Some scientists determine brand as a successful trade mark, but originally it means “to earmark” (Kane et al., 2009). Moreover, literally it is translated as a mark, a sign or a symbol. Initially, this word served as a description of the manufacturer’s/owner’s products or any goods. Trade development has changed the understanding of the term that is treated as an association of lining the products.
It must be highlighted that brands might be understood as goods which are not legally protected and do not have a patent or any copyright. At this point, a brand is comprehended not as a juridical term, but mostly as a marketing unit. For this reason, a better half of researches convince that brand interpretation is wider and contains everything that clients think and feel towards a product or a certain service. On the whole, consumer experience, advertising, choice, friends’ advice, purchase, repair, recycling or consumer service – everything should be perceived as a brand component.
Therefore, the current economic development considers a brand as important intangible assets. Its usage stimulates the rise of competitiveness in the local market, expands the manufacturing, creates new products, and strengthens the image, which means a guarantee economic growth. Consequently, it is essential to think over every single detail which compounds a certain brand.
General Brand Analysis
Before exploring the actual possibilities and brand capacity for the further development, it is important to study the brand overall and its fundamental components.
Brand name: Audi AG.
Brand owner: Audi AG, its leading shareholder is Volkswagen Group. Since 2012 it owns a new line of sub brand – Italian trademark Ducati.
Class of goods: a large variety of executive, sports, racing and SUV (sport utility vehicle) cars that belong to the premium level.
Vision: the key target is to become a number one worldwide company that provides extreme comfort and luxury to delight its customers.
Positioning: Audi AG is up-and-coming brand. For its development it implements innovations to create a concept of a Supercar.
Mission: to define and build a system of values and share it with clients.
The target market is represented by a group of people, around 25-65 year-olds. Mostly it is male audience that belongs to the class “people of quality”. Such customers are professional drivers and seek a comfort and superior sophistication (Audi Official Webpage, 2014).
Basically, SWOT analysis will help to analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the given brand as well as simplify the evaluation process. Moreover, it might reveal some information that is needed to achieve specific objectives in the future.
The band has numerous strengths that include strong brand reputation, a wide choice of cars (including petrol and diesel options), attractive employer, and support of innovation technology. In addition, available extra features in equipment, that fact that the brand is exploited in numerous sponsorship events, sports and high life aspects, and easy recognizable brand are among the brand strengths.
However, the brand has some weaknesses that are a weak performance on the market (compared to its competitors), and extremely high expenses and handling costs. Opportunities that are available to the brand may help it overcome the weaknesses and avoid potential threats. Hence, the brand opportunities are production growth of its market, enrichment of the product line by branching out into a new type of product (for instance, economy class cars). Moreover, it is possible to take the advantage of brand to attract new clients, raise the manufacturing capacity to comply with market demands, and enter new markets.
The main threats of the brand are fuel/diesel prices, special terms and restrictions of foreign government policies, encroachment and business competition of its competitors. But innovations in car equipment might be replaced by cheaper analogue devices by competitors and economic recession should also be taken into account.
In fact, a thorough SWOT analysis has shown that Audi AG brand has both strong and weak sides. It enables to change and adjust the brand in accordance with the marker needs. It is essential to take measures to remain competitive positions on the world markets and to lift up Audi AG among other similar brands. Obviously, there are many threats and challenges that might occur on the path to development.
Selection of Appropriate Branding Agency
Generally, to keep growing as a giant car manufacturer, brand administration should change its weaknesses and threats into corporation’s strengths and advantages or, at least, reduce the negative impact of challenges on its own reputation.
It is impossible to achieve this goal without being assisted by branding agencies. Since 2013, Audi AG has got media help from Huge. This is a prominent Brooklyn agency that made a solid contribution to a various social media aspects. Furthermore, it is known for successful business decisions during collaboration with worldwide brands such as Google, IKEA, Pepsi, Gucci, Twitter, etc. Another justifiable reason to keep on working with Huge is that previously it had some positive experience with other car manufacturers, such as Toyota and Saab.
Huge employs more than 700 people who unite their efforts to reach the common goal. Most employees work in the Huge headquarters and have an opportunity to create splendid ideas for businesses around the globe. Much is done to make the customers satisfied. The agency aims at making all customers passionate about coming to them, cooperating and communicating together. The staff of the Huge agency has been working in different disciplines including research, strategy, analytics, visual, and interactive design, interactive marketing, technology, and social engagement. In addition, it operates a division of an audience monetisation. HUGE’s designers are proficient in graphic design and interaction design. Thus, this branding agency through understanding the mission of company, brings creativity, fresh ideas, meets customer’s needs and has a decent strategic thinking.
