Maranello, Italy - Money isn’t always king. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who’s tried to pick up a stainless steel Rolex sports model, AP Royal Oak or Patek Philippe Nautilus/Aquanaut at retail from the AD… they’ll understand the pain.
Wait times of a year or more… or even never… aren’t uncommon, simply because of the huge hypebeast effect of these watches.
Not a big collector yourself and don’t have a friend (of a friend of a friend) who drops big money with the AD?
Tough… you’ll just have to contend with images on the ‘Gram to fuel your FOMO insecurities even if you have a fat wad of cash burning a hole in your wallet.
In many ways, the pandemic fuelled such conspicuous consumption, because YOLO, no? What’s the point of hoarding all that money when you never know if you’re going to take a bad turn after contracting COVID?
From comics to (trading) cards (yes, even original Pokemon cards) and naturally, cars, values of all manner of collectibles have shot through the roof.
Of course, as far as automobiles are concerned, classic cars still rule the roost, but so do the latest limited edition ‘It’ sportscars from your favourite manufacturers.
With more buyers than supply of cars, frantically waving your cheque for full payment around doesn’t mean diddly-s if you have no ‘standing’ with the AD.
In fact, such allocation decisions can lead to unhappiness and friction between buyer and brand rep, because allegations of favouritism are bound to arise or just
good bad ol’fashioned green-eyed jealousy since it is largely down to the customer’s relationship with the dealer principal.
During a recent exclusive interview with Mr. Enrico Galliera, Chief Marketing Officer at Ferrari, the brand hopes to reduce such friction between the respective ADs and their clients by creating a centralised pre-list out of the HQ for the special cars.
With more willing buyers than supply of cars, frantically waving your cheque for full payment around doesn’t mean diddly-s if you have no ‘standing’ with the AD.
“In the old days, when a limited series car was launched, we would ask our partners to identify their best customers to give them the car. For many of them, this was a nightmare because every customer would naturally come forward to say that they are the best customer!” Mr. Galliera says ruefully.
He continues, “Through internal auditing, the HQ creates an initial list of names that are given the right of first refusal. In this manner, we are giving our ADs a way to avoid potentially unpleasant discussions, but our list also tries to ensure the special cars go to the right client (i.e. one who won’t flip it within the year). However, this is still just a recommendation, ultimately it is still the dealer’s choice to provide any feedback to our list,” Enrico tells us.
Don’t forget, the HQ has a more complete roadmap of every customer’s journey with Ferrari than your local AD, because many of its well-heeled collectors/enthusiasts are global citizens who may purchase/store/restore/race its cars across different jurisdictions.
Moreover, in such a segment, transparency and the idea of objective, fair play are very important. The folks at the HQ are also well aware if you’re a compulsive flipper of its special edition models and this is something frowned upon, because Ferrari wants its cars to be driven and enjoyed.
Enrico tells us, “On the topic of ‘flippers’, we respect the decision of the client (to want to get a car early), but certainly we are not happy with the seller or anyone trying to use Ferrari to do business. That’s why we’re keen to deliver cars to real clients and not to deliver to ‘wholesalers’.”
Naturally, it isn’t easy separating the genuine from genuine ‘seller-on’ and this is how Ferrari manages it. “This situation can only be managed through experience and we have a system that tells us how a client has behaved in the past."
He explains, “Of course, we don’t have anything against a client who wants to change one of his models – it is part of his decision. However, we want to protect our loyal clients, because it is not nice if he/she is going through the proper process of ordering and waiting for a car, but someone else gets it first from the secondary market from someone who had a priority allocation,” explains Mr. Galliera.
He continues, “The LaFerrari was the first time we centralised the shortlist. Ferrari’s list takes into account the client’s ownership history of Ferrari cars in other markets. We give weight to every single activity the client participates in with Ferrari. It is not only down to the number of cars you own and still keep – it is important, but not the be-all-end-all.”
"We also consider if the owner restores his classic car with Ferrari Classiche? Does he/she participate in our events? Does he/she come and race with us on track? We attach a weight to all these elements and work out a priority list whenever we come up with a new car. I was pushing for this direction because I don’t want subjective elements of evaluation and this is the best way to be clean and trusted by clients,” Enrico elaborates.
From its lofty perch on a pedestal, the Prancing Horse of today is no longer as aloof as before and has come to engage its clients more intimately and is in regular consultation to understand what its customers truly desire in its cars. Ferrari is also insistent on a consistent message and tone of voice when it comes to all its partners and representatives in brand communication.
“We’ve heavily invested and coordinated our presence in the market to have a common brand representation in terms of global corporate identity, global processes and global training, so that everyone working with ferrari (not just employees, but vendors too) are able to deliver the same message and same tone of voice when they’re talking about Ferrari. This is to ensure that everywhere we go, we are delivering the same message and if a client goes into a Ferrari showroom/event in another country, they will experience the same tone of voice. This is something we’ve invested heavily in because we want to deliver the proper positioning for the brand,” Mr. Galliera says.
The pandemic gave many companies the opportunity to develop alternative ‘weapons’ to conduct business remotely and Ferrari was no exception. “We have reinforced our digital capabilities and created the possibility to configure your car remotely. We are also launching a new client app to remain connected.”
“However, what we believe (and have learned) is that, for Ferrari, physical contact remains the key element and such digital opportunities are just a way to reinforce the connection… and not replace it. Ultimately, Ferrari clients want to touch/feel/smell/talk and be part of the community physically,” Enrico tells us.
This author has personally never understood celebrity endorsements or movie tie-ins for brands that operate in such a rarefied segment and clearly, neither does Ferrari.
Enrico elaborates, “We are not doing any advertising or promotion and the general weapons used by other brands are not used by us. We believe word-of-mouth goodwill from an owner is the best way to represent the company. A real-world indicator for Ferrari measures whether an owner wants to become an ambassador or not, as opposed to conducting old-fashioned long-winded 100-page customer satisfaction surveys.”
He continues, “We’re happy to have such clients connected to us and we refer to them as members of the family. The role of such people is absolutely important, because as real users, they can tell people what the brand is all about. If I’m telling you, “Ferrari is the best, yada-yada-yada”, this is expected and all companies say this. However, if it comes from the owner, it is a much stronger testament for the brand.”
Of course, the correct type of buyer ‘makes’ the brand and it is heartening that Ferrari owners have developed a renewed sense of joie de vivre as the world reopens, not just in terms of buying cars, but also in terms of social and driving activities organised by the brand.
Enrico tells us, “We’ve invested a lot in making sure that all over the world, clients are not just purchasing a car but we hope they feel a part of the Ferrari family. We are creating platforms and opportunities for them to meet in order to enjoy ownership of their Ferraris. We can feel it from the participation of our clients in the Ferrari events. The activities are overbooked globally and our clients are participating in meetings, parties etc. and not just buying cars. They want to live, have fun and enjoy the pleasure of being alive and we can feel it.”