Skip to content →

Branding lessons from Ferrari

Did you know that over 50% of Ferrari’s profits actually come from licensing its name, badge, and logo?

Yup, Ferrari’s not in the business of selling luxury super cars anymore.

They’re selling a dream.

Most people who love Ferrari, wear the gear, and have posters of Ferraris up on their walls will never wind up owning one. Ever.

There are more people wearing Ferrari jackets and hats than there are Ferraris out on the street.

How did this happen?

Enzo Ferrari started “Ferrari” as a racing team back in 1929. For years, the team raced in Alfa Romeo cars until it produced its very own race car in 1940.

Eventually, Enzo (reluctantly) built and sold the 125 S in 1949, the first publicly available Ferrari branded car, in order to help fund his team.

For years after that point, Ferrari took what worked well for them on the track, and brought that innovation, style, and speed to its road vehicles. With years of motorsports success, Ferrari began to create name for itself among car and racing enthusiasts.

The 80’s might have been one of the key periods for Ferrari’s brand image and perception.

The Ferrari Testarossa (my favorite Ferrari car) was introduced to the world in 1985, and would appear everywhere from the dorm room walls of college students to episodes of Miami Vice.

The 80’s would also introduce other famous Ferrari cars such as the F40, to commemorate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary.

With the growing popularity of exotic sports cars in the 80’s, Ferrari became one of the most recognized brands.

Today, Ferrari remains as one of the most recognized and loved brands. When you dig a little deeper into their story and how they sell/position their cars, you can begin to learn a lot about their branding strategy. Here’s some nuggets:

Sell the story and the dream, along with your product

Ferrari understands that a majority of people will never be able to afford their cars but it knows that selling the dream of owning one helps build popularity and their cult.

At the Ferrari store, you can’t actually buy a Ferrari. It’d be like opening an Apple store that didn’t actually sell any Apple products or a McDonald’s restaurant that didn’t sell any Big Macs.

Still, these stores exist to build Ferrari’s tribe of loyal enthusiasts. How many other companies have “enthusiasts” that don’t actually own any of their products?

Emphasize the quality, craft, and labor of love that goes into your product

Ferrari will never play down the fact that their cars are hand built. Every documentary ever made about Ferrari will mention that and if you ever tour Ferrari’s factory, it’s the first thing that they mention.

Ferrari also shares their passion for racing, cars and excellence through their messaging and story telling. If Ferrari ran Facebook ads, they’d probably talk more about the process that goes into making their cars than the actual features/benefits of owning their cars.

Show your winning history

Ferrari does an amazing job of celebrating their wins. They even do it in a way that doesn’t appear boastful.

One thing I think a lot of companies fail to do well (or even do at all) is celebrate their wins. Your fans will want to join in on the celebration, which will make them feel even more like their part of your brand (and success).

Stay true to your brand proposition and never stray

Even after Fiat took a 50% stake in the company in 1969, and even after Enzo passed away in 1988, the company did not falter or change from their original vision.

Ferrari has always remained a company about excellence, pride, and winning.

And despite several different models and iterations of vehicles every year, Ferrari stayed true to making the kinds of vehicles their drivers want.

Nostalgia and heritage sells

There’s a reason Ferrari celebrates nearly every anniversary it can. There’s a reason their factory is also a museum that offers tours.

There’s a reason we still see Ferrari Testarossas in movies, shows and music videos. Nostalgia sells.

Scarcity increases perceived value

Ferrari has wait lists for their cars that you must be approved for and each year, Ferrari purposefully caps their production to 7,000 cars.

Each car is also assigned a number out of 7,000. Imagine being part of an elite, exclusive club where everyone asks one another “what number are you?”.

And when there’s less of something, it makes it more special. Thus, owning something special makes the owner feel special.

The one thing I notice whenever I talk to any Ferrari owner or anyone who’s ever owned a Ferrari is how the car made them feel. What is the feeling your brand gives to your customers? Maybe that sounds esoteric and woo-woo but I think Ferrari is onto to something. I mean, a company worth $105 billion can’t be wrong.

Published in Marketing Neuromarketing