Dany Bahar led the launch of the Formula 1 teams, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, and from 2007 to 2009 he was Senior Vice President Commercial and Brand at Ferrari, after which he became CEO of Group Lotus, a term which ended in 2012 after the parent company was taken over.
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Early 2013 Dany Bahar was approached to invest in a new automotive coach-building company. At the time based in Vienna, Dany was quick to realise the potential of the business and take a more direct and hands-on approach with regards to leading the vision and strategy of what was to become ARES, and today the company’s Founder and CEO shares five valuable tips on how to build your brand.
- Understand your brand
It’s an obvious point, but each brand needs to be treated as an individual. One of the best analogies I can think of for established brand development is child-rearing – I see a brand as a living thing. Established brands such as Ferrari and Red Bull require a different approach to new businesses such as ARES. Launching a new brand is different again, it’s far less predictable and really doing your homework on the market is essential. With ARES we spotted a gap in the luxury automotive sector to create truly bespoke, hand-crafted automobiles works of art completely tailored to the needs of our very individual clients – we saw our chance and we took it. So far it’s really paying off.
- Know your market
A fundamental rule in successful brand development is knowing your audience, second to that is knowing how they like to be spoken to and then finding intelligent and exciting ways to engage with them. One of my challenges at Ferrari was to open the brand up to a wider affluent youth market, to make it accessible yet still retain its aspirational core. We did this by completely rethinking the way we launched cars, I was responsible for the first ever digital launch and I had a hand in leading the car development to become more client-focused. Innovative merchandising also played a huge part in increasing brand appeal which brought great financial returns in a previously underexploited sector.
- Be prepared to evolve
I’m a huge believer in bringing your brand to the people and letting them experience it first hand. I’m not a fan of traditional advertising – it has its place, but for me, you can’t beat a hands-on experience. Let people feel your product and really touch the brand, your clients should have the opportunity to meet the people behind the product and become immersed in its values. The feedback you get from people through these experiences directly influences and shapes the way the brand grows. It’s essential to know how to communicate your brand effectively and make it accessible, the style, tone and language you use in different territories need to be simultaneously true to the brand whilst appealing to its clientele. Someone once said: it’s the people who define the brand, not the brand that defines the people – I live by this.
- Be dynamic
I’m no stranger to taking risks, some pay off more than others and the lessons you learn when risks don’t pay off are equally important as the sense of satisfaction you get when it works. When Red Bull started in F1, no one paid real attention. Four drivers’ and constructors’ championships later and Red Bull Racing is part of the F1 furniture. Motorsport was an easy fit but football was considered a ‘no go’ when I arrived, but we put together a great business case for it and now it has become one of their most effective brand communication tools. One of the challenges of working with an established brand is finding that fine balance between staying true to the core values and also moving with the times and leading the future.
- Trust your instincts
This is probably one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the business, trust your gut instinct. Knowing your market is one thing but being able to predict and anticipate its needs is another skill altogether and this ability fascinates me. I question everything and so nothing about the brand building is black or white. Which comes first – the product or the brand? The answer depends entirely on the situation. Many people miss opportunities through fear of failure. Be brave, your mistakes make you, everything else is a bonus.