Look up the meaning of the word ‘brand’ and you’ll find plenty to read about. There are tons of articles and books all dedicated to the explanation of what a brand is. My favourite one is a rather simple phrase I read some time ago: A brand is a promise. Yes, quite simply that’s what a brand is – a promise or a statement of what a consumer should expect from a product or service. Stay at the Taj, and you’d expect great service and opulent luxuries. Lamborghini? It’s going to be striking looks and outrageous performance. Disney? Quality family content comes to mind.
Last month, at the Ford Aspire media drive, I got to thinking about just this: What does the Ford brand stand for, in India? The American auto giant is pushing the fun-to-drive positioning, and, with good reason, its products deliver quite well on the dynamic front. But while compiling our mega spare parts survey this month, I realised Ford is also about the more rational stuff, like affordability and cost of ownership – at least as far as prices of spare parts go. Just like our last survey, Ford has come out strong in our latest study as well. With the exception of the EcoSport, every Ford model has the most affordable spare parts basket in its respective segment. And that’s saying something when the competition includes the Hyundais and Marutis of our world.
Also, in this issue, is a comparison between the Aspire, the Amaze, and the Dzire, and being the all-rounder it is, the Maruti sedan walked away with top honours. The Aspire came very close. However, its limited rear space and weaker bottom-end performance cost it points. It gets added equipment, like a top-notch touchscreen, lowered prices and has even a segment-first five-year warranty, and, of course, you get the cheaper spares.
Yes, the underdogs have to try harder. The fact is that, while buying an established brand is an assurance of certain deliverables, it does not necessarily mean that the others provide any less. In certain cases, thanks to the lower brand value, companies offer extra – extra performance, extra features, extra service, and extra value. And this is the case in any industry. Think about Apple; they built their brand on solid products, but look around now, there are others that are better. Now I’m no tech expert, but our sister publication, Stuff regularly shows this to be the case. (Fanboys, please direct your hate mail to them.)
Coming back to cars, take a look at Renault, in a bid to break the Maruti-Hyundai stranglehold on the budget end of the market, the French firm had to resort to giving the Kwid an SUV-like style and a touchscreen. And they are still at it. The latest Kwid gets a rear camera, a rear armrest, and a few other smaller bits, and the price remains the same. Also, after its initial zero-star crash rating, the French firm has made changes to the structure and equipment which earned it one star and, technically speaking, it is the safest car amongst its competition.
And so yes, it’s worth looking beyond the brand. Just make sure you look carefully because it can be a gamble, but then again the payoff can be sweeter too.