The Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry are two of the most popular automobile models sold in this country. For many buyers, their final choice might be between these two cars. Both are well-built, get good mileage, and are reasonably stylish. They are sensible cars. But, throughout the buying process, I will guarantee you that no buyer ever stops to ask, “Hey, wait a minute, which company has been in business longer?” as part of their decision making process. And why not? Because those buyers don’t really care.
Yet, many brands feel that their longevity is of such importance that it becomes the first message they want to tell you. “Serving the (geographic area) for more than 50 years,” or “meeting your (service) needs for more than 75 years” are familiar taglines or headlines. Show me a brand whose strongest message is how long they’ve been in business, and I’ll show a brand that’s on a decline.
This is similar to my advice on communicating key milestone dates or anniversaries, which is: don’t. As in, don’t change your logo, or your tagline, or take out ads to boast of making it to 25, 50 or even 100 years. By all means, celebrate with your internal staff and even your best customers. But, otherwise, don’t waste your money. Getting older is simply not a persuasive brand message.
In fact, being newer is often far more powerful. People want to learn about what’s new. The fastest growing automobile brand in this country is Tesla. Their early sport sedan models have sold out. They claim that their latest model, which is for the more mainstream market, has a waiting list of more than 300,000 buyers who have made deposits for delivery in 2017. Electric cars have been around for decades, but have always been slow, small, and generally have limited range. Tesla has changed all of those perceptions with stylish cars that have good acceleration and range and can hold four people. (In fact, Tesla doesn’t waste many words talking about how green they are, or that they are helping to save the planet. They figure that buyers know that about electric cars. Tesla’s focus is overwhelmingly on safety, style and performance, and having the leading-edge technology to make those elements possible.) By the way, Tesla was founded in 2003.
This is not to say that brand-new businesses will beat established ones consistently. The opposite is true, as most new ventures fail within 10 years. But, what makes one brand win over another is not what’s old, it’s generally what’s new. As in, new products that are better, faster, more efficient or save money. Or new services that improve on old ones. No company that has stayed in business for 100 years is doing what they did in year one. They change, they adapt, their brand evolves, or they die.
Which brings me back to Honda and Toyota. The Toyota Motor Company was founded in 1937 as a spin-off from Toyota Industries in Japan. Coincidentally, Honda Motors was also formed in 1937 and, in its infancy, produced only piston rings. Its largest customer for several years was…Toyota. Both are now mega-brands in the automobile industry. They are both the same age, and they don’t talk about it because they know that, in the long run, nobody really cares.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.