A magical brand experience at Porsche.
The little things make all the difference.
I’m into cars, the feeling of speed and the primeval feeling a thrust of power in your back gives you when you accelerate hard.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Porsche Factory in Stuttgart for a specification trip for Porsche’s new hybrid hypercar, the 918. I’m not going to bore you with performance stats, but as a brand experience, it was absolutely magical.
I’ve never been as excited about Porsche as I have about some of the more majestic and evocative marques such as Ferrari or Aston Martin. On a scale of function – emotion, Porsche as a brand will always sit closer to function so I’ll admit my expectations were prejudiced. They make cars that work exceptionally well but do they set my heart racing quite like the slightly tinny-tone of a highly-tuned Ferrari engine and the famous blood-red paint work? No.
I was fully expecting the factory to be a pristine, surgically clean, efficient and precise automated masterpiece of engineering. It was.
What I wasn’t expecting was to feel honoured to have seen something so unique and special. And certainly not to have such a swell of emotion that tears welled up in my eyes.
Now this is no ordinary brand experience like walking into a high street shop. This experience is reserved for the 918 lucky customers worldwide who have bought one of these cars (it’s a limited production run of 918). Porsche fly you in from wherever you are in the world in business class, pick you up and drive you around in several of their cars and put you up in a nice hotel.
But the important bit is the day at the factory. That’s where the real brand experience happens. At Elephants Can’t Jump, we measure every brand touchpoint on a scale from dysfunctional – magical. Everything from the soap in the toilets to the sound the door makes when it clunks shut or the glasses water is served in, to the way the central console lights up like some intergalactic spaceship when you turn the car on has an impact on your perception of the brand and your experience overall.
It’s clear that no expense is spared on woo-ing these high-net-worth customers into the brand – they even have little Porsche jelly sweets in the shape of the car itself.
However, I had an experience that I feel transcended any that I’ve had before. Let along being one of the privileged few allowed into the factory where these cars are made (even most of the Porsche employees themselves will never see this room) but as we entered this unassuming room in the oldest part of the Porsche complex, bright white headlights flicked on directly ahead of us, blinding us temporarily and the latest car rolled off the production line straight towards us. It was under its electric power so no engine noise but the screech of the brand new tyres on the high gloss acrylic-covered concrete floor filled the area with a load, aggressive, sticky crackle. Never underestimate the impact of a multisensory experience. Space is at a premium so we had to take a step backwards as the car turned right in front of us to reposition so it could reverse into the car lift and away for delivery. As it swung past us the industrial strip lighting picked up every single contour or the smooth, swooping lines and curves on the glistening grey bodywork. It was an automotive peacock display if ever there was one.
It seemed almost too perfect to not be choreographed.
And then it hit me.
All the history, the expectation, everything that has been written and said about this car, the landmark nature of it in automotive history, the precision and human effort that has gone into designing and making it, being allowed to be there and see it happen with my own eyes, the fact that moment was so special and unique, that it wasn’t actually choreographed for our arrival and just luck all welled up inside me. The emotion was so strong that it brought a tear to each eye. From then on the lunch, the specification salon with the excellent concierge, the free entry to the Porsche museum, even sitting in the car itself, paled into insignificance.
It’s the little things that make all the difference.
We could have just walked in and seen that car at the last point on the production line – the final meticulous check of every square millimetre of paintwork and double check of each function – and admired it, but we saw it move, that snapshot when it is finally complete, 0 miles on the clock and ready to drive. Quite literally ‘brand new’.
For a brand I’d seen as so cold, efficient and precise, it was the human elements that really made the difference. Meeting the people at each stage building this amazing vehicle, thinking about the designers who’d imagined it, realising my admiration for the operations team who’d worked out the process to put it all together seamlessly, experiencing a technological marvel being created in front of my eyes, touching it, feeling it, hearing it and understanding what the whole project meant to every single person at Porsche.
What’s more, the concierge had found out that it was actually my birthday that day. As we were preparing to leave, she offered an unexpected gift to me, something to take home. She didn’t have to do that at all. The little touches make all the difference.
Has it changed my perception of Porsche brand vs. the Ferrari’s of this world? Undoubtedly it has. If only they could offer this kind of experience to more people… But if they did that it wouldn’t feel so special or have such an impact. It wouldn’t have been as magical as it had been.
Oh how I’d love to go on the same experience for La Ferrari and see the difference between how the two brands approach such an experience.
What’s true of this car is that the future of the motor industry has to change and is changing. This car is about the future and goes a long way to safeguarding all those feelings of speed, power and performance. It is the pinnacle of automotive technology and had a brand experience to match.