Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Suicidal Marketing Strategies 101

2006 Infiniti Q45 - This is a real Infiniti Q-car

Infiniti announced today that they are changing their model naming strategy, with all conventional cars carrying a "Q" prefix, followed by a two-digit number representing that model's position within the Infiniti range. Today's G37 range will be split into G50 (sedan) and G60 (coupe and convertible), for example.

Crossovers and SUVs will use "QX" and the same numeric sequence, though a "Q60" and a "QX60" will not necessarily be related or even similar in size.

For that matter, the new JX35 will become the QX60, while the smaller FX37/45 will become the QX70. Get it? Because the FX is more upscale than the JX - how can you not see the logic?

Says the release:

"This strategic change reflects Infiniti’s desire for clarity and cohesiveness as it embarks on ambitious growth plans, including significant expansion of the Infiniti portfolio."

Cohesiveness? If you mean that buyers won't have a bloody clue what model is what because they all have effectively the same name, you'd be right, I guess. Clarity, not so much.

Let's look at how well this kind of strategy has worked in the past.

Acura Legend. Memorable - and popular. Sold a bunch.
Acura RL. Acura What?
But, on the plus side, all ten people who bought them could tell their neighbours that the expensive, vaguely Accord-looking thing in their driveway was an "Acura", and not a "Legend". Good for brand recognition, right? Who cares if you actually sold any?

Or, for that matter, Lincoln's current model matrix: 
MKX - small crossover, twin of the Ford Edge.
MKT - big crossover, twin of the Ford Flex.
MKZ - midsize sedan, twin of the Ford Fusion.
MKS - large sedan, twin of the Ford Taurus.

Quick! What kind of vehicle is the MKZ? Buyers apparently have no clue, but I'll bet almost anyone in North America can correctly identify and name a Town Car or Navigator.

Nissan, Infiniti's parent company, has made large blunders with their premium brand in the past. When it introduced the brand in around 1989-1990, it showed ads with rocks and trees and Japanese gardens, rather than the products themselves. It also put what looked like an artsy Texan's belt-buckle in the centre of the Q45 flagship's grille-less nose. Looks OK today, but it was fairly bizarre back then.

Toyota, on the other hand, chose to not only show its new Lexus models, but it did it with stunts like balancing champagne glasses on the hood of an LS 400 while it ran at speed on a dyno, displaying the car's refinement and technical prowess. Shamelessly aping the overall shape and appearance of Mercedes' top S-Class, the LS's targeted competitor, paid off.

This latest move is ill-conceived and doomed to failure. Hopefully it won't clobber the company too much, and things will revert back to the way they are now, with different letters for the model range (typically going up the alphabet as the grade rises), and a numeric representation of the engine's displacement (as in "G37" or "M45"). 

Infinti, please stop the madness!


  1. Hey! It seems like you’re totally against the changing of the names for the Infiniti series. Anyway, I can see your point. It’s really difficult to easily recognize a set of cars with almost the same name, but then I think we should give the company a chance to prove their marketing strategy. Chill! :)

    Ashely Redden