'They’ve Got the Lambo-Mentality': Tonino Lamborghini CEO on Why China Loves Italian Style

    Tonino Lamborghini produces a variety of products including perfumes and 5-star hotels, and the Chinese market can’t get enough of the “Lambo” lifestyle.
    Courtesy photo
    Tamsin SmithAuthor
      Published   in Profile

    The Lamborghini name enjoys worldwide acclaim, and that includes within China, but it’s not just sports cars that are enchanting Chinese consumers these days. Italian style has led Tonino Lamborghini (a separate business from the car company) to grow a lucrative luxury lifestyle brand over the years -- one that now produces everything from watches, eyewear, and smartphones to perfumes and 5-star hotels, and the booming Chinese market can’t seem to get enough of the “Lambo” lifestyle.

    Their hotels have prospered across the country — with outposts in Suzhou, Kunshan, Huangshi, and Changde — and the company’s China market now represents 30 percent of their global sales, with that figure rising year-on-year. And despite owning a strong brand presence in China for over 30 years, Tonino Lamborghini just launched its first-ever WeChat account last month alongside a new collaboration with one of WeChat's major European partners, Digital Retex, opening the company up to the brave new world of online sales.

    CEO and heir to the Tonino Lamborghini empire, Ferruccio Lamborghini, spoke to Jing Daily about why China is so crucial to the company’s future and how Italian style came to resonate with new generations of Chinese consumers.

    Tonino Lamborghini may begin selling its luxury accessories through WeChat next year, according to CEO Ferruccio Lamborghini. Courtesy photo
    Tonino Lamborghini may begin selling its luxury accessories through WeChat next year, according to CEO Ferruccio Lamborghini. Courtesy photo

    How does the agreement with Digital Retex affect Tonino Lamborghini’s strategy in China?#

    The brand, created by my father and inspired by the values of our family, is very popular in China. For the past three decades, we have relied solely on our local partners to communicate our brand equity to Chinese customers. Today, it is not enough to operate in this way. We definitely need to control the Chinese digital channels with a more personalized and interactive approach.

    Because of this, we decided to start a strategic partnership with Digital Retex, who is a trusted partner of Tencent in Europe, and work with direct access to Tencent’s teams in Europe and China. We were looking for a multicultural team comprised of both Italian and Chinese native speakers who can understand how to create the perfect narrative around our brand’s history and philosophy while taking into consideration the different and varied dynamics of the Chinese market.

    After 30 years in China, why is now the time to launch on WeChat?#

    This year we have signed two new very important real estate projects for the construction of luxury residential and commercial buildings in China and Dubai, and almost entirely dedicated to a high-spending Chinese clientele. In January, we launched the first project in Beijing, and over the next 15 years, our Chinese partner will build luxury residential and commercial buildings in Zhengzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Hangzhou. In addition, last June, I announced a partnership with the Chinese app and mobile company Meitu for the creation of a new co-branded limited-edition smartphone.

    It is now urgent for our brand to be present on arguably the world's most powerful app, WeChat. Our official WeChat account will first enable us to interact directly with our Chinese followers by sending messages, info, and news. Next year, we will also explore the possibility of using WeChat to sell our products to Chinese customers directly via mobile.

    Do you have plans for any WeChat mini-programs or to work with brand ambassadors in China?#

    We believe that WeChat is the most effective way for Western brands to reach Chinese consumers directly. Through the WeChat platform, we first hope to interact and engage with them to increase our brand’s awareness, our heritage, and our philosophy. Second, we hope to promote our hotels and real estate projects in order to acquire new customers.

    There is simply no better way to attract and seduce the target [market] we are interested in: millennials with high spending power, who are attracted to luxury brands and spend an average of three hours a day online.

    In terms of brand ambassadors, we will definitely follow our Chinese partner’s suggestions. They know better than us who the most important local ambassadors are. But also, for a brand so closely linked to the family story and our history, my father, my sisters, and I are the perfect candidates for being the Tonino Lamborghini brand ambassadors worldwide.

    A rendering of Tonino Lamborghini's real estate project in Zhengzhou. Courtesy photo
    A rendering of Tonino Lamborghini's real estate project in Zhengzhou. Courtesy photo

    Why do you think the Lamborghini name resonates so well within the Chinese market?#

    Our worldwide target market is men between the ages of 35 [and] 50 years old, but my personal goal is to widen the age range of our consumer target, attracting young entrepreneurs between the ages of 25 [and] 40 years old.

    I think we are successful in China because there are so many young, dynamic, enterprising, people with what we call the special “Lambo-mentality” who are looking for top-class luxury.

    Many Chinese people love Italian brands with a special story and a very strong heritage. China's consumption of luxury fashion goods is among the highest in the world, and Chinese consumers are increasingly sophisticated, which is perfectly in line with the Italian lifestyle.

    What are your goals for the Chinese market over the next 10 years and who are your main competitors?#

    My plan is to make China the first market for all the products we are developing. It is a very big challenge, considering the fast growth of the country and the competition between local and international brands, but we have always loved a challenge!

    We are focusing our efforts in China with full force. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I can’t really think of a brand like ours. Apart from Porsche Design, which in many ways shares our automobile heritage and design philosophy, I find it very hard to mention a real competitor.

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