Key Branding Lessons from 6 Top Car Companies

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Car brands are among the most recognizable types of brands in the world — and for good reason. Most of us spend about an hour a day in our car. We can easily spot the Teslas or the Fords or the Toyotas on the road and spout out endless facts about each brand. 

That’s because the car market is very saturated, and companies need to invest a great deal in advertising, marketing, product design, and customer service to create a strong and memorable narrative around their brand. 

These winning brand strategies can be applied to a wide variety of businesses in any industry. The Zebra uncovered 18 branding lessons from well-known car brands, such as Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Toyota. Here are the top takeaways from each brand. 

Ford: A Story Is Key 

Ford, perhaps more than any other car brand, knows that a compelling story is key. Every middle school student learns about the Ford Model T produced in the early 1900s. While most people might not know every single detail of the history of Ford, they do know that Ford is an iconic American company that paved the way for other car makers. Ford uses that perceived authority in its branding and marketing efforts today. 

Mercedes-Benz: Market Your Luxury Product and Pivot Later 

Mercedes-Benz has done a good job of selling itself as the best luxury brand among its competitors. To accomplish this, the German carmaker has tended to shy away from TV advertisements and invested significantly in paid media in upscale publications. 

Interestingly, once Mercedes-Benz established itself as a leader in the luxury space, it later began to offer more affordable options as well, which appealed to a greater number of people. 

Tesla: Forget Traditional Advertising

Tesla has been the outlier among other iconic car brands in that it has never needed to sink huge sums of money into advertising. Instead, the brand has promoted one of its most valuable assets: its influential leader Elon Musk. Musk regularly garners a ton of media attention for the brand, whether he’s challenging Ford to a pickup truck contest or performing a strip tease at a product launch in China. 

The brand, of course, also proves that it pays off to align your company with a socially good cause, like reducing carbon emissions. 

Toyota: Position Yourself as a Niche Leader

Toyota has been very successful in its branding efforts. (There’s a reason that the carmaker sold almost 350,000 Camrys in 2018 and remains one of the most popular car brands.) The Japanese carmaker positioned itself as the authority in the niche hybrid market with its Prius. 

It also took somewhat of the opposite route of Mercedes-Benz. It started with a more affordable, everyday brand and created a sub-brand (Lexus) for luxury vehicles. Other businesses would be smart to follow Toyota’s lead. 

Check out the infographic below to dive deeper into what Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Toyota can teach us about branding — and learn some more branding insights from auto giants Mini and Jeep.

18 branding lessons from iconic car brands

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