“Describing what people who love Aston Martins feel” is the ambition underpinning the iconic British automotive group’s new creative brand platform and strategy, its global chief creative officer says.
This week, Aston Martin took the wrappers off the largest investment in its brand for more than a decade, aimed at strengthening its position in the performance ultra-luxury market. The brand overhaul is in response to a new business direction set by majority shareholder, Lawrence Stroll, following significant investment in 2020. It’s also a reflection of the broadening product portfolio in recent years from Aston Martin’s heartland in front mid-engine sports cars, to real mid-engine vehicles and SUVs.
According to Aston Martin head of global marketing and communications, Renato Bisignani, a desire to deepen emotional connection with existing customers while building brand salience to secure new ones was a critical part of the process. The quest to reclaim the ultra-luxury position of Aston Martin is also about fuelling much-needed growth.
The new brand expression is being brought together under fresh brand idea, ‘Intensity. Driven’. Alongside this, the company has redesigned its iconic Aston Martin wings symbol in partnership with noted British art direction and graphic designer, Peter Saville. The redesign is only the eighth time in the 109-year history of the business that the wings have been adjusted and the first in nearly 20 years.
The new wings design has been hand-crafted by artisans and will appear for the first time on Aston Martin’s next generation of sports cars. To mark the launch, Aston Martin has released behind-the-scenes photography of the jewelling process at Vaughtons studio in Birmingham, the 203-year-old silversmiths firm that also crafted the Football Association Cup and medals for the 1908 London Olympics.
This coming week, the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1TM Team will also feature the new wings on its livery for the French Grand Prix. As a further celebration of the 100th anniversary of the brand’s first Grand Prix entry, Aston Martin will symbolically race with the original button logo on the nose of its cars featured on those first Grand Prix entries in 1922.
The ‘Intensity. Driven’ creative identity and language is supported by a short film featuring all five of Aston Martin’s current high-performance production models. To heighten its emotive impact, the film employs sensorial data visualisations of pupil dilation and heartrate obtained through biometric testing during high-speed laps in an Aston Martin Valkyrie.
High-impact social, digital and print assets featuring evocative imagery and short and longform copy also celebrate Aston Martin’s passion for craftsmanship, attention to detail and winning performance and are being released globally.
Aston Martin executive VP and chief creative officer, Marek Reichman, said the ambition has always been to design in a way that makes people fall in love and connects with the hearts and minds of customers.
“All of this messaging didn’t just come from picking a few words. We did months of research with customers, fans, drivers and non-drivers to understand what it is that makes you want and desire an Aston Martin,” he said.
Here, in their one and only interview with Australian media, Reichman and Bisignani share with CMO the steps taken internally to build the brand expression externally, what it takes to bring Aston Martin’s heritage and craftsmanship to new audiences, and how to really understand and build emotional connection.
CMO: What steps have you had to take internally in order to get to the point where you could launch the new brand position creatively externally?
Renato Bisignani: Aston Martin has entered a new era under the new ownership of Lawrence Stroll and his vision for the brand. We have made some very important decisions since his takeover, which immediately gave us a clear direction for the brand work we have then undertaken.
Firstly, we have re-established our connection to our racing bloodline, returning to Formula 1 with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 team. This has helped drive immense brand awareness and engagement with our customers. As a global sport property with races in 23 markets, it’s an incredible platform with which to host and engage our customers, show them our latest products and offer them the Aston Martin experience.
F1 is also a great platform from a technology and performance credentials perspective. What we are able to transfer from the know-how we achieve in F1 down to our products is something that’s critical, especially as we move into the new section of rear mid-engine vehicles. The winning mentality it has brought into the mindset of the entire company is important too. In addition, there’s a huge focus on improvements to our product from a technology and performance standpoint across the range.
Thirdly, we have diversified our offering, way beyond where it has ever been and possibly beyond the competition – from mid-engine sports cars, which we are traditionally known for, to SUVs with the DBX about 24 months ago, then with Valkyrie and Valhalla entering the rear mid-engine performance market.
Finally and most importantly from a business model perspective, we have been significantly elevating the positioning of the brand to true ultra-luxury. That essentially means focusing on exclusivity, scarcity, producing one car less than market demands and aligning supply and demand as a true ultraluxury brand. This has contribution to reclaim Aston Martin’s true position on exclusivity.
We wanted to build within the brand more meaningfulness, differentiation and salience as a way to raise overall desirability of the brand. To do this, we worked extensively on qualitative and quantitative research to enable us to define what Aston Martin should stand for, and the image association we would like to have in the minds of our customers, not only existing but potential new customers. This is what led us to embark on this very exciting journey.
Essentially, it’s aligning brand direction with business direction and enable the brand to not only sustain the business as it has for all these years, but to also accelerate growth and meet our business needs. That’s the combined role the brand plays.
CMO: You’ve noted 60 per cent of current product sales have been to new customers. What does this new generation of consumer you’re seeking to further attract to the brand look like, and how different is this from your historic customer base?
Bisignani: It’s important to say what we are doing here is about deepening the relationship with customers first and foremost, while at the same time opening the door to new ones. That required us to work strategically on what the brand means and trying to build a stronger emotional connection with customers, plus how to create more distinctive positioning for the brand, then how to raise the level of its prominence and consideration.
