It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Rolls-Royce. Even the simple, syrupy syllables themselves sound luxurious; sumptuous. And there’s a reason for that. A mainstay of the annual Luxury Industry Brand Index — and currently the influential list’s highest-ranking automotive company — Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is synonymous with opulence, affluence and the smoothest rides in town.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Founded in Manchester almost 120 years ago, the brand started out in the crane business, before motoring its way into the luxury car sector. And, during the last century, there have been plenty of bumps in the road. In 1971, the company entered voluntary liquidation, and was bought by both Vickers and Volkswagen in the years that followed. But the brand has always prevailed. How? Primarily, because of that name. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a name that, to this day, inspires grandeur, elegance and admiration in anyone who hears it.
So imagine our surprise when, earlier this week, the heritage motor manufacturer announced a rebrand. “Rolls-Royce announces new brand identity,” read the email that sped into our inboxes, “to further modernise the marque”. Puzzled? We were. Why would a brand, so lauded for its historic deference, decide to change its entire identity — a decades-long legacy that so clearly draws in, reassures and delights its customers?
The answer? For that, we must turn to the company itself. We asked Melanie Asker, General Manager for Client & Brand at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, to show the brand’s working when it came to the rebrand and discovered why this might be one of the boldest and riskiest – yet smartest – moves in the carmaker’s history.
“Rolls-Royce has a rich and varied brand heritage,” says Asker — putting it mildly. “And, as part of this process, it was important for us to acknowledge the history whilst taking the opportunity to modernise the visual language — ensuring the identity is reflective of the contemporary brand that Rolls-Royce is today.”
It sounds confusing, but it’s not. Asker’s simply saying that the main thrust of the project was to ‘look to the future while acknowledging the past’. In theory, easy enough — but that can a tricky line to walk. Push too far into the future and you’ll alienate the loyal customer base who pushed you up to the pinnacle of the luxury sector to begin with. Remain too entrenched in the past, and you’ll never attract a new generation of buyers.
“So we were compelled to develop our new visual identity,” explains Asker. “Based on both the increasingly diversified needs of our client base and the new flexibility for digital communications. For us, the change was about creating the new chapter of Rolls-Royce history.”
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