“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.
The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to comment upon such matters.
His studies concluded that empires evolve through a number of phases, from the age of pioneers, of conquest and of growth, through ages of commerce, affluence and intellect. From here however, there inexorably follows an age of decadence, precipitating a gradual decline and eventual fall. Having studied the trajectory of eleven major empires – from Assyria (859-612 BC) through to the British empire (1700-1950) – he discovered that this process in its entirety took on average around 250 years in each case.
Storied carmaker, Rolls Royce Motors has been in existence a mere 115 years, so if one cleaves to Bagot Glubb’s thesis, it has some time yet to run before the sun sets upon its gilded throne. But given the current state of play across the wider motor industry, to say nothing of the super-luxury segment, making any kind of reliable predictions has become something of a fool’s game.
And on the subject of foolishness, we are confronted today by a promotional clip by Rolls Royce for its newly minted Cullinan Black Badge offering. For those of you unaware of such matters, Black Badge is regarded as the putative ‘bad-boy’ of the RR range – the one that gets a little leery, urinates on the Persian rugs and slashes the Rembrandts.
If RR’s marketers are to be taken seriously, (and that’s a question worth pursuing), we are encouraged to believe there is something of the night about these be-pimped Rollers, and by association, one assumes, their owners. And in this at least, one must conclude, there is something of a stopped-clock accuracy about it.
Whether it was intentional or purely accidental that Rolls Royce’s marketers elected to project CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös as a proto-Bond villain is likely to remain shrouded in the kind of celluloid gloom which permeates the spot – (another five minutes of my life I’ll never recapture), but needless to say, the whole business is quite beyond parody. It’s also grimly hilarious, although I somehow doubt this was intentional. But please, do not simply take my word for it. (You can find the clip on YouTube, should you so desire).
As I have been at pains to point out of late, when it comes to marketing communications, context is everything – a quality sadly lacking in this rather silly piece of PR fluff, to say nothing of wit, restraint or taste. Qualities one might be forgiven for having associated with the RR brand. Exactly who is this aimed at, and what level of mentality do they possess, is another question that begs an answer. And if Rolls Royce management are serious about undermining their brand, exactly what sort of sustainable future do they envisage it enjoying?
Perhaps automotive bosses like Müller-Ötvös have already discerned exactly how much of a future there is likely to be and are therefore bound to leverage their assets until the pips squeak before the whole Pantheon edifice crumbles. The Rolls Royce CEO certainly appears as unapologetic about his wares as he is about the manner in which he elects to promote them. Good for him. It will surprise nobody then, that my view of these actions as hubris writ wide across the glowering skies remains equally unassailable.
All empires fall. That is an inescapable fact. The age of the motor car is drawing to a close and seems likely to end on a messy, unseemly and yes, decadent note.