The Land Rover brand, why it works and how it’s been so successful

I have been watching in admiration for some time now as to what Land Rover have done with their brands and i’ve come to the conclusion that they have quietly gone away and completed the most successful brand segmentation exercise of our generation. The way their range is segmented ensures that there is almost a product for all of us, whatever our life stage and however strong (or weak) our desire to show our wealth and success. Each of their individual products offers a potentially different brand experience.

So firstly a bit about the history of the company. It’s currently part of the Jaguar Land Rover group, a subsidiary of Tata Motors of India. When this takeover went through, most people would have assumed the brand would struggle. But it hasn’t. It started as a product by Rover in 1948 and only became a stand alone brand in 1978 with the launch of the Range Rover and survived despite numerous changes of ownership of the holding company. Perhaps it’s low point was as part of the terrible British Leyland (who also produced the Marina, Allegro and Princess – All truly awful cars).

So, the current range, works like this

1. Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender

  • Who would drive it? – Farmer types, people who work on the land and want genuine off road ability, will drive it with welly boots on and then hose it out, when the smell gets too bad.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – That they work on the land, need tough work tools and don’t care much for comfort or refinement.
  • Celebrity Twin? – Oddly, Singer John Meyer drives one, Top gear’s James May wants to be seen in one and so does Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor.
  • They may also buy? – Wales or perhaps A Toyota Hilux, but that’s not very British is it?
  • Brand threats – The surf dudes taking over the brand and making it too cool and trendy.

2. Land Rover Freelander 2

Land Rover Freelander 2

  • Who would drive it? – A light off road user or someone who wants a bit of security for the winter school run at a bit of a bargain price. More of a security seeker than a status seeker.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – They don’t much care, they like what it does and how it makes them feel (secure) more than they care what people think.
  • Celebrity Twin? – There aren’t any. Celebrities don’t drive Freelanders. But i’m happy to be proved wrong if anyone can find any visual evidence to the contrary.
  • They may also buy? – Anything by Kia or Hyundai or maybe Toyota.
  • Brand threats – Apathy. Does anyone care enough about the Freelander to buy it with more heavily warrantied cars available for less money?

3. Land Rover – Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover  Range Rover Evoque

First thing to notice here is the switch into the Range Rover model names. It’s a distinct step up-market and the first of the status driven models.

  • Who would drive it? – It’s the new showy iPod generation with money. A ridiculous amount of money for a quite simple (but brilliant looking) car. More female than male.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – That they have arrived. They are the new, new money.
  • Celebrity Twin? – A very clever brand association with Victoria Beckham from the outset positioned it right in the glamorous hot spot.
  • They may also buy? – Mini Convertible, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q5, BMW X6, Jaguar F Type convertible in white.
  • Brand threats – Overexposure. It’s a very fashionable car and could fall out of fashion as fast as it arrived as soon as the next big celeb is seen in something newer.

4. Land Rover – Discovery 4

Land Rover Discovery 4

Again, it’s not a coincidence that this is a step back out of the range Rover model listing. It’s back to the functionality being foremost and ‘flash’ being the follower attribute.

  • Who would drive it? – Hunting, shooting and fishing brigade, or people who regularly go to Gymkhanas but aren’t so wealthy they could own Belgium if they wanted.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – That they need a serious off road tool but don’t need the new money status to go with it.
  • Celebrity Twin? – Bear Grylls and Billy Piper (not together obviously).
  • They may also buy? – Toyota Landcruiser but they could consider an Audi Q7 or BMW x5 at a push, but both are more statusy than they prefer.
  • Brand threats – Underinvestment. This is a real range staple and should be very profitable but the risk is in not continuing to develop the product and keeping it fresh enough with clever hidden tech that is expected and others are offering.

5. Land Rover – Range Rover Sport

Land Rover - Range Rover Sport

This is easily my least favourite model. It’s quite  divisive product and for me harks back to the ‘Loadsamoney’, Wall Street, lunch is for wimps culture of the power crazy 80’s.

