Some companies have such a powerful brand reputation that all you have to say is the name and it immediately evokes a specific image, usually of a product. So it is with with Porsche; the automaker has been synonymous with sports cars, such as the 911 and the Boxster, for decades. Acclaimed as fast, sporty, and nigh indestructible, Porsche enjoys a brand reputation few companies can match.
But being so closely tied to a specific product is a double-edged sword. Every car company wants to be known for top-notch engineering, high quality, and making cars that can take punishment… but they also want to be known for a range of vehicles. Building high-end sports cars is a great way to attract young, single, affluent consumers, but you don't see many people taking a Porsche 911 to the daycare or to swing by the grocery store to buy dinner for the family. Porsches may last forever, but Porsche kept finding that its customers invariably moved on to other high-end marques with a wider range of vehicles.
This is especially problematic in a changing automotive industry. In a market where a consumer buying a new car now will likely keep it for a decade, it can be harder and harder to find customers. Similarly, Porsche has found itself in the odd position of becoming closer and closer to Volkswagen, to the degree that last year, the companies merged and the Porsche family found itself with 50.73% of Volkswagen voting rights under their control. That made Porsche part of a brand portfolio that includes Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti. In other words, Porsche's financial status perversely depends on ensuring several high-end brands they once competed with directly having a strong customer base!
Fortunately for Porsche, it's spent nearly a decade slowly and precisely broadening its brand reputation. In 2003, they introduced their first SUV, the Porsche Cayenne, and over the last decade, it's introduced other cars you wouldn't expect, like the Panamera sedan, and the Macan SUV crossover. And it's a good illustration of how to expand your brand.
First of all, these vehicles are unmistakable for any other car; they have the same raised headlights and lowered hood that define Porsche as a brand. The Panamera, Macan and Cayenne are all instantly recognizable as Porsche vehicles, tying that brand identity closely to the cars.
Secondly, Porsche was careful to ensure that they kept as much of the engineering in-house. For example, the Cayenne is based off of some technology used in the Volkswagen Touraeg. But everything else, from interior to tuning, is done by Porsche; driving the Cayenne and the Touraeg means driving two very different cars, not least because the Cayenne saw the return of V-8 engines to the Porsche marque.
Finally, Porsche is very clear about the differences between the cars, and their value depending on your needs, while carefully maintaining the positives of its brand reputation. A Panamera or Macan is a tough car that's sportier and faster than others in its class… but has the conveniences customers need.
Changing your brand reputation can go wrong in a shocking number of ways, but Porsche has done it right. If you're shifting your brand reputation, follow Porsche's lead.