Within this, we have a clear target audience we want to engage with. We’ve learned they’re not necessarily defined by demographics or a younger generation. Most importantly, we identify this audience through a shared set of attitudes and attributes. Our research suggests within the ultra-high net worth individuals, our core reference audience, 40-50 per cent are defined by these shared attitudes. In key markets like US and China, they do skew and overindex within the 25-45-year-old bracket. But it’s really the attitudes they have and what they love that’s in common.
These consumers are attracted by arts, craftmanship, by the intersection between engineering, design and technology. The car for our audience and customers is an instrument of personal expression, but it’s also an instrument of taste, rather than wealth. It’s about an object that creates a deeper connection and provides deeper pleasure, like the life experiences they aspire to have, because it offers the intensity of experience they cherish and seek.
That led to the whole notion of ‘Intensity. Driven’, which is the external-facing brand expression of the whole brand strategy and platform we have developed internally.
CMO: Marek, you’ve been quoted as saying good design is “about the tactility of things, the materials used, the presence it has and how it makes you feel.” How are these principles, as well as the marriage of contemporary and classic, reflected in the new brand creative expression visually and verbally?
Marek Reichman: It’s important to recognise why we’re doing this after 109 years. Have we been through this in the past? Of course, but not to this degree or at a point where the world is at everyone’s fingertips through Zoom, mobile device and so on. We live in a much faster world in terms of accessibility to information and response mechanisms.
What we’re describing here is what people who love Aston Martins feel. I used to drive an F1, green DBS model into London and when I would pull up to certain corners, children would rush, take out their phones and photograph the car. What we’re describing through this new brand positioning is the intensity of that feeling. What drives someone to do that? It’s just a car. But it drives people to this emotional reaction. That is what we are describing through this is the intensity and drive that leads to that action.
We have also stretched the brand from a product perspective. We were traditionally known for great GTs, from DB24 all the way to DB11. It’s a GT profile – 2 + 2 or 2 + 0 profile, where the engine sits in the front, you have a long hood, and this beautiful extended cabin. It’s what people know is an Aston Martin. Now we have an SUV, which happens to be the world’s most powerful SUV. So we have a very different product, a very different customer base, age profile and use pattern. But it still generates the intensity of driving and reaction: If I take one of those into London, I get the same reaction. That’s the tactile, emotional sensitivity you see in the Aston Martin DNA, form and language.
All of this messaging didn’t just come from picking a few words. We did months of research with customers, fans, drivers and non-drivers to understand what it is that makes you want and desire an Aston Martin. On the tech side, we happen to have in our view, one of the world’s most complicated, technically advanced product in Valkyrie, which is a derivation of the F1 car, which we also have as a brand platform and one where two brilliant drivers are driving the most technically advanced machines on the planet every weekend. So the brand has shifted from what you might define as classical product, to these extremes of product language.
Sensorial data visualization, heartrate simulation, pupil dilation and Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) are in use in the short film created for the new brand. Is this the first time Aston Martin has consciously used such elements?
Bisignani: ‘Intensity.Driven’ is our brand idea but it’s also our promise to customers. What we hope to convey and capture is the sensation of our drivers’ experiences when they drive the car. That’s the intensity part. But it also captures the dedication, craft and intensity we as a company are driven to in order to produce these amazing cars. So the phrase has a potent duality.
We worked a lot on how we could make, through marketing collateral and our comms efforts, language, visual and verbal expressions, this intensity come to life for our customers. That’s realised through the use of experience imagery of how driving an Aston Martin looks like emotionally; the use of human data and data-led imagery, so we’re scientifically also showing what intensity really feels like; and bringing in the elements of biometric data provides a more modern, future-looking aspect of the brand. We’re a 109-year-old brand with a great heritage but we’re keen on portraying this amazing brand into the future.
The use of close, cropped product imagery and highlighting the supreme luxury in our product details is a further way to highlight the craft. Then the use of specific POV [point of view] imagery, vocabulary and language we are using is intense, relentless and breathless. It’s sophisticated, intelligence and elegant too, which is what Aston Martin has always been revered for.
Is that also why there is a lot of longform content support the marquee repositioning and in the media mix?
Bisignani: Yes, we have created longform ad copy, which rewards customers on media where there are higher dwell times – such as print ads in the Financial Times. We hope the elegance that’s always categorised our brand has been laddered up with some of the hidden values that have always been part of our DNA but probably sat beneath the surface. This has resulted in performance oriented, stronger, edgier, bolder and more confident messaging.
How is this influencing the way you execute and types of channels and tactics you’re choosing?
Bisignani: What we have done is create a platform, with very clear, simple guidelines that will ensure consistency of brand execution throughout the way we market products, communicate, engage and speak to customers about the products and/or brand. And hopefully it’ll last for the decade ahead or longer. We have very strong internal guidelines and bible now to ensure that consistency.
Then it’s the limit is down to the imagination and creativity we can unlock in future months and years. It’s definitely not a one-stop exercise that starts and ends today.
CMO: With hybrid cars coming online in 2024 and electric vehicles from 2025, how does this brand repositioning also align to those efforts?
Reichman: This is all building up to say everything we do has to have that intensity. For me and my team, it’s always been the intensity of design. But now it’s written down – what you do is what you need to keep on doing because that is what we stand for. It’s an affirmation of who we are and what we do from my perspective.
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