Summary & Conclusion

Having conducted brand audit of Renault and Volkswagen, we’ve gather substantial amount of information. The best way to structure that information with regards to brand auditing is thoroughly building Kevin Keller’s CBBE pyramid for both brands. Below is the the final breakdown of the pyramid with highlights of essential notions in each type of brand attribute:

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Renault has a strong degree of brand awareness. Although it is not one of the top brands that pop-up, when talking about cars in general. However, awareness becomes stronger within specific categories of cars. Company has presence in several car categories starting from entry-level vehicles and up to upper middle class, also having very strong presence in electric vehicles sector.
There are two categories, where Renault is out of reach for most competitors or car manufacturers: entry-level vehicles and electric cars. The company enjoys a dominating position of the market in both categories, hence, very strong awareness within those sectors and extended breadth of awareness.
Volkswagen has very strong brand awareness. It tends to be one of the first brands to be associated with automotive sector. Although the general consumer is unaware that the brand portfolio includes brands like Skoda , Bugatti,and Lamborghini, the company ranks very high in the mind of consumers thanks to the cognitive associations prompted by brand.
However, there is an interesting trend in volkswagen’s brand awareness dynamics — it tends to go upwards in segment associations: VW is increasingly viewed as expensive car, rather than “Volk’s”. It’s a vector company took in late 90s and still continues to follow.
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Renault has pretty high manufacturing standards. In fact , it is the reason why they conquered entry-level segment — they managed to maintain quality in spite of drastic cost-cutting measures. Their gasoline engines are one of the most durable on the market, although, occasional flaws still happen. These
“occasional flaws”  setback the company to it’s 1990s reputation. An era when the company products suffered chronic malfunctions on the average.
Volkswagen managed to establish one of the most effective cross-platform systems in the world. You can find the same components in Skoda, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche. It means that luxury-segment quality standards are applied to those components, which contributes to overall quality of vehicles throughout all classes.
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Renault has more passionate image. Throughout it’s advertisement campaign, the central focus of them were emotions, French style and passion. Thus Renault targets more emotional consumers.
Volkswagen tends to build it’s marketing campaigns around technical features of vehicles. Even the slogan of company states so: Das Auto — The Car. So, VW targets those consumers that appreciate mostly technology, precision and quality.
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Renault vehicles are appreciated for their design, aesthetics and utility. However, quality still appears to be a weak point here. Despite integrating quality logo to Renault’s own logo, this attribute fails to change. Recently, Renault tried a new strategy for quality reinforcement — they are focusing on their success in car racing, hoping to translate that into inevitable consequence results of high quality.
Volkswagen vehicles are prided for their quality. Recently VW discovered that they have problems with their vision of a car and that of a consumer. To put it in another way, they started to have problems with aesthetics, utility and design aspects of their vehicles. However, problem was resolved by implementing more consumer-based approach in designing new vehicles.
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Throughout various marketing incentives and supporting events, Renault products tend to provoke mostly Fun feelings and Excitement. Motorsports, crazy advertising campaigns all contribute to it. The EV products of the company obviously dramatically contribute to Social Approval kind of feelings. Electric vehicles became the symbols of fight against pollution (which it is not the case  — they merely push pollution farther away from cities, but that’s OK), which is one of the main pillars of modern social responsibility.
Recently probe new kind of feeling association — through luxury
Volkswagen products are strongly associated with such feelings as security and self Respect. Quality and upper-mid price targeting significantly contribute to those feelings. But certain products of Volkswagen, especially those deep in middle-class segment tend to be associated with Fun. Various ads for Polo, Golf and Up are built around that feeling.
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Strong competition in automotive industry prevents general cases of behavioural Loyalty, as purchases happen rarely and each time product is challenged by rivals. However, certain electric models of Renault, like Traffic z.e. stay mostly unchallenged and recurring purchases occur within fleet sales.
Attitudinal: According to our surveys Renault is perceived much like commodity rather than something greater. It failed to become a Love mark. However, certain sub-brands of Renault has developed thriving communities around them. EVs and sport cars seem to be somewhat different from how the brand is perceived in general. They have loyal consumers, that do not want to change the brand because the successfully blinded together.
Volkswagen mostly faces the same issues as Renault. It’s hard to hook consumers for long. However, being positioned higher in budget segmentation, volkswagen cars are more than just commodity. Some owners of certain models, such as Golf seem to be loyal to the brand and invest in updated versions and facelifts of the same model from year to year. In the sports division of Volkswagen situation is much the same, as in Renault. Sport models of company has become a centre of gravity for various communities of owners.
But Volkswagen has one more thing, that adds significantly to it’s perception as a Lovemark; generating resonance — powerful heritage of models, that had very strong cultural impact on various societies throughout the world.
 All in all, both brands are very strong in terms of awareness and have incredible potential.
Volkswagen has serious problems with positioning and sometimes confuses consumers with regards to what segment certain subtends occupy. The second serious problem for Volkswagen is absence in entry-level market.
Renault has problems in establishing reputation of quality brand and is often perceived as producer of commodities. This may be backfired expansive strategy on entry-level market. But company has serious potential in future. It has successfully invested in electric vehicles and firmly established itself as producer of such goods. Having excessively strong positions on this market, Renault only has to keep pace.
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The Lovemark

