Hearing the news from on CarNewsChina that the top-of-the-range Roewe 750 (nee Rover 75) and 950 are about to take on the Shanghai name certainly had me thinking – it certainly marks the beginning of the end for the ‘English’ Rover 75’s Chinese grandson.
Branding itself is only as ‘cool’ as society deems it to be. Hence why Audi, a brand which was once akin to a German Citroen or Saab, is now seen as ‘trendy/premium/cool’ despite their product equivalents, with the same platforms/engines/parts, being available on other, less expensive marques.
Apple was once a brand of all-in-one compact desktops, then it became a quirky brand of desktop computers mostly used by teachers but sidelined by the IBM compatible PC. Now it is a huge brand of smartphone and tablet providers.
Hyundai was once a Korean builder of Cortinas and is now an established, respectable car brand.
Japanese marques were once seen as Western knockoffs, even the original Lexus LS was described as a Far Eastern Mercedes-Benz. They’re seen now as technological leaders with reliability to beat. Branding only came into play in the late 1800s. Before then, you went to the blacksmith to fix up your horsecart, you went to the shop and bought generic flour, veg and meat from the local mills/farms.
It was only with the industrial era that companies came to realise that they could make people aware of them and their products and that this could lead to increased sales specifically of their product. The cult of branding began. Brands are only as powerful as people let them be. And, increasingly, what the media tells people to think. The media which, remember, is mostly funded by advertising – which, in turn, raises awareness of those brands.
So is Shanghai a better brand than Roewe? Certainly, it rolls off the tongue better and Roewe has a bit of a whiff of knock-off Rover about it. They could succeed where MG failed, get their claws into the media and really take off.