Sunday, August 19, 2007

Brand Limits?

California Dreamin'

Took off on Saturday to the 34th Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca. I suppose it's easy to tell how close you are to the eternal fountain of money that is Silicon Valley when Ferrari has its own island in the middle of the circuit! In addition to the official presence where, amongst other things, they were promoting their services to certify used or collectible cars (see above shot), countless small vendors were selling a bewildering array of merchandise prominently tagged with the iconic prancing horse.

How, then, does the brand maintain its cachet when the exclusivity originally associated with the race car company is so watered down that Ferrari badges are appearing on shoes and shirts, backpacks and bags? Does it even matter if it doesn't, given that their race cars are still winning in F1 and their road cars selling out at the showrooms with waiting lists running into years?

Yes and no. I remember from years ago that it was generally accepted that you didn't wear Ferrari -logo'd stuff unless you owned one, and even then the practice was considered dubious at best. Nowadays, anything goes. But although this might weaken its strength in the eyes of some, I'd bet that if you ran a brand-recognition survey ten years ago and compared the results with the same survey today the company would have accelerated up the standings like a nitrous-powered Enzo. On the other hand, how long will even the most well-heeled of enthusiasts be happy to shell out 250 big ones for a 430 when everywhere they go pot-bellied proles are wearing Ferrari boxer-shorts (pun intended)?

I think the saving grace for the company will ultimately be that their products remain the stuff of dreams for all but the most wallet-hardened enthusiasts or those who have the money to spend and a need to impress. They will come to view the mass-marketing of the brand either incidental and hence to be ignored so long as it makes money to keep on racing or it will help fuel their egos to have even more people ogling them as they drive through town at 25 mph. (And on that topic, I was utterly depressed to hear that Dr. Phil, an annoying TV relationship counsellor here in the USA, bought two white 550s, one for himself and one for his wife.) Therefore, don't expect a budget Ferrari any time soon. Ain't going to happen, and frankly I think that's a jolly good thing too! Make 'em smaller and harder-core and keep the Dr. Phil's of this world buying Bentley's instead. The Germans can handle it.

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