Automotive Branding - Why The Need To Shout?

Has anyone else noticed how car badges are becoming larger and more prominent on recent models?

 Does all this affect my weight distribution? The "PORSCHE" and "911" part never used to be necessary. Photo: Porsche

Does all this affect my weight distribution? The "PORSCHE" and "911" part never used to be necessary. Photo: Porsche

 Make that "RANGE ROVER" font any larger and you'll need a wider liftgate. Photo: Land Rover

Make that "RANGE ROVER" font any larger and you'll need a wider liftgate. Photo: Land Rover

 Does the double branding enhance or detract? Photo: Aston Martin 

Does the double branding enhance or detract? Photo: Aston Martin 

 Just in case your neighbors were in any doubt, BMW added some extra badges on the side. Photo: BMW

Just in case your neighbors were in any doubt, BMW added some extra badges on the side. Photo: BMW

 Was the grill enlarged to accommodate the badge? Photo: Acura

Was the grill enlarged to accommodate the badge? Photo: Acura

Let's try to unpack what's going on here. There are two purposes for badges on a car: 

  1. Advertising for the brand.
  2. To let customers communicate their taste, social status, and wealth to others.

Acura, a young brand with a design language that is not particularly distinctive or recognizable, is competing in the crowded lower-premium market segment. A large badge on its products can help its brand become more noticeable and to build recognition. One might also argue that for recent Acuras, with their exaggerated features and busy design details, a smaller badge wouldn't quite work.

Other marques such as Land Rover, Porsche, and Aston Martin do not need to try so hard; their products are distinctive and much more easily recognizable. So why this move to brand their products more overtly than on previous models? It's an aesthetic choice designed to make these premium marques more conspicuous, and to allow their owners to speak a little more loudly about their taste, wealth, and social status. 

This is a dangerous game. Go too far with badging and it can negatively impact the perceived quality of a product and brand.

Confidence is a hallmark of many premium brands; with obvious quality and distinctive design language, a badge becomes redundant. In addition, customers who buy into these brands are often sensitive to what their choices say about them: self-assured, content in the knowledge of the qualities of their product, without the need to communicate their wealth and status to others. 

Instantly recognizable brands are also afforded the rare opportunity to make their badging more subtle, because the products are so distinctive. Subtle badging can differentiate them from more lowly brands trying to climb the premium brand ladder, who need to shout a little louder. The absence of badging can become a statement in itself.

Perhaps the ultimate achievement is for a brand to have developed such a distinctive design language, and outstanding level of perceived quality that no obvious branding is necessary at all. I wonder if any automotive brands might follow this lead...

 There's got to be a brand logo on here somewhere... Photos: Apple

There's got to be a brand logo on here somewhere... Photos: Apple

Marcus Roffey