Lamborghini is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In Hong Kong, the brand has recently run a large branding and charity event featuring parade of its supercars.
We had pictured the brand's marketing head as a tan, perhaps arrogant Latin male with a combed-back hairstyle and a thick Continental accent (think Antonio Banderas). So it was a nice surprise to meet Lee, a friendly Hong Kong local who is the first woman to hold the position.
What was your first job? How did you get into Lamborghini Hong Kong?
After I got my bachelor of business administration degree in marketing at HKUST [the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology], I spent seven years in the telecoms industry and have worked with PCCW as the channel account manager.
After that, I joined the Hong Kong Jockey Club as owners relationship manager, responsible for handling all marketing activities and initiatives for horse owners.
I then joined Lamborghini Hong Kong as marketing manager. This year I was promoted to general manager of marketing for Lamborghini Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Who buys Lamborghinis in Hong Kong? What does the buyer profile look like?
Our buyer profile is quite mixed, from professionals and entrepreneurs to celebrities, aged around 45 years old. Over 95 per cent are male.
It is a highly luxury and niche market. How do you identify prospective buyers? How do you communicate with them?
We have our existing CRM database. We love doing small group dinners where we do brand presentations and product displays. Recently, we partnered with companies like JP Morgan, Blancpain and Poggenpohl.
What is the price range for Lamborghinis in Hong Kong?
The price ranges from US$435,804 to $938,657.
Who would you consider your competition? Is it other luxury car brands, or are you competing with boats, apartments or jewellery?
Our direct competitors are Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren and Maserati. I don’t feel we have many indirect competitors; if people want to buy a super sports car, mostly as a second car, they are switching between Lamborghini and Ferrari.
Historically, Ferrari and Lamborghini have always been bitter rivals. How would you explain the difference between the two brands to the lay person?
Lamborghini has three brand values: Italian, extreme and uncompromising. Ferrari has a lot more products and a much shorter production cycle.
Lamborghini focuses on the enhancement of our existing products and technology. Our engine sound is deeper.
Ferrari has a 50 per cent more market share than Lamborghini in Hong Kong.
Lamborghini is planning to introduce an SUV (the Urus). Do you think that will be good for business and fits the brand?
The Urus SUV concept is a concept car only and there is no clear timeframe for its production. It would be quite a big step, but we don’t have any news about that.
Would Lamborghini launch a cheap, entry-level car model as Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar did?
No, we have no plans to go that way. We don’t want to have unclear market positioning to launch cheaper car models to increase our market share.
How is business? Have you been affected by the global financial crisis or the mainland austerity push?
A little bit, not not as much as we thought, touch wood. The import tax in Hong Kong is 115 per cent, which is crazy, hence our cars are very expensive for end users.
Do you struggle as a woman to market a brand that predominantly caters to a male market?
I am the first-ever female marketing GM for Lamborghini Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as they wanted to bring some female essence to the brand. As the brand is very detail-minded in terms of everything from planning to execution, being a woman is an advantage. As I spend most of my time in negotiating with media, talking to brand partners and in event organisation, as a woman, it is always easier to build a rapport.
We sell our lifestyle and brand values, instead of just engine and performance. That makes it easier and has made me stay for three years. The only thing that is a bit of a disadvantage is people may think guys knew more about engines and stuff.
I love the brand, it is a very cool brand. If my boss wanted me to focus on just engine and performance, I would quit.
Where can people drive such a fast car in highly congested Hong Kong?
Our super sports cars have V10 and V12 engine and can go up to 350kph. As our car owners are law-abiding citizens, they will never reach that speed in Hong Kong.
There are about 180 active Lamborghini owners in Hong Kong. We organise Sunday morning drives to the airport. There is also the Zhuhai International racing circuit, which is the nearest to Hong Kong.
We are organising a 'winter academy' for our members in Queenstown, New Zealand in July, which is an adventure driving expedition on snow.
We are also exploring a track driving event at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, which is in my marketing roadplan for 2014 .
Is Lamborghini just all about speed?
Whenever you are driving a Lamborghini, you would attract lots of attention from passersby, as if you were some sort of celebrity.
Is Aaron Kwok your brand ambassador?
Aaron Kwok is a super sports car fan and one of our major customers, but I won’t say he is our brand ambassador. Lamborghini is very sensitive about associating with celebrities, even in Hollywood. If they do some bad things, then it would really harm our brand. Our official brand ambassador is the comic book character Batman.
Lamborghini does not use a lot of advertising in Hong Kong and China, but rather relies on exclusive events and PR. Will that also be the brand's approach in the coming years?
TVC is for the mass segment; our products are not targeting the mass segment, but the affluent. We do some product video teasers and show them at events, and are starting to use Facebook to engage with our targets.
What are the challenges in organising your marketing events in Hong Kong?
Finding suitable venues is the biggest problem, we need a venue that has access for our cars, but is not too far away for our VIPs. So we often have to do it in hotel ballrooms, unlike other cities such as Singapore, which still have some cool historical buildings. We often use lighting for the wow factor in Hong Kong.
What are the major changes in the super sports car market compared to 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, when you were talking about super sports cars, you got Ferrari and Lamborghini only, but in recent years you have got more brands like McLaren. There are more choices and every brand is pushing harder, the market situation is more severe now.
China is a golden egg for many international luxury brands. Lamborghini buyers in China are much younger than in other markets? How does that influence the marketing and communication strategy?
The purchasing power in China is very strong, but from my observation, the second generation of the nouveau riche have already brought whatever luxury brands and products they wanted two years ago. Now customers want to know what the brand stands for. It is much harder to do business in China now.
Lamborghini has an Italian brand and is now owned by VW Group, whose German and Italian style and personality are very different. Does the brand has any identity crisis?
VW Group has acquired many car brands like Porsche, Bentley, Audi, Bugatti… but they give lots of freedom to each brand, whether it is management, product cycle or development’.
We are still a very loud brand. Lamborghini celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year with the wild Egoista concept car. Egoista means selfish in Spanish. It is a one-seat only super car, which is more like a spaceship.
Ferrari's logo is a horse, Jaguar's is a wild cat, why does Lamborghini use a raging bull?
The founder Ferruccio Lamborghini’s star sign was Taurus, hence all our brands’ names are associated with bullfighting.
What do you do to get inspired?
I read lots of high society and lifestyle magazines like Tatler, Prestige and Campaign, and attend events to talk to partners.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love shopping and travelling. I love Seattle as my fiancé is from there. I also love Beijing for its impressive historical architecture.
If you win the Mark Six Lottery, what crazy idea would you like to do?
I would go to a cooking school like a Blue Ribbon School [Le Cordon Bleu] in Paris, learn the trade seriously, then become an owner of a private kitchen restaurant serving only two tables per night.