Going Further Helped Luxury Auto Industry, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

Going the extra mile has helped the luxury auto industry. (Representative image/iStock)

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz sold more than 50 units of its new GLS-Maybach sport utility vehicle – the entire India allocation for 2021 – before the car was even officially launched on the market. Marlet.

The ultra-luxury car has a starting price of Rs 2.4 crore and can go well north of Rs 4 crore after customization.

It was not a sellout but a carefully executed strategy where potential customers started receiving calls from Mercedes-Benz dealerships as early as April to gauge their interest in the first Maybach SUV that the German automaker was bringing to India.

Dealerships knew their customers well – from their car preferences to their birthdays and the names of their spouses, children and pets.

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Car dealerships’ personal relationships with high net worth individuals (HNIs) are key to sales of vehicles costing Rs 1 crore and above, industry executives say.

personal touch

At Lamborghini, where its entire portfolio falls within this segment and caters to HNI customers who value and seek exclusivity, personal customer relationships are the norm.

“We have a very close relationship with our existing customers and our prospects,” says Sharad Agarwal, head of Lamborghini India. “We prefer to understand their tastes, preferences, passion and what really drives them through our one-on-one interactions. And we’ve nurtured those strong relationships over the years.

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This personal touch pays off as customers trust these brands as well as resellers when they display the booking amount long before a product is officially launched. The bragging rights and exclusivity factor that comes with being an early owner are powerful motivators.talk about the city

Exclusivity is the name of the game and brands are enticing their customers with previews and exclusive events that they claim money can’t buy (unless you buy the car, that is- to say). From track days for performance vehicles to behind-closed-doors previews for select customers, brands are working overtime to drive home the point of exclusivity.

BMW, for example, hosted a dinner with its brand ambassador, cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, in June 2019 to interest potential customers in an imported Bavarian car. “The brand proactively engages the individual by creating an emotional connection in a highly exclusive environment,” says Vikram Pawah, President of BMW Group India. “VVIP events and money-can’t-buy experiences provide the ideal atmosphere, mindset and pace for such engagement.”

The country’s top automaker has partnered with leading online platforms such as Google and Facebook, bringing global digital expertise to dealership teams.

There are even invitation-only clubs and bespoke experiences – like track days at the famous Nürburgring circuit or ice driving in the frozen wilderness in Sweden – to create a sense of exclusivity.
Word of mouth plays an equally important role in HNI circles, so brands are always willing to go the extra mile.

For example, as many Indian HNIs left for the UK to escape the worst of the pandemic, Mercedes-Benz ensured that its customers could test drive the GLS-Maybach even during their English retirement.

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Up to 45% of sales in this segment come from referrals, according to Santosh Iyer, vice president, sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India. Not surprisingly, the company has a dedicated four-person team that exclusively deals with HNI customer relations.

Targeted messages

While brands work hard to maintain existing relationships, they work harder to create new ones. Mass campaigns are prohibited for this segment. Ads focus on media that these customers are most likely to consume, such as pink-leaf newspapers and travel, leisure and lifestyle magazines.

One is unlikely to be spammed by an advertisement for a Rs 3 crore sports car, even online. Online ads are just as targeted and personalized, and brands use several tools for this.
“We use dynamic creative optimization on Google to deliver personalized advertising content and creative elements for the Audi A8, based on each of our customers’ shopping habits,” says Gaurav Sinha, Head of Public Relations and marketing at Audi India.

“Similarly, we use programmatic advertising to only bid on ad repositories that we deem suitable for premium advertising,” he adds.

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