When I saw the new commercial for the Renault Mégane I confess I found myself at a loss: Why was the vendor speaking in pidgin Franco-German?
I just read, a little belatedly, a column dated 29 October in Monde Magazine which explained that Renault was parodying an Opel commercial "to vaunt the quality of its Mégane ... And it works ...". According to the article, Renault is happy to have created "a message that can speak effectively of quality, a task that is extremely difficult", and prides itself that one week after its launch the video was watched by 700,000 surfers on YouTube.
I find all this rather upsetting - for two main reasons:
- Choosing Opel as a "benchmark" of German quality is a mistake: Opel, a subsidiary of General Motors, is a brand that is not faring well. The mere fact that Opel was forced to create a commercial in German to remind consumers that it is a German brand, and therefore of impeccable quality, speaks volumes about its complete lack of image. Today, the only German brands associated with German quality are Audi, BMW and Mercedes (and Volkswagen to a lesser extent) and they do not need ads in German to convince their clients (and others) of it. Renault's choice of Opel speaks volumes about the disarray of the brand.
- The tone of the Renault commercial - with jokes somewhat xenophobic and typically French - is unworthy of an international brand. Evidently, a huge success on the internet was to be expected - going by the number of times a video is viewed. But this success is by no means the confirmation that Renault is building an image of quality: it is merely the measure of interest that internet users have in something that gives them a good laugh.
For several years now Renault has been in quest of its brand DNA. There were a succession of slogans: 1986 - Des voitures à vivre (Cars to live for); 1991 - Vive la vie en Renault (Live life in a Renault); 2000 - Créateur d'automobiles (Creator of automobiles). It was the era of the Avantime and the VelSatis, a time when Renault believed it was creating haute couture in cars. And now, Renault: la qualité version française (Renault: quality, French version). In fact, Renault no longer has real brand substance, and so places itself at the mercy of the first ad agency that comes along that convinces it that such a film can endow it with an aura of "quality". My advice would be to take a closer look at the work that Chrysler is doing to infuse meaning into the "Made in Detroit" label (see my post of March 20), or at the protracted effort made by Audi which has managed, in 20 years, to give real substance to a once-moribund brand. But then, Audi is a German brand ...