According to Kevin Roberts “LoveMark” concept, companies can transcend to something much more advanced, then commodity. They can influence consumers in a way, that creates emotional binds with them. We’ve conducted a study to define, whether Renault or Volkswagen correspond to such terms. Here goes the data:

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The overall average result of the Lovemarker for Renault after surveying people is: 39,57. Hence, according to the evaluation criteria, proposed by Kevin Roberts, Renault is a brand. These results appear to be very surprising. Renault definitely has potential to be considered as a Lovemark.

The lowest result received was 33. The highest result received was 54. Hence, while for some Renault is a commodity, for others it can be regarded at as a lovemark. Renault loses points in the categories “mystery” and “intimacy”.

For the Volkswagen the overall average result of the Lovemarker for Volkswagen after surveying people is: 50,45

Hence, according to the following diagram, Volkswagen is a lovemark.

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PoDs & PoPs

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Points-of-Difference

Points-of-difference (POD’s) are “attributes or benefits that consumers strongly associate with a brand, positively evaluate, and believe that they could not find to the same extent with a competitive brand “.

Volkswagen

  • German quality: Results of our survey clearly show that for consumers Volkswagen cars are strongly associated with very good quality. They trust German production and associate it with performance and innovation. It is clearly a point of difference between Volkswagen and Renault because consumers think the opposite for the quality of French cars.
  • Major home production: Volkswagen successfully uses Germany’s reputation in technological precision and general quality of goods. Therefore, Volkswagen tends to produce significant amount of vehicle in motherland. In spite of ever-increasing labor cost in Germany, Volkswagen still finds that additional gain from “Made in Germany” label on their cars is worth more than domestic production expenditures.
  • Presence in USA: The brand is one of the few Europeans to have established in North America. Every day, 2,500 cars out of the Volkswagen plant production lines located two kilometers from Puebla in central Mexico. This is the factory that produced more vehicles in North America in 2012. But still, Volkswagen vehicles are far from reaching the same saturation of market, as in Europe.
  • Premium and luxury cars: Volkswagen is known for its top of the range products. Although, general awareness of the fact that Volkswagen owns multiple luxury brands is weak, It still bears additional marketing impulse to core brand.

Renault

  • Cheap price: According to our survey, Renault is strongly associated with low price. Indeed, consumers are more inclined to buy brand’s cars than their competitors because they place a very strong importance on the price.
  • Electric Vehicles: Although both brands have electric vehicles in their model ranges, it was Renault, who started very aggressive expansion on electric market several years ago. Now company sells 4 fully-electric cars. With 200,000 EVs sold, Renault(as RN alliance) owns 58% of electric vehicle market worldwide. Renault also build the whole fleet for new Formula E Championship, one that hold around electric vehicles. That builds up strong association of Renault(and fellow Nissan) as an innovative company.
  • Environmental protection: With its advances in electric cars, Renault enjoys a good reputation in contrast to its competitors. In addition, Renault is the only European manufacturer to have made commitments in the recycling of vehicles.
  • Made in France: For many patriotic French, Renault represents the French car par excellence. The brand uses this advantage in its commercials on TV.

