With a sustainable investment worth £2.5 billion Bentley aspires to transform its entire product portfolio, into a next-generation, digital, flexible, and high-value manufacturing facility.
In a post-pandemic time, luxury carmakers are witnessing a rapid spike in sales. While the world’s wealthy are finally ready to give in to their postponed purchases, they’re now also looking for more convenient and sustainable options.
Bentley Motors has been setting the benchmark for sustainable and high-value automotive solutions. The company has already made strides by creating an industry-leading certified carbon neutral facility in the UK, in line with Bentley’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.
The Beyond100 strategy is an ambitious program, which commits Bentley to launch a new electric model each year, from 2025, redefining Bentley’s credentials as the benchmark manufacturer in sustainable luxury mobility.
Communicate sat down with Richard Leopold, Regional Director for UK and MEAI at Bentley to discuss the future of sustainable luxury automotive marketing and its localized marketing strategies for the MENA region.
How does Bentley market itself? What tech solutions are a good fit for a brand like Bentley?
Firstly, Bentley is not for everybody. It's clearly a niche brand, so, we don't use a traditional marketing or advertising approach. Our marketing strategy is about targeting the customers, finding out where they are, what they do, how do they spend their time, and trying to find the places of their interest. A lot of our marketing mix is event-based. We want to host special experiences, in places with activities that our consumers enjoy. For example, Polo, or even travel, are activities often associated with passion, therefore, we try to do events around those activities in the region. These events also have the highest conversion ratios in terms of affectivity.
We also use technology. One example is that have a Bentley network mobile application, it's for our customers. Once they own a Bentley, that's a great platform for them to share experiences. find each other and bond. It can sometimes get a bit lonely when you're quite wealthy. With this global network, of over 50,000 people, including followers and subscribers, we are also able to communicate about new products, events, travel trips, etc.
Particularly during the pandemic, we’ve been using virtual showrooms quite a lot. To think that someone would spend $2 million dollars on a car that they cannot touch and test with their own hands happened during the pandemic. Customers would spend hours examining cars online, talking to designers before making their decisions.
How does Bentley navigate this region’s consumer mindset - their values and purpose, especially in the context of the pandemic that accelerated this transformation?
Our customers in this region are comparatively more progressive, pushing us to change our values and become more inclusive as a brand. We've spent a lot of time now making sure that we embrace diversity because we have such a diverse customer base anyway. With its increased importance through the pandemic, our sustainability values have emerged to become critical to the brand and to its customers, thus, becoming a fundamental part of our Beyond 100 strategy. The Beyond 100 strategy focuses on transforming Bentley to become the most desirable and sustainable luxury car brand, and that's basically moving us all the way through to 2030, to have a fully electric portfolio.
So, these values have definitely made it to the top in the last two years and we're not concerned about them and we actually think they fit very well to Bentley. Moreover, our customers are asking us to go in that direction, in any case.
What sustainable practices or solutions is Bentley adapting?
There are different areas to look at, we certainly start with our footprint at the factory. To make sure that the process of building the cars is as efficient as it can be, we’ve installed the biggest solar installation in the UK. We also reduced our footprint, by about 80%, in the last five years,
While making the cars is a key part of it, working with our retailers is also crucial because that's where our customers interact. Globally, our ambition is to have a carbon-neutral network. We’ve already done that in the UK and by the end of this year, our aim is to have all of our retailers in the Middle East certified as carbon neutral as well.
What do brand convenience and flexibility mean in luxury automotive marketing? What do Bentley’s consumers expect from the brand?
Convenience is definitely a key value for our customers. Since they own multiple cars, when they choose a Bentley, it has to be really easy to use, in terms of the product, and the services it is offering. For example, particularly in this region, collection and delivery services are a demand. So, we make sure that if the car is requiring any service, it will be picked up, and then returned to the customers without any hassle. Over 90% of our customers choose that option.
In Dubai, for example, we’re also looking at making sure that we can do remote services in the future. An interface in the car will be able to diagnose the vehicle without the hassle of bringing the car to the workshop. So these are some of the things that we do today and some of the things that we're working on.
Another project we had in the US called ‘filled’, which reflected our commitment for a customer to never run out of fuel. Using the position of the vehicle with GPS and our interface, we could determine the level of the fuel gauge. As it dropped down, we sent a truck to fuel it. The algorithm only allowed the truck driver to access the fuel cap of the car but not the rest of it.
What are Bentley’s global and regional marketing activities and strategies? How are the regional ones different from your global approach?
Targeting the right audience is critical. We focus on what we call the ‘passion points’ of our customers, which refers to the activities they enjoy. Broadly, there are three such activities we tracked in the region, the first being real estate, the second is entertainment and the third one is wellness particularly since the pandemic has gained more traction.
With the pandemic, people have gone local, since the borders have been blocked. Moreover, because of more awareness around sustainability, people are more conscious, we have a better scope of high-end travel now. We try to create boutique travel experiences for our consumers, where they get access to places that can’t be bought, such as private clubs or residences. We also offer extraordinary drives to our customers, where customers are taken on a journey with their Bentley. Particularly in the Middle East, our customers enjoy equestrian polo, so we host events and activities during culturally relevant times, like Ramadan. We always try to connect with the values of our customers.
How do you market sustainable car solutions in the region?
A few years, everybody said that there's no chance for a region as oil-rich as the Middle East to see a rise in demand for hybrid, they said forget electric cars. But it's not so much about the fuel, It's actually the innovation that's important to the consumers. It's the next big thing for the future, and that’s why people buy electric vehicles. I’m sure we’ll see that with Bentley and I’m not worried about this transition to electric.
We’re coming with a fully electric in 2025. I think by then the car market will be mature. Some of the issues that we see in the infrastructure today will have been resolved by then, the timing is good. Between now and then we have an aggressive rollout of hybrid cars as well which I believe will be a good test for our customers. They will start feeling comfortable with the idea of electric cars.