Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Jaguar Reinvention

First off, a disclaimer: I know nothing about advertising and I'm British. Both of these things leave this post valueless in terms of objectivity or fact ... but sod it, I'm writing it anyway.

Jaguar's recent brand turn around makes me feel good about Britain and being British.

I'm in my late 20s. Jaguar to me has always been an "old" brand. Grandads love their Jags. Slimy politicians who smell of tax-payer funded cigars and whiskey drive Jaguars. They always seemed to represent Britain in the same way the old maths teacher at school who tried to be current represented mathematics; he didn't. Jaguar of my youth was always a poorly fitted tweed jacket with elbow pads. Yes, British at heart but not the kind of Britain I want reminding of.

Then something changed around 2008. Some new cars showed up ...

We got the XK/XKR. The XKR for me wasn't a magic bullet. It looked like a Celica mashed with an DB7 and a sad Catfish.

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_XK
It wasn't pretty, but there was something about the lines of the XK that seemed  aspirational. It felt like they were searching for a new character. The XK wasn't enough to make me pin a poster on the wall but it caught my eye.

We also got the XF. Designed by Ian Callum (also of Aston Martin and the XK above), the XF and XFR looked cracking1 to me. It looked proud and assertive.

Jaguar XFR.jpg
"Jaguar XFR" by MSVG - http://www.flickr.com/photos/msvg/4593745865/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The design held its chin up. It had a stiff upper lip that made the XFR-S drool worthy.

By Sarah Larson from Ann Arbor, MI, USA (2014 Jaguar XFR-S  Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Look at it! LOOK AT IT! For somebody with more than a passing affection for 1960's muscle cars, this was the business. Jaguar still had the smell of slippers and pipe about it though. Even with a screaming V8, even with 500+hp, even with a face that would force you to the hard shoulder to call your mum if you saw it coming up behind you ... There were still Werther's Originals in the brand's glovebox next to faded driving gloves.

The new Jaguar brand was eyeing up its inheritance. The old Jag was a doddery old man but his grave had been dug. Breathing or not, he was going in and getting buried ...

By Jaguar MENA (Jaguar F-TYPE S Coupé) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The F-Type. Not only had Jaguar found the car to rid itself of past associations, it left a horse's head in the bed of anyone who thought Jaguar was boring. The F-type has supercharged V6 and V8 powerplants, 560hp and sublime looks that could keep you awake at night. It's perfect.

The advertising, not the cars however, was the nail in the coffin of the old, stuffy Jag brand. Even with these amazing new cars as the foundations to reinvent itself, Jaguar really followed through with their advertising as much as their cars.

Aside from the new website and other ads, I'll point out the "It's Good to be Bad" thing for the Amercian superbowl. The tone of these ads was both serious and funny. They were self-depreciating and proud to be British. They were cheesy but conveyed the tone of the new brand. Intelligent, ruthless, focused and capableand British!. Just like the adverts, the F-Type doesn't take itself too seriously with its stupidly aggressive sound and bonkers power output.

The "feeling" of the new brand emerging from the XK and XF design and nailed by the F-type was reinforced by the advertising. It let me as a consumer know the car design wasn't an accident ... it was part of a well thought out broader plan.

With the budget Tata Motors is chucking at JLR, you'd expect nothing less. As a Brit though, when you see a British ran company do something good you sort of think it might be fluke. You suspect it was a bit of awesome that somehow sneaked past the manager while he fell asleep with a cuppa and digestives.

Why should it feel surprising to see a British brand doing something so great? It shouldn't. McLaren are there. Aston Martin is there. Oh and VW Bentley too. These are well marketed brands, but they are still reserved. They are not an American hellcat doing burnouts. They draw the right attention and do it in a very British way. There are also the quiet ones, Ascari, Ariel, Morgan and Noble. They're quiet, so they're easy to overlook.

Jaguar isn't easy to overlook. Jaguar's recent brand turn around makes me feel good about Britain and being British.

Jaguar showed engineering class in its new cars and engineered a change in brand perception in me. They have created a brand that's the best of being British without the Basil Fawlty. The new brand feels intelligently aggressive. It feels reserved yet capable. If the effect of Jaguar's new branding on me is anything to go by, they know what they're doing. It might not be to everyone's taste, but I like it.

1: Cracking, /ˈkrakɪŋ/ adj. British slang for really really really good.