Marketing a car can be tricky when you plan to sell only 100 and the least expensive model goes for more than $200,000.
Prestige brands such as Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari often opt for little or no conventional media advertising to reach their deep-pocketed pros-pects.
Lamborghini, with a new U.S. distributor, is shying away from advertising this year. In January, Santa Ana, Calif., Lamborghini dealer Vic Keuylian acquired distribution rights for the Italian brand from Lambor-ghini USA Inc.
Keuylian said that unlike in past years, he does not expect any national print ads in 1998 for the cars.
'Every car we get is already sold, so, fortunately for us, I don't think we have to advertise ,' said Keuylian, who expects to sell 100 Lamborghinis in the United States this year. Their starting price: $229,900.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Inc.'s 1997 print ads in Forbes effectively reached targeted customers, said John Bingham, national marketing director.
But this year, Rolls refocused efforts on event marketing to tout a new model and reach an even more targeted audience. Mullen of Wenham, Mass., handled the account until Rolls moved its advertising in-house in 1996 and primarily did print ads.
Consuming all of Rolls' 1998 marketing attention is the Silver Seraph sedan, launched last month in four cities with events at art galleries, art museums and high-end restaurants. Rolls invited about 250 prospects to each event, which featured an opera singer and all eight other car models Rolls has made during its history.
'Silver Seraph is more than a car, and we didn't want to launch it in a dealer showroom,' Bingham said. 'We wanted to position it alongside some art.'
He credited the program with bringing in just fewer than 100 orders for the 350 Silver Seraphs that will be sold in North America this year via Rolls' 40 dealers. The car is Rolls' first new model in 18 years and starts at $216,400.
Later this year, Bentley will launch its new Arnage model. Bentley's advertising is also handled in-house, and its ad tag last year was 'You don't park it. You position it.'
Rolls' and Bentley's British parent, Vickers PLC, spent $372,100 in measured media in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Bingham projected the Bentley brand also would sell about 350 cars this year in North America. He estimated the North American market for prestige vehicles is 19,000 units. The market is about 65,000 globally, he said.
Baby boomers, now arriving at their peak earning years, are fueling sales in the segment, said Adam Stagliano, president of Weiss, Whitten, Stagliano, the New York agency that handles Ferrari North America Inc.
When Weiss Whitten won that account in 1994, the Italian brand sold about 450 cars annually in the United States. Now it sells about 845. Its least expensive Spyder model starts at $125,000.
The four-seat 456, priced at about $225,000, is extending the brand and Ferrari's image to new customers, Stagliano said.
Ferrari, known for two-seat sports cars, advertises in print only - mainly in Fortune, Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. One of the marketer's main communication vehicles is Rosso, a quarterly sent to owners and former owners. Ferrari spent $111,300 in measured media in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
'Relationship marketing is the priority,' Stagliano said. 'A large percentage of Ferrari owners are people who owned Ferraris before.'
After winning the account, Weiss Whitten refocused on the brand's racing mystique.
'Ferrari builds a great race car people can buy vs. a big car company that happens to race,' Stagliano said.
Creative strategy is to show the art of the cars in both performance and design.
Ferrari does not bother with a tag line in its advertising.
'A tag line is redundant,' Stagliano said. 'Ferrari is its own tag line.'