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Ferrari’s Instagram clash

An Instagram post of a pair of Philipp Plein shoes on the bonnet of a Ferrari car
The Instagram post that Ferrari objected to

Philipp Plein with a Double P. Not Single. Designer from Germany. Makes a splash with his clothes and shoes. May be Philip is too ordinary. So it needs embellishment. Like Psmith. This was Wodehouse’s immortal introduction to the character – The P in his surname is silent (“as in pshrimp”, in his own words) and was added by himself, in order to distinguish him from other Smiths. A member of the Drones Club this monocle-sporting Old Etonian is something of a dandy, a fluent and witty speaker, and has a remarkable ability to pass through the most amazing adventures unruffled.

You haven’t heard of Philipp Plein? How’s that possible? His Instagram feed with 1.8 million ‘followers’ reinforces all the cliches about millionaires and their fast-paced lifestyles. A re-enactment of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in real life. It’s all there – casinos, yachts, filled with beautiful people. Sculpted, tattooed and toned bodies swaying on dance floors, splashing into ornate pools, and cheering in private boxes at football leagues. What could be more perfect? 

As BusinessOfFashion informs us, Sparing no expense to be memorable, the designer’s shows have featured full-scale rollercoasters, monster trucks, explosions, cage matches, and Jet Ski jousting. His extravagant shows are the work of Etienne Russo, the man behind major shows for Chanel, Moncler, and Hermès.

His kitschy website has more of the same – models glower at you from their made-up glory. You poor human being, you. Working at your sad, no-name desk. Needing the packaged excitement we provide at insane prices.

So where does Ferrari come in?

The official Instagram feed of Ferrari
The Official Ferrari Instagram feed

In some of the photographs from his feed, the Ferrari is a prop. Along with a Merc. Proclaiming his taste and ability to spend the big bucks. But then, he goes a couple of steps further. He takes his brand of shoes and frames them in a close-up with the Ferrari logo. Implying that these have the approval of the iconic brand.

That’s when things heated up. Ferrari claimed that his behavior ‘tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari further material damage’. A legal notice is sent and that ends up on Instagram as well. Meanwhile, Philipp Pleine is doing his best to make this about his right to free expression on social media.

He’s asked people to post photos of their shoes on their supercars. As if most of the world has a supercar parked in their garage waiting to be shown off. He hoped it would become another Ice Bucket Challenge or a Bottle opener social media storm. More like a drizzle, going by how quickly it faded out. But it did raise some interesting questions.

What percentage of brand value does the customer own?

A person holding a bottle of Coke against the background of a glacier
 Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
A person holding a bottle of Coke against the background of a glacier
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Zero. Can we assume that with every purchase, a customer contributes to brand value? And with repeat purchases, that value is driven higher? What do they get in return? The satisfaction of owning and using the product. If Philipp Plein owns the Ferrari and uses it as a prop to peddle his shoes, is he wrong?

Presumably, Ferrari would not object to the car being photographed in front of his million-dollar mansion. The problem is when it becomes a brand mascot for his shoes! Now, celebrities are paid to promote products. Their brand value is used to enhance the perception of a product. In this case, a paid-for Ferrari is used to promote a shoe. Hmm. Never had a situation where the brand is used as a celebrity endorser. Do you see where this is going?

Instagram is the Stage

Instagram Logo art
 Photo by lalo Hernandez on Unsplash
Instagram Logo art
Photo by lalo Hernandez on Unsplash

If the photographs had been in Philipp Plein’s private album and shared only with family and friends, this would never have been discussed. But Instagram is a social medium reaching millions of people every day. On television and in print, these photographs would not have been published. There were lines aspiring brands could not cross. The reputation of brands is protected by trademark law and it would have been enforced. But all’s fair in love and social media. Anyone can post, comment and make mash-ups. In an environment like this, where should the lines be drawn? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough if the case ends up in court. Ferrari would not have bothered if Philipp Plein did not have millions of followers. 

Instagram is the filtered, curated version of day to day living. It’s where everyone can aspire to be a celebrity. It has resulted in Instagram destinations, a form of tourism where Instagrammers want unusual, striking backdrops for their streams. After all, how many different ways can you pout? Especially from your best angle. So hotels are creating ‘Instagram’ oriented interiors, to attract this growing