You are not your toy

An article in today’s New York Times discusses the sense of outrage that many Porsche enthusiasts have at the fact that the maker of their dream cars is now making an SUV, the Cayenne.

Now, I’m hardly a fan of SUVs, and I think this is a dangerous adventure in brand extension for Porsche, but I still want to grab these whiners by the shoulders and give them a good shake. They’ve got too much of their identity invested in their cars. Their comments are telling:

“A Porsche S.U.V. will, perhaps forever, cheapen the brand…Which demographic will this thing attract? My guess is BMW poseur types.”

The existence of the Cayenne won’t change anything about the old 911, except the way 911 owners perceive other people’s perception of the Porsche brand. These guys (I’m guessing they’re almost all guys) imagine that they derived some kind of aura by owning a Porsche, and that aura will disappear once the company starts making such an unglamorous vehicle, and less worthy people start buying it.

I did a translation a few years back that gave results from a focus group study. A luxury-goods company showed the focus group members–already enthusiastic customers of the brand–a prototype sports watch. The reaction was so negative, and so uniformly negative, that they scrapped the whole project. I’m guessing that Porsche focus-grouped the Cayenne six ways from Sunday, and decided there was a market for it. But it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

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