Why has Rolls Royce opted for a re-brand?
Last month, BMW Group International announced they are re-branding Rolls Royce. But Rolls Royce doesn't have an image problem, so why?
Simple question, when someone says Rolls Royce what do you think? Personally? I remember this scene in Entourage where 50 Cent speeds off in a Rolls Royce Phantom after bagging Turtle for driving a baby blue Ferrari. But that brought up a much bigger question for me. Is that right for Rolls Royce?
Not everyone is going to think of that exact moment in history for Rolls obviously. But it does raise a really good question about Rolls Royce. It's considered the creme da la creme of luxury vehicles, so why did BMW Group last month announce a rebrand of the iconic British manufacturer? I think the key to the answer has a lot to do with Rolls Royce's recent history. It also does relate back to that scene in Entourage I mentioned above, but we'll get to that soon.
Mid-2000s was a profitable period for Rolls Royce but the growth never felt like it was going to be long term, and since the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 they've seemed to struggle with the segment of the market they'd carved for themselves early on at the turn of the century. More recently the financial results for Rolls Royce have been rocky at best. Year on year growth has only started to recover from the decade previous in the past 2-3 years and even then the recovery is slow (and was probably hampered by COVID19).
That segment of the market I was talking about above though is the main cause for the Rolls Royce bottom out over the past years. When BMW first took ownership of the motor car part of Rolls Royce they re-branded the automotive marquee to appeal to the publically rich and famous. The strategy was, and righteously so, if the most visible of stars were driving their cars? Everyone would want to. And it's true, everyone did want to drive a Rolls in the early to mid-2000s. They were next level. Problem was the product and marketing didn't appeal to the market which actually had money.
You see, ironically, the places on earth where the most amount of money is situated are not places like Los Angeles and Mallorca. I'm sure those places are visited frequently by the top 1% but the fact is the world's 1%ers are far more subtle than that. They tend to fly under the radar. Oligarchs and old money are not all that flashy, their motivation is not the public eye and the Rolls Royce drew attention where attention was not wanted.
This brings us to 2007, when the US credit bubble popped. When the world's newly minted millionaires suddenly defaulted and were no more. And suddenly that middle to upper-class market with 1% aspirations wasn't rich anymore. In fact, they were poor, they were very poor. And essentially overnight, Rolls Royce's market disappeared. While the billionaires shrugged their shoulders, took the losses and moved on.
It's only 10 years later, in 2016-2017 that Rolls Royce has started to find their groove again. And this time? They're doing it correctly. It started with the Dawn, which was unveiled in 2015 and launched in 2016. The car focussed on convenient tech and features which appealed to those who wanted to make life easy, such as the pop-out umbrella from the door. The car was also unveiled and marketed in a deep navy blue colour with silver diamond-cut wheels, a relatively new and conservative move from Rolls Royce.
That then continued with the new Phantom. A car which was subtle. Alike to the Rolls Royce Dawn, it was unveiled in a conservative colour (in a callback to the Rolls Royce of old) and the hero model sported big, classic, chrome silver wheels.
The conservatism and subtleness then continued with the unveiling of the Black Badge line. A nod to the custom and subtle nature of the newer Rolls Royce brand. It also spoke to Rolls Royce's newfound Chinese market, a market which responded well to LWB vehicles.
And that brings us to last month, the Rolls Royce rebrand. And while the Rolls Royce image didn't have a problem, it was overwhelmingly considered to be luxurious. It was missing the next level up, almost as if the brand hadn't moved with the strategy. It also hadn't moved with time and style.
The new brand on the other hand epitomises everything modern, quality and stylish. The gold and purple colour scheme especially appeals to both the Chinese and Western markets. You can tell that the BMW Group set out with the purpose of modernising the Rolls Royce brand while still retaining it's heritage of quality.
What impresses me especially about the new brand identity is the direction that BMW have taken with the Black Badge line. That line targets a different market now entirely, appealing to discrete new, but safe, money. It appeals to the world of tech startup which is especially prevalent in 2020 as being the only market to grow off the back-end of COVID19.
Finally the simplification of the typeface and logos bring the entire brand in line with what 2020 design is all about. Luxury is convenience and simplification. It also allows the identity to be versatile. The colours don't need to stay purple and gold, simplification in contrast allows for versatility when marketing to different continents and countries which might repsond to different colours.
Overall the reason for the rebrand is simple, modernisation and simplification. It'll be interesting to now see where Rolls Royce's competitors such as Bentley end up in response. Because once again Bentley have now figured their product out but the brand remains unchanged for almost 2 decades.
It'll also be interesting to see how the re-brand benefits Rolls Royce. Whether it allows them to forge modern partnerships with luxury companies who now believe that their brand better suits their product. As an example, Rolls Royce Australia previously held a longstanding partnership with premier luxury hotel, The Plazzo Versace on the Gold Coast. But the new brand doesn't speak to that partnership anymore.
Whether Rolls Royce continue on this path or not is something which is up for debate. In the here and now though, I love the new brand. I think the change is timely and it's going to benefit the way which Rolls Royce segments its market. To put it simply, Rolls Royce no longer yells it's name when asked, it whispers it and there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Keep up to date with everything automotive and money by joining Engine Economics.