Points of Parity

According to K.L Keller‘s definitions, a point-of-parity (POP) is “associations that are not necessarily unique to the brand but in fact may be shared with other brands”. Companies focus in POPs because they are an efficient way to annul the points-of-difference (POD) created by the competitors.
  • Motorsport history: Both companies have huge success in Motorsports. Renault for instance is strongly present in Formula 1 with huge success (world champion engine) and Volkswagen with his pilot, Sebastien Ogier, became World Rally champion for the second time.
  • Worldwide presence: Renault is present in 128 countries, Volkswagen in 153 countries. Both brands have both chosen an international expansion strategy by uniting with other groups to conquer other international markets.
  • Huge communication budget: Renault is the first company in France in terms of advertising investment with a budget of € 412 million in 2013. Volkswagen appears in 11th place with 216 million. It is interesting to observe that both marks are not acting on the same channels: in fact, the most widely used media for Renault is radio while Volkswagen uses more press.

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Survey Analysis

First of all, we are going to determine the profile of our audience. Respondents appear to have near equal gender distribution. They are mostly students aged of 15 to 25 years, and of French nationality.

 

Age gender

 

Socio and Nationality

 

100% of people who responded to our questionnaire recognised the logo Volkswagen. 20% of people didn’t recognise Renault’s logo at all with 16% of respondents stating, that Renault doesn’t mean anything for them as a brand.

Here are keywords, that respondents associated with the two brands:

Associations

 

We can observe that the two brands are clearly different in consumer perception. They don’t use the same  key words to describe it and even use opposite words (Expensive/Cheap)

Volkswagen seems to be precepts in more positive way than Renault.

65% of our audience have a car, 16% have a Renault car and 2% — a Volkswagen one. These numbers are surprising compared to the answers to the question “If you were to buy a car, what brand it will be?”.  Indeed, the majority of people would be more inclined to buy a Volkswagen car rather than a Renault one. As we can see, respondents describe Volkswagen as an expensive and Renault as a good deal, therefore we can derive, that the most significant factor in buying decision in this case is price, where Renault outperforms Volkswagen.

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Representation

 

We can observe that people attribute more qualities to the Volkswagen brand. That is explaining why the majority will be more inclined to buy a Volkswagen car.

However Renault outperforms Volkswagen in environmental responsibility criteria. This shift is a direct result of Renault’s Zero Emission campaign and its expansive marketing policy in electric vehicles. It has indeed the broadest range of electric vehicles on European Market and ranks as n1 in sales of those kinds of vehicles.

The brand awareness is composed of brand recognition and brand recall.

In the cases of Volkswagen and Renault, we can observe that Renault’s most significant association is that of it’s origin — “made in France” product.

In addition, the German brand is more recalled, it is the first cited brand, the top of mind.  However people still are able to cite the majority of the products of Renault. In the survey, lots of persons recalled Twingo and Clio…

In case of Volkswagen, it is different because the group owns 13 brands and people are not aware of this fact.

In both cases, the brands try to establish brand awareness by increasing the familiarity through repeated exposure: TV advertising, big numbers of selling points for example.

Marques have to create favourable, strong and unique brand association.

In respect of our results, we can see that for clients, Volkswagen is clearly associated to Power, Quality, Performance and Innovation. For Renault, the brand image is less positive: French, Cheap, Security and Ugly.

Volkswagen should continue his communication strategy but Renault should quickly change its way of communicate in order to change the association of the brand in consumer’s mind.

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Brand Positioning analysis

We can segment car buyers needs similar to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ pyramid. Thus, while advertising vehicles, certain levels of needs can be addressed, depending on segment.