  • Who would drive it? – New money through and through. Scrap dealers (there’s a wrapped pink one at the tip where I live), property developers, online entrepreneurs.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – They’ve made it, they own the road and you don’t/haven’t.
  • Celebrity Twin? – 50 Cent, Rod Stewart(!), Pamela Anderson, Kelly Brook, Stephen Ireland aaaaaaaargh it’s a load of plastic people.
  • They may also buy? – A Lamborghini and have it chromed.
  • Brand threats – Reliability. The people I do know who have had one have all had terrible trouble with them. A new engine costs £10k+ which could economically write cars off even at only 5-6 years old.

6. Land Rover – Range Rover 

Land Rover - Range Rover

Range Rover, the choice of the really wealthy. Few could doubt that this is anything other than one of the finest cars in the world.

  • Who would drive it? – Old Money, or the seriously rich. It’s for the landowners of old and the genuine landed gentry.
  • What do they want people to think of them for driving it? – They don’t care, they own everything in the world anyway.
  • Celebrity Twin? – Prince Harry, David, Beckham any Lord who hasn’t lost everything on a game of cards .
  • They may also buy? – Belgium, or a Toyota Landcruiser V8.
  • Brand threats – Jordan and the Hip Hop generation owning them and devaluing the sheer plutocracy of the brand. And again, reliability.

So what would I buy?

A Mercedes.

Read into that what you like.

The Paul Smith Jag eight years later

In 2001, Paul Smith, the stunningly cool fashion designer put his name to a project with Jaguar to raise money for Macmillan cancer relief.

He ‘personalised’ an X-Type Jaguar which was subsequently sold for £40,000 to City banker Zoe Appleyard and her friend Maya Schonburg.

Paul Smith Jag
Paul Smith Jag

A huge cast of stars from Kylie to Sir Elton John were at the auction and they all got a jolly warm glow as well as raising over £200,000 in total for a brilliant cause. You can read the full story here.

And I saw the very car today, complete with lookalike Paul Smith (P5) numberplate.

The PS stripes look great on his Evian Water bottles, but automotive design changes faster than any other I know. What works know may look very dated in five years and awful a few years at the time. The Austin Metro even looked okay at one time and that time was it’s time. It looked even better with a bit of high class Burberry branding added. Hmmmmm.

The Burberry Mini Metro - an object of true class
The Burberry Mini Metro - an object of true class

I’m not sure how well the stripes look on the Jag now. In fact I think they look a bit horrid, so for the sake of ongoing brand values, it may have been a good idea to have a time limit on its branding, for say, five years, before any trace of it was removed and the car de-branded.

That time has now passed and so for me should the Paul Smith branding on this car, which only serves to look a bit garish and dated.

Updated

Simon Dare commented that the car is now owned by Paul Smith again and is driven by their Finance Director. Poor bugger. It’s going to be difficult to hide in that car isn’t it!

Rob Marshall also commented below that the Paul Smith Mini still looked good. I’m not so sure myself, but it takes all sorts. The link he put through is this car here.

The Paul Smith Mini in full stripy loveliness - one of only two made
The Paul Smith Mini in full stripy loveliness - one of only two made

Which is a very limited edition of around 2 cars according the Paul Smith Mini website.

This car had 84 stripes made up of 24 different colours and had to have been hand made.

There then followed a less limited edition Paul Smith car where 300 were made in a special blue colour and they were luxurious for a Mini! Madly british with gold plated UK bonnet badge and hidden lime green detailing, I would say this looks like a real classic if you can get your hands on one in good condition.

Here’s one of the 300, which I think is far more discreet and tasteful!

The rather more tasteful Paul Smith Mini in blue
The rather more tasteful Paul Smith Mini in blue

Anyway, if anyone knows of any other good designer branded cars, let me know. I don’t want to know about the car that Stephen Ireland ‘customised’ for his girlfriend. It’s a monstrosity of a Bentley!

The Bentley that Stephen Ireland 'customised' for his girlfriend - Class, pure class
The Bentley that Stephen Ireland 'customised' for his girlfriend - Class, pure class

Or even El Hadji Diouf and his chromed Mercedes SLR. William Gallas has one too by all accounts.

The really unpleasant Mercedes SLR in a fetching chrome finish
The really unpleasant Mercedes SLR in a fetching chrome finish

They’re not designer cars, they’re just vile.