a simultaneous passion for traditions and innovation

I stayed three nights at a family run hotel in Modena; the hotel has a garden setting, traditional rooms, and located just on the outskirts of Modena – not far from the Enzo Ferrari Museum. The intent was to drive to the various car museums and catch a taxi when I wanted to visit the historic centre. For those who are not aware – Italian historic cities can be difficult to navigate [and expensive if you make a wrong turn] and parking is always a problem as many people live in the cities. To make matters worse, local councils have so many signs – and whilst this may be helpful for locals  it is a total nightmare for tourists – determining which one of the 30 signs is the most important was a constant challenge. I must admit that I have created the odd queue of impatient cars as I have tried to make sense of the rules.

To get my bearings in Modena I took a drive to the Enzo Ferrari museum and purchased the tickets for the two Ferrari museums and a factory tour. I have been to the Ferrari museums in Maranello before and because it was only three years before my memory was still quite fresh. I also had a good collection of photographs to refer to. However, as a marketing practitioner and academic, I have great admiration for brands that have faced a ‘near death experience’ and through the quality of their product and their brand management have come back even stronger.

The next morning after a delicious continental breakfast I headed to the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena. The museum is built around the original workshop of Enzo’s father – Alfreddo Ferarri. The original workshop has been beautifully restored externally it is in brick finish with a light terracotta stucco and a series of arched windows, internally it has white rendered walls and exposed timber beams and a light grey epoxy floor. The museum contains the history of Enzo Ferrari and a collection of different types of cars, speed-boats, and engines. Next door to Alfreddo Ferrari’s workshop is the ultra-modern Museum. The glass front of the modern museum faces the original factory and the result is an entrance-courtyard that on one side is traditional whilst on the other it is ultra-modern.

When you look at the modern museum the original workshop is reflected in the glass. I guess this is a metaphor for the Ferrari brand – an obsession with the maintenance of the Ferrari traditions and history and obsession with the quest for best –  to respect the past yet to be at the forefront of innovation.

One of the most impressive features of the modern museum is that the museum roof has been designed like the bonnet of a yellow Ferrari car – complete with air intakes. The uniqueness of the roof is not apparent from ground level; therefore, to get a good photograph of the Ferrari roof I asked the owner of an apartment in a nearby apartment block if he could take me to the apartment rooftop. He and his wife were retired and their apartment was on the ground floor, it had a 40m2 vegetable garden, nevertheless, one of the most productive small gardens you could imagine. They knew that it was cheaper to buy their vegetables, however, it was their way of maintaining the quality of what they ate and it was their hobby. Guido had a brother who lived in Australia – Carlton; he had visited his brother enjoyed Australia ‘bella’ and was happy to help someone from Australia – even if it was a strange request. The caretaker of the apartment block had the key to the roof top terrace and the three of us made our way up to the roof. We all agreed that the Ferrari building had an interesting roof and with my photographs taken we made our way down to ground level and we bid our goodbyes. Guido’s aproned wife with her wooded spoon in hand was preparing lunch and smell of the pasta [tomato, onion, and basil] sauce bubbling away on the stove. As I walked back to the Enzo Ferrari Museum I was reminded of the conversation I had with Tristan Connell [Peroni Beer advertisements] about the two Italys and realized that I was now walking between the two. The everyday Italy of the pasta sauce and the stylish Italy of Ferrari.

Walking into the Enzo Ferrari museum is like entering another world – as you would expect – it a study of perfectionism.  The staff are dressed like the Ferrari racing team pit crew; they have, obviously, been chosen for their relaxed manner and pleasant disposition. The lady who helped us with our tickets the previous day gave us a lovely smile of recognition, then provided an overview and suggested a few key exhibits. It was quite obvious that the staff are employed to ensure strict standards of visitor behaviour; including respect for the cars; what was impressive was the manner that they undertook their duties. They, unlike many of the staff in public museums, were not sitting in a corner attending to their smartphones or huddled together in a private conversation avoiding visitors, or dressed in clothing that needed a visit to a drycleaner, or contributing to the cigarette butt collection at the entrance of the building. Quite the opposite they behaved in a manner that was appropriate with the Ferrari brand. They wander around sometimes polishing the cars, taking photographs for visitors and promoting the Ferrari pit-crew uniform [including sponsors]. The cars are presented on individual small stages, after all these are the stars of the show. The cars are raised off the ground as if floating. I also suspect this is to ensure that they are not touched.

The history of the cars is outlined on storyboards located on the floor to keep a minimalist perspective, many of the cars in the Enzo Ferrari Museum are “movie or television stars” – product placement and celebrity adoption is an important part of Ferrari’s history. There are a 270o movies every 45 minutes; one that showcases the cars and the movies and another that provides a snapshot of Enzo Ferrari’s life. There were about 40 children in the museum that day and the staff brought them all together and sat them on the floor in front of the movie. I thought what a great example of crowd control. Meanwhile, the movies rolled on and the Ferrari story is embedded in another generation. Every museum has a shop and the Enzo Ferrari museum is no exception – all things Ferrari. Visitors may not be able to afford a Ferrari but the can be involved in the brand through Ferrari souvenirs.

After a big day looking at Ferraris, I spent the evening in the city of Modena. Given that this was Italy it was strange to have a beer in an Irish Pub – have you noticed that the world is now full of Irish pubs – to go up to a bar in an Irish pub and order ‘due birre per piacere’ is kind of weird – but this little Irish Pub was packed. Then I walked to the centre square [Piazza Grande, a UNESCO World Heritage site], it is well worth visiting at any time of the day. In the evening there are restaurants and cafes and during the day there are also many fine retail shops. After a short walk I found a place to eat. Italy has a thing about football [soccer] and often restaurants have flat screen TVs tuned to the football. 

Every once in a while a bunch of local youths would wander in to the restaurant to have a look at the score, then they would make their way back to the square to wander around and try to look cool and check out their reflections in the shop windows. Every once in a while they would try to attract the local girls walking past – this ‘showing off’ was followed by checking out their reflections in the shop windows and then checking out the football score – a big night in Modena.

The next day it was off to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. I think it is fair to say that the names Maranello and Ferrari are intertwined.

Enzo Ferrari moved his factory from Modena to Maranello after the original factory was bombed during the second world war. Although it is home to the Ferrari factory and the Ferrari museum there are many businesses that supply components surrounding the factory.

I have been to Maranello before and that time the town felt a little unFerrari – a little tacky – this time, 3 years later it was considerably tackier. Today, the town is a sea of red and yellow and Ferrari logos. I don’t think it is Ferrari that is causing the problem I think it is most likely the businesses trying to hire cars – consumers can hire a Ferarri for an hour. Personally, I don’t think it would be a particularly pleasant place to live with the noise of the hire cars revving and cruising – I love the sound of the Ferrari but I think that the constant noise would drive you mad after a while – well it would certainly annoy me. I walked around the town for a while and it reminded me of the street sellers in Bali – ‘you from Australia – you want Rolex’.

The museum at Maranello is bigger than the Enzo Ferrari Museum at Modena. There are many more visitors and although the service was polite at all times it did not have the same intimacy of Modena. Having said that, I observed a young female shop assistant dealing with a disabled customer and I was truly impressed by her patience and caring attitude as she helped the chap weight up his choices and negotiate his decision. Italian sales staff can certainly teach the world about respect for those a little less fortunate.

The Maranello museum is very impressive from the F1 racing car art at the entrance and throughout the museum. Whilst the cars are the stars, the legends of Ferrari are also acknowledged from the drivers through to the designers and engineers. Ferrari encourages visitors to take photographs and I am certain the posting of photographs on social media amplifies their social media campaign.

Ferrari are very particular with the way their brand is presented and this attention to detail has contributed to it being acknowledged as one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Clearly, Ferrari has a distinct, distinguishable, and discernable brand identity; to me, Ferrari is one of the best examples of branding.

It is stating the obvious – Ferrari exemplifies the importance of understanding brand identity and brand equity.

I am certain, from my observations and eavesdropping, in the cafeteria at Ferrari, that many of the people walking through the Ferrari museums imagine what it would be like to own a Ferrari, however, with production numbers restricted by the manufacturing process, very few ever will. For many visitors, particularly parents with children, making the trip to the Ferrari museum will be an expensive exercise, a glimpse into another world, and many will go home with a souvenir from the gift shop – others will buy the Ferrari branded products at the street markets to save money. Many young Ferrari fans will buy a Ferrari poster and hang it in the bedrooms and fantasise about the envy they will generate and the admiration they will receive – one day.

In marketing there are always exceptions. The Ferrari example highlights that brand identity and brand equity are quite different concepts. It is also apparent, that having almost universal brand recognition and a positive brand identity may not equate to market share; if the product is positioned beyond the reach of most consumers. Many will know the Ferrari legend and many may pass on their photographs and selfies but will this activity result in the sale of a motor car? – one could only speculate. However, the Ferrari brand identity is partly about how this car is beyond the reach of all but a few wealthy clients.

If Ferrari ramped up production would the brand identity remain intact? – possibly not. And then would tourists make the pilgrimage to Modena and Maranello – not likely.

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