Proposed Brand Change
As it was stated above, Audi AG dares to become a worldwide design and technology car manufacturer giant. To achieve this purpose it has been building and implementing an innovation plan for years. Back in 2013, there were numerous amounts of first patent filings; they rose up 40%, comparing with 2012 (Audi Annual Report, 2013).The brand had won many awards in the field of technologies and design. This is the evidence of economic growth.
Having analysed some tables and statistics from the Audi Annual Report, it is possible to conclude that since 2010 current assets has grown in almost 10% (Audi Annual Report, 2013).
Figure 1. Audi Group Balance Sheet Structure (Audi Annual Report, 2013)
On the other side, the income statement has decreased. This fact affirms that despite brilliant brand recognition, Audi as any other big company struggles with some economic issues. At this point, the main competitors, such as BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, may take the advantage of some brand weaknesses. For this reason, to prevent unintended outcomes in the future, Audi top management should revise some points or strategic plan overall.
1) Branding brief. Audi logo contains four joint rings that represent the union of previously independent car manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. It looks alike the Olympic rings and in the past that was the reason of lawsuit with the International Olympic Committee. For this reason in 2009 the emblem was changed.
Audi slogan is ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’, which means “Progress through Technology”. Certainly, there might be some variation, depending on the region. For example, a few years ago a slogan for North American car market was “Innovation through technology”. There were some other different options like “We define innovation” and “We shape Audi”.
However, the company should work hard to retain customers and brand reputation.
2) Promotion. The very first stage of brand improvement, except of collaboration with branding agencies, is to change financial priorities. Moreover, its strategy should be reconsidered due to some changes and actual market demands (Audi Annual Report, 2013).
Another step to strengthen brand reputation is to use specific techniques against competitors, propaganda, advertising, social media and platforms, direct marketing and the Internet. It was found out that the brand presence in TV broadcast and advertising is quite weak. Therefore, there should be taken strict measures to solve this problem and be up to standard.
This is one brilliant example of “brand wars” in advertisement between Audi and BMW (Audi Annual Report 2013). Its greater utilization will complete emotional aspect of the brand. It must be singled out that close partnership with crucial mass-media (PR agencies, think tanks, the press) will have a good impact on company activities. Apart from that event management should enter a new level on maintaining services. It surely will expand the customer’s database and will attract more sponsors and premium clients.
Recently, Audi appeared in bestsellers such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and has numerous product-placements in modern filmmaking. This brand can be proud of its presence in sports life and taking part in high life events.
3) Naturally, to run brand implementations and its changes might take some time. And it is not determined by months, but several years (approximately 2-3). With regard to budget aspect, it is highly recommended to revise it and reduce some unreasonable expenses. For instance, change financial policy in manufacturing cars and supplying some units. Basically, at new balance sheet it is better to count on promotion, branding agency costs and advertising.
4) A solid and reliable strategic plan. It is evident that the brand needs a solid digital strategic plan. However, it is essential to state what Audi AG wants from the marketing campaign. It will also help the brand to improve the customer brand loyalty, decrease marketing costs, increase the number of customers, and increase productivity in different areas. IN addition, it will enable to become more centred on the customer relationships and achieving the best possible results.
Figure 2. Digital Strategic Plan (China Automobile Digital Marketing for Brand and Dealerships, n.d.)
Thus, the branding plan of Audi AG indicates the idea that it is essential make a greater emphasis on the information delivery through the social media and constant promotion. However, it is necessary to have a good understanding of marketing, marketing channels, strategies used by competitors, and others.
The suggested brand reinvention is going to take around a year. However, before the implementation of the brand plan, it is essential to properly train management and assign people responsible for each point in the plan.
It is evident that brand marketing requires multi-channel strategies and viewpoint that integrate them with effective, practical, and result-oriented implementation. Promotion strategies, digital skills and constant market analysis will help Audi AG to retain brand and customer loyalty. The key brand components of Audi AG are advertising, consumer experience, choice, purchase, repair, recycling and high quality consumer service. SWOT analysis the brand has shown that it has to work to decrease the number of potential threats increase opportunities, and strengthen its weaknesses. Branding plan will enable to make needed changes and adjustments in accordance with the marker needs. It is essential for the brand to take measures to remain competitive positions on the world markets and to lift up Audi AG among other similar brands.
The brand development is a strategic business function that is aimed to build strategic development of the corporation. Having explored the fundamental values and basis of the Audi, it is possible to distinguish its advantages and disadvantages. The positive sides contain strong brand reputation, wide choice of cars, best worldwide employer. There is a weak performance on the market and high expenses and handling costs among its weaknesses. Therefore, top management should reconsider and improve some brand aspects to avoid possible negative outcomes in future.