but thriving. In an announcement that may cause brand purists to run for cover, Porsche reported last week an 86.4% increase in unit sales and an 80% increase in revenue for the first fiscal quarter of 2010 vs. 2009, with 76% of total unit sales coming from two models: the Cayenne and another “impostor”: the 4-door, front-engined Panamera.

The story doesn’t end there: before we dismiss these numbers as the result of a trade off between short term profits and long term brand equity, let’s take a quick look at the results of the 2010 Kelley Blue Book brand image survey: according to the car buying public, Porsche is the brand that best represents Performance (the fact that Porsche was also voted the Coolest Brand and the Best Exterior Design of a Luxury Brand doesn’t hurt either).

So, years of Cayenne and Panamera have only not weakened the Porsche brand, but have made it stronger. Go figure…

How could this happen?

It’s actually quite simple, once we remove from our eyes the blinders of dogma.

Great brands are not defined by specific products, but by specific qualities. Porsche didn’t define itself as a two-door, rear-engined sports car company. Instead, it defined itself around the attributes of performance, luxury and drivers enjoyment.

When Porsche built the Cayenne, they gave it a 300+ HP engine and the look and feel of its famed 911 sibling. Similarly, a 4-door Panamera Turbo sedan can go from 0-60mph in roughly 4 breathtaking seconds (around 1 second faster than a base 911, in fact).

Porsche’s latest line extensions may look different and appeal to a different demographics but their pedigree is undeniable, and their existence is probably the only reason why the company is still able to produce cars like the 911 and the smaller, more affordable Boxster.

The moral of the story: line extensions are not inherently bad. Some line extensions are poor while others are good. As the Porsche case shows, good line extensions are not easy to pull off, but they are possible, and in some cases necessary.

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