Toyota designed both models and the differences in

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Unformatted text preview: for example. Toyota designed both models, and the differences in their components and trim are minor. Both vehicles receive high marks from Consumer Reports, and comparably equipped midrange models have similar price tags. Yet the Prizm requires up to $750 more in buyer incentives to support its sales. Even so, only onequarter as many Prizms are sold, and their trade-in value depreciates much more quickly (Exhibit 1). Toyota’s name on the Corolla attracts customers, while the Prizm is lost among the offerings on a Chevy dealer’s lot. What accounts for such preferences? Marketers have long understood that consumers are influenced by the emotional connections they form with products—and with manufacturers, dealers, and other owners. Our study1 confirms the idea that consumers attach significantly greater importance to relationship and emotional benefits than to a car’s functional attributes, at least when they meet minimum standards or don’t fall far short of the competition’s. Nevertheless, those intangible benefits are the weakest links in the automakers’ performance ratings. Companies that act on all of the elements of brand affiliation—that is, the emotional relationship, the purchase process, and product attributes—build an advantage that competitors find hard to duplicate. To tap these wellsprings of brand attachment, the auto industry must move from traditional product-based marketing to a conscious and organized brand-based strategy. Once, the product was the brand (think of the Ford Model T or of Volkswagen’s original Beetle). Today, companies must position each car within the entire suite of products that bear a given nameplate and understand consumer likes and dislikes so deeply that these tastes shape everything from the car’s design to its first appearance in an ad to the service department’s after-sales performance. Every consumer touch point represents both an opportunity and a danger. Making the most of all touch points can reinforce an already powerful brand, help build an obscure or struggling brand, and limit the harm from a damaged one. An objective assessment of the opportunities and dangers at every touch point is also the basis of an efficient allocation of spending. 1 A proprietary survey of 1,277 auto consumers who owned, among them, 4...
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