Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

Star Wars vs. Automotive OEM Supplier Brands: Darth Vader’s Got It Easy

Star Wars vs. Automotive OEM Supplier Brands: Darth Vader’s Got It Easy

Tight brand standards can make any brand seem bigger than it actually is.

The Star Wars franchise is enormous. There are millions of rabid Star Wars fans of all ages all over the world. Many wait patiently for even the smallest detail about the next Star Wars movie. Some lose sleep over it. Then, when a new movie comes out, they pay handsomely to watch it in a theater uninterrupted from beginning to end. Many watch it more than once.

Star Wars fans want what Lucasfilm, Ltd. is selling.

For brand managers of automotive OEM suppliers, telling your brand story is a completely different process, and far more daunting.

Nobody wakes from a decent night’s sleep and wonders, “When is the next (your company name here) ad/email/LinkedIn post coming out?” You also don’t have the luxury of telling your complete brand story all the way from beginning to end, uninterrupted without an intermission.

You have to tell a piece of your story here, another piece there. And to make the task even more difficult, the pieces of your brand story might be separated by days, even weeks.

That’s why they’re called advertising campaigns.

Your challenge is two-fold:

1. Telling your brand story piecemeal, while making each piece noticeably different from and appreciably more interesting than every other piece of communication from every other brand.

2. Making sure every piece of your brand story is connected so your audience gets the whole story.

And this is why brand standards exist.

Brand standards (a.k.a., brand guidelines, brand standards manual, brand rulebook) gotta be good, they gotta be tight, and, for goodness’ sakes, they gotta be followed.  

Why? So the pieces of your brand story stick together like glue for an audience that isn’t even expecting it.

You can Google “brand guidelines” and find dozens of good examples. For me, one brand is particularly strong.  

The Netflix brand: Entertaining, smart, red and consistent.

Years ago, before TV shows and movies could be viewed online, Netflix was an up-and-coming brand sending millions of DVDs in the U.S. Mail in those distinctive – and brand-consistent – red Netflix envelopes.

Every piece of Netflix’s brand story stuck together, thanks to their brand guidelines.

“With more and more people coming into contact with our brand,” the guidelines said, “establishing a consistent look and tone throughout all our marketing communications has never been more important.”

“The brand guidelines…help foster our growth.”

See? For Netflix, brand guidelines are a business tactic.  

Like all well-designed and well-written brand guidelines, Netflix established dos and don’ts-you-dare for the application of their logo, colors (both primary and secondary), typography, additional visual assets, and “Tone & Voice.” The guidelines for the way their brand spoke were particularly telling about the company culture and personality:

“We’re smart, not smart aleck. “

“We talk to people, not down to people.”

“We’re personal, not corporate.”

“We’re simple, not terse and clinical.”

“We’re enthusiastic, not salesy.”  

And this ditty:  “We’re not maverick, but we are a little irreverent.”

Today – years after those brand guidelines were established – Netflix has grown to be an absolute blockbuster (no shameless business pun intended) in the home entertainment field.

No wonder.


Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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