It's a limo! A classic, a tradition, a brand, a concept, an image -- it's all about who we are.
LCT PUBLISHER'S COLUMN/ September 2012: Everything about our industry’s origins leads to France, the epicenter of style, fashion, fine wine and all things high-end or “couture.” The first limousines date back to the 1700s. They were ornate horse-drawn carriages complete with “chauffeur,” which is the French word for driver, used to carry the affluent. The Limosin region of France is famous for its high-end products including Limoges porcelain (used as décor inside the first limo carriages) and Aubusson tapestries and rugs. For centuries, the Limosin beef has been touted as the finest in Europe. Also, this region boasts the “prettiest” cities in all of France. The original chauffeur attire was influenced by the hooded cloak, a popular wardrobe feature in the Limosin region.
Limousine is the French-feminine version of a word that has been synonymous with class, elegance and sophistication for centuries. Unfortunately, today the word is taboo for many of us. (I recently spoke to an operator who was asked to remove the term from all invoices and proposals). All you have to do is look around and you will see operators changing company monikers and eliminating the word “limo” from business names.
My question is: Can we rebuild our industry brand and keep the name limousine? On the surface, the path of least resistance seems to be to avoid the term “limo.” Upon taking a closer look, that means we dilute ourselves and make our industry appear fuzzy to the rest of the world. I am inclined to vote for a strategic rebuild of the word so that our legacy as a high-end mode of transportation stays intact.
We know that 76% of our revenues come from corporate work, groups and business travel/airport runs. While these business travelers rarely hold back on flashy personal cars, nice homes and expensive watches, using a “limo” for their business is a no-no. In the corporate world, there continues to be a high level of paranoia about appearing ostentatious — a word, thanks to the era of celebrity excess, now synonymous with limousines.
Limousine is a dirty word today, and it’s unfortunate given our regal roots. To rebuild the way the corporate market reacts to the word “limo” is to bring back its cachet without the notorious bling. Let’s rebrand that part of our niche by coining it the Party Car market and reclaim the namesake of the industry. Instead of distancing ourselves or being embarrassed by the term “limousine,” we really need to educate the corporate market on what a broad term limousine is today. It may be true that the luxury sedan has replaced the more ornate carriage of old, but it is still a limousine experience — complete with a sophisticated vehicle and a professional chauffeur who will safely get clients to their destination in comfort.
I propose we start the long process of changing our image to corporate America or I fear we will dilute ourselves with the fast variety of terms such as “transportation,” “executive car service,” “business sedan,” etc. We also should resist the urge to replace the term chauffeur with driver. This creates industry brand confusion. A limousine and its chauffeur always have been a click above all other modes of transportation, which is precisely why businesses prefer them over taxis and airport shuttles.
If the National Limousine Association can confidently use the word “limousine” in Washington, D.C., I believe corporations can be trained to buy into the idea that their “limousine awaits them” once more, as long as that no longer means a white, dual-axle Hummer, but rather an elegant, tailored black sedan.
DISCUSSION FOR COMMENTS: What are your thoughts on branding our industry as limousine? Does it help or hinder? Please post your thoughts below. -- Sara Eastwood