Lamborghini vs Ferrari - A fascinating tale of brand revenge
Arrogance and ego have taken down the most powerful of people and dynasties in history right from King Louis XI to Napoleon Bonaparte. But rarely do people learn from history, and those who don't are bound to repeat it. Long ago, I had read about two such tales in the context of brands. I've been meaning to write a piece on them since a few weeks now, so here it goes.
Lamborghini vs Ferrari
This story begins in 1916, when Ferruccio was born to Andonio Lamborghini, a farmer. Ferrucio spent his early years running around his family farms, and while his parents worked, he wasn't particularly interested in the manual farming aspect of things. However, he loved machines. Even early on, he would try to repair farm tractor engines. His passion got him a job as a mechanic at the Italian Airforce during the World War II. Once the war ended, he continued following his passion by opening up a garage.
One day, while repairing a Fiat Topolino at the garage, he had his eureka moment. The idea was to buy old air-force engines and use them to manufacture tractors. By 1948, this idea had become so big that Ferruccio was the owner of one of Italy's largest tractor companies. You might be wondering so far this has all been about tractors, so where does the supercar Lamborghini come in? Through the tractor business, he earned enough money to start owning luxury cars and he eventually bought a Ferrari 250. Once while racing the Ferrari at a circuit, Ferruccio sensed a problem in the clutch and being the mechanic genius he was, he wanted to bring it to the notice of the company. But this was Ferruccio Lamborghini we are talking about. He went straight to Enzo Ferrari, the founder and the owner of the company.
When Enzo learned about Ferruccio's background, he passed a snide remark that Enzo was a tractor driver and didn't know how to handle a Ferrari. And while Enzo got the tractor part right, he didn't know about Ferruccio's innate mechanical and entrepreneurial abilities. Ferrucio vowed to avenge this insult, and burning with a deep desire to create something better, he started an automobile factory outside Bologna at St. Agata. To ensure that he was building the right team, he even bought 3 ex-Ferrari employees on board.
Left: Enzo Ferrari. Right: Ferruccio Lamborghini
By 1963, Lamborghini automobile had its first car ready - the 350 GTV! It was showcased at the auto expo in Turin and despite not having its engine in place (it was still not ready), the car's concept and design received a thumbs up from critics and auto enthusiasts alike. Lamborghini didn't stop there. They kept working on various prototypes and within 3 years, created the Miura in 1966. It came to be known as the first supercar of the world - a tag that even Ferrari hadn't received yet. Lamborghini continued producing its fleet of luxury supercars and even after all these decades has maintained its reputation, brand image, and quality.
Left: Ferruccio with his team, designing the engine of 350GT. Center: 350GT. Right: Miura
Over the years, Lamborghini has been the car of choice for the uber rich, and has been a symbol of panache, royalty, and excellent craftsmanship. Lamborghini's story teaches us some very valuable lessons -
Channel your rejections
Ferruccio could have either sulked or reacted with words and abuses. He chose to do neither, because he wanted to let his actions do the talking. This is also a huge lesson in patience. At times, we divulge our plans even before they materialize thereby giving the others to continuously scrutinize and highlight every small failure we encounter along the way. But Ferruccio quietly worked through his plans until he could.
Always be humble
This might sound like a lesson in moral philosophy but trust me, brands that were once mighty market leaders right from Nokia to Kodak have all fallen flat on their face, and the reason was arrogance. They felt like they were the best and therefore didn't need to change the status quo. However, market disruptors came with innovative technology and wiped them off. In the case of Ferrari, Enzo was always known to deal with the customers harshly. This is in stark contrast to what we practice as marketers today - "Customer first".
Enzo Ferrari was fortunate not to have his arrogance lead to his brand's downfall. However, it did end up creating a mighty competitor for his company in the form of Lamborghini.
Know of more such fun stories? Share them in the comments below.