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Why ‘surprise and delight management’ is more important than CRM at Ferrari


Why ‘surprise and delight management’ is more important than CRM at Ferrari


Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth shares the great lengths to which one of the world’s most prestigious brands will go to serve its customers.

This article originally appeared in The Serve Issue, our October/November 2017 print edition of Marketing magazine.

Herbert Appleroth 3 copyCRM. Customer relationship management. I can already anticipate your yawn when you read this headline. Perhaps this is more of a ‘me’ thing rather than a ‘you’ thing, but I love CRM. Yes, you read it correctly, I love  CRM!

Please hear me out.

What is CRM? According to the world’s most revered and trusted sources of information – Wikipedia (cough, cough) – CRM is “an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth”.

Opinions are like elbows – nearly everyone has two of them. No doubt it is the same when marketers describe their definition of CRM. For Ferrari, CRM is less about systems and the creation of stored information of customer names and addresses. For us, CRM is more about surprising and delighting our clients. Like any marketer, I’d like to now create my own acronym to describe how I define CRM: SDM, for ‘surprise and delight management’.

That’s not intended to in any way underplay the great work of all those software engineers, clearly much smarter than me, who create these beautiful silos of code. Of course, we must have the system with the right data, at the right time, but as a marketer it is what you do with that information that counts.

Question: how much do we know and care about the client or prospective client?

The job we have as marketers is to define how we can use these beautiful silos of code to surprise and delight every current and prospective client. The ‘we’ for Ferrari being every sales, marketing and aftersales staff member in our global dealer network, our regional offices or within our headquarters and factory based in Maranello, Italy.

Our task is never an easy one – and it shouldn’t be if we are to delight our clients and prospective clients. They already have access to the best of everything. Accordingly, we must go beyond satisfying our clients and be truly focused on surprising and delighting them instead.



Our brand, Ferrari, is not about numbers and data; Ferrari is a community, a family. I would argue that we have a closer, more intimate relationship with our clients than most other luxury brands. Ferrari is a passionate brand driven by emotion and ultimately based on a desire rather than a need.

Just like any family, Ferrari’s community of clients is made up of many unique and interesting personalities that often wish to interact with us as though they are the only member of the family that counts. In a normal family, it is blood that is the common bond. In the Ferrari family, the common bond is the passion for beautiful, hand-made dream machines.

It is this culture that we try to foster, creating aspirations, and satisfying dreams. So how do we satisfy the dreams of all our unique family members? Ultimately, it is by creating a unique one-to-one contact and activities plan for every single Ferrari owner, as though they are the only client that we have. So, while Ferrari ownership is the common bond linking our family members, CRM acts as the system of veins that assists
in organising, directing and igniting the passion of our Ferrari family.



Enzo Ferrari always believed that we should produce at least one fewer Ferrari than the demand, so we have always had a culture of exclusivity. Due to our level of demand always outstripping supply, there is always a healthy and sometimes protracted waiting period when ordering a Ferrari. For the best things in life you often must wait. Accordingly, we have designed a unique set of privileges designed to calm the most impatient of our family members.

Ultra-high-net-worth individuals are not used to waiting. These privileges are personalised and unique – made specifically just for that one family member. Examples could be receiving a hand-made, perfectly scaled model replica of their bespoke Ferrari as they wait to receive the real thing off the production line; or a hand signed letter from our president welcoming them to the Ferrari family; exclusive access to our Ferrari Magazine, only available to Ferrari clients; or perhaps an invitation to visit and tour our famous factory in Maranello and a one-to-one session with one of our designers in our ‘Tailor Made’ atelier suite. Money can’t buy experiences that surprise and delight.


Delight beyond management

For many years CRM was simply about having clients’ information stored in one large data silo. Marketers would manage their clients’ data for that one time when they wanted to reach out and sell something. Should a brand just manage their clients or strive to go beyond?

The buzzword currently is ‘engagement’; however, in most instances this is simply a calculation of the client base that marketers reached out to touch, via either a simple social media post or an invitation to an event. Brands nowadays must not just manage, not just engage. Our CRM allows us to build a one-to-one relationship and delight every one of our clients, each and every time.

Our family members have very high expectations and they are absolutely entitled to expect to be surprised and delighted in every experience with Ferrari. They have access to the finest goods and experiences in the world.

To surprise and delight, we provide each family member with a tailored event schedule based on their likes and dislikes. For Ferrari is not just about beautiful fast cars, Ferrari is also about experiences. The individual client’s tailored event schedule is based on qualitative research and involves gaining knowledge on what they truly love in life. If we are going to occupy one hour, one day or even one week of these busy people’s valuable time, then it must be with an experience that surprises and delights them.

Some examples of these Ferrari Esperienze (experiences) include being flown interstate to a secret destination, then being transported by helicopter, driving along some of the most picturesque roads in Australia, enjoying a seven-course degustation meal and staying overnight at the luxury Wolgan Valley resort. Other Ferrari clients were invited to be among the first in the world to see the new Ferrari GTC4Lusso at a black-tie event in Italy, dining in a private castle on Lake Como in the presence of our F1 drivers.

For those who appreciate luxury travel and fine dining, we developed the recent Ferrari Esperienza driving the latest Ferrari models through Italy, Austria and Switzerland – giving the opportunity to enjoy not only Ferrari cars on iconic roads like Stelvio Pass, but also Michelin Star dining every night.

For our sports fans, we organised a Ferrari convoy to travel to the stunning country property of a former Australian cricket captain for an exclusive lunch and a game of backyard cricket. Enzo Ferrari always used to say “different Ferrari for different Ferraristi” and this also relates to providing different Ferrari experiences for different Ferraristi. While the experiences may differ, the result must be the same: surprise and delight.



The ways brands communicate with their clients has now changed forever due to the emergence of digital platforms. Digital, when it is part of CRM, allows all clients to engage directly with the right people at the right time and, most importantly, when the clients want information. Essentially, communication flows have flipped around from brand-to-client push, to client-to-brand pull.

Ferrari family members can now dip in and dip out of our information stream when they decide. Information travels around the world in nanoseconds and accordingly brands, smart brands particularly, are being forced to respond in the same digitally fast way. One personal example was from June this year when I noticed on our Ferrari Australasia Facebook account a message arrived at 8.03pm from a Ferrari family member who wished to speak with our aftersales manager.

I responded at 8.36pm, introducing myself, commencing a conversation and advising that I personally wished to assist him. To say that he was more than surprised that I personally responded to Facebook messages after eight o’clock at night would be an understatement. The next day I called this client and resolved his matter.

Surprise and delight.

Due to the digital revolution, smart brands are now also revelling with new customer insights like never before and now communicate directly with their final clients, bypassing normal retail hierarchies. If brands can capture these insights as part of their CRM universe, a true one-to-one relationship can be built. At Ferrari, we were among the first adopters in the digital space and now our task is to ensure our digital platforms, including social channels, form part of CRM.

Another challenge we all face with so many ‘sources’ where clients can digest information is how to make it easy for our family members to seek true Ferrari information. Not to be overwhelmed and not be exposed to ‘fake news’. We are currently developing an intelligent and market leading customer app, which will provide our family members with one location to engage with Ferrari, when they want and how they want.

Importantly, this will be all integrated with our CRM system. Of course, no matter how important digital platforms are, nothing replaces the interaction of two human beings, particularly when one is a Ferrari family member.



For CRM to truly be successful, it must have the buy-in of every single team member, no matter their area of competence. CRM is not something reserved just for marketers. They may be the administrators of the process and system, but every member of any brand’s team must appreciate and be part of the CRM process.

Our clients are the most important assets we have. Even when you have a brand that has been twice voted the ‘World’s Most Powerful Brand’ and your products have consistently won international awards over the course of 70 years. To achieve excellence in everything we do, CRM is so very important. As Enzo Ferrari used to say, “When buying a Ferrari, you pay for an engine and the rest comes for free.” That’s why I love Ferrari and why I love CRM. Or, more precisely, SDM. Forza Ferrari!

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