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Entry-level segment products satisfy basically first two levels of needs: ability to transport something safely + some exclusively utilitarian features(e.g. large trunk,). Mid-price vehicles have to add emotional component to the mix: comfort, performance, excitement of driving. And premium segment products should possess certain status-markers, that’ll establish buyers within desired social groups. So, advertising campaign, promoting different car segments should focus on addressing specific features, that’ll satisfy respective need levels.

Positioning your car brand may appear somewhat tricky. There are a lot of factors to take into account, such as desired margin, potential volume and your own capabilities to support that volume. Recent study[LINK McKinsey 2020] reveals the following structure of car market.

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     Thus, Premium segment secures (to some extent) revenues even for lower sales volumes. In order to successfully operate in mid-price segment you have to be pretty confident in your capabilities to support large volumes of car sales. And entry level implies some really harsh limitations — you have to be extremely efficient in order to break even in production of low-cost vehicles.
     Such limitations stimulate upward shift in car brand positioning, because it may seem a bit easier to operate in premium segment, than in mid-price, not to mention harsh environment of entry-level segment. Recently, French car manufacturers have followed exactly the path. They began to reposition themselves, shifting upwards in direction of premium segment, settling just below Audi, BMW and Mercedes. However, Renault is not one of them. This car manufacturer suppressed the urge to follow the trend, focusing instead on concentrating it’s effort on further expansion in mid-price and entry level segments. However, Renault keeps probing premium class with it’s niche initiatives like Alpine and Initiale Paris. But still, core brand positioning of Renault is “People’s car”.
Positioning itself in mid-price and entry level has its own draw-backs. The brand faces the problem of contradictory perception of itself in minds of consumers. Entry-level and affordable vehicles tend to be not associated with quality. Thus, if positioned in both segments, entry-level implications seriously impact sales of mid range vehicles. That’s why car manufacturers try to establish separate brands for different segments — they try to avoid mis-match in associations and targeting. Renault established it’s low-cost entry-segment Dacia brand with a specific purpose to operate on entry-level market and diminish influence of such operation on core brand. However, on some markets, where entry-level segment was worth much more than mid-price (developing markets), Renault didn’t use at all Dacia brand, instead using it’s own badge. The strategy appeared to be successful, as it basically associated mid-price attributes with entry-level price, seriously increasing sales in entry-level segment. But at the same time increasing popularity of entry-level cars, shifted brand perception towards entry-level attributes, thus diminishing sales in mid-price segment.
     In order to overcome this situation, Renault came up with a marketing initiative, targeted to reinforce company’s image as quality car manufacturer. They designed double-logo system, where traditional Renault logo was supported by Quality made Renault logo.
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     The two logos appeared (and continue to do so on some markets) simultaneously on any kind of media used for advertising. At some moment in time company finally realised that they win manufacturers title of F1 for 10 years in a row, where 3 teams use their engines and that that could be used as support for establishing Renault as “Quality brand”. So, they came up with third logo, that joined the duo and aimed to support and prove the “quality made” one.
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     On some markets(e.g. UK) the three logos follow each other in the final part of every TV advertising. Renault even launched additional supportive campaign to reinforce the statement even further, trying to fix a stable association of a brand as a champion of F1:
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     These efforts aim to establish Renault as “People’s champion brand”, implying that both quality and affordability can be attributes of the same vehicle. They support the statement by success in most sophisticated car championship in the world. Renault also supports 3 other major championships: Formula Renault, World Series by Renault and Formula E.
     All these initiatives lead us to Renault’s positioning as “People’s Champion” — car brand that integrates affordability and “champion” quality in the same bottle vehicle.
     Volkswagen has much more trouble with positioning, then one can think of… To begin with, it’s hard to justify almost premium price for a car, that has “People’s car” (almost “Folk’s car”) in it’s name. However, that doesn’t appear to be an issue outside Germany (and I’m not sure about “Folk’s car” part). The main problem in VW positioning is with it’s family, where all the bunch(VW, Skoda, Seat) tends to occupy the same segment and even has the same upward shift trend.
     Initially, as was mentioned before, VW destined Skoda to become entry-level brand, however, rebellious Czech brand wanted higher margins and found ways to outperform it’s Spanish brother, Seat, in conquering European markets as a mid-price brand, and even stepping on toes of VW.  Eventually, Skoda’s CEO was fired, but the brand was already firmly established in mid-range segment. Seat, on the other hand, under-performs constantly and faces never-ending troubles in gaining at least some profits, having trouble with it’s mid-price positioning.
     But what’s the positioning of core brand, Volkswagen? In the late 1990s VW implemented strategy of upward shift from people’s car perception towards premium segment. It used AUDI’s premium technologies in VW models, which were marketed as premium features for affordable price. The tagline later transformed in “The power of German Engineering”, which implied the overall state-of-the-art quality of VW cars and justified higher prices. The tradition continues, as VW advertises it’s vehicles, focusing mostly on their specific features and technical qualities.
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     In majority of cases these appear to be cross-platform features, that are simultaneously implemented in various VW brands in different segments. Having little trouble with quality, company succeeds with that strategy as is strongly associated with quality and performance.
     In spite of having a bunch of brands in premium and luxury segments, VW itself constantly probes premium segment with various efforts. VW Phaeton is one example, where company failed to extend it’s perception to premium segment. Right now company plans to extend both to entry level and premium segments. Volkswagen apparently is amazed by how much cash Audi generates and wants to share the pie.
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Brand Portfolio Analysis

In order to analyse brand portfolio of Renault and Volkswagen, all the brands should be brought to some structure. Focusing attention on consumer vehicles, it’s possible to apply basic price differentiation to brand portfolio. In the graphic below the whole scope of brands of respective companies is differentiated by price with remarks on geographical and behavioural/demographic focus of certain brands.

Renault & VolksWagen Portfolio structure in consumer vehicles

Renault & VolksWagen Portfolio structure in consumer vehicles

Analysing the data, we  may see that Renault-Nissan has well-established it’s brands in broad scope of markets. Most importantly, the alliance has strong presence in entry-level market, which is characterised by high volume and high growth. That secures company’s development in near future in spite of all possible problems with other brands. It has 3 entry-level brands which cover all major developing markets with Dacia being the most important one. In the mid-range market, alliance is represented by it’s two core brands — Renault and Nissan. In order to gain growth at expense of competitors, rather than it’s own fellow brands, Renault and Nissan focus marketing efforts on different car segments, when presented on the same market, e.g. in Europe, Renault offers mostly sedans and coupes, while Nissan focuses on 4×4 and various kinds of SUVs. The Alliance has two brands in premium segment, which are presented simultaneously only on one market ‚ South Korea, where they share different car segments. In luxury&Sports segment company has only two car models: Renault Alpine and Nissan Gt-R.

     On the other hand, Volkswagen group has overwhelmingly strong presence in luxury and sports segment, covering all possible niches with it’s 4 luxury brands: Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. In premium segment, Volkswagen is traditionally presented with it’s Audi sub-brand. However, the core volkswagen brand is constantly moving upward, stepping on toes of Audi. But that’s a mid-range segment, where company has real mess. SEAT, being subject of losses, constantly fails to gain new markets. It’s desperately set to conquer European youth markets, but is still the least popular brand in volkswagen’s portfolio. On the other hand, Skoda, which was intended to become volkswagen’s entry-level brand, failed to fulfil this purpose so as well. The brand appeared to deliver exceptional quality and service, which justified incredible upward shift from entry-level reaching upper mid-range, the domain of volkswagen itself. However, Volkswagen managed to fire Skoda’s CEO and re-set it’s development a bit. The fact is, Skoda’s expansion was achieved at expense of other Volkswagen group brands, which means that it literally caused more harm than good. Now the group has to face the fact, that it has no presence in, most juicy in terms of volume, entry-level segment, and has to deal with cannibalisation of it’s brands in mid-range and upper mid-range segments.
The following graphic helps visualise degree of presence of each group in respective car-segments. Models range is centred on mid-range vehicles.
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Sources:
Annual reports: [Renault];[Nissan];[Audi];[Porsche];[Skoda];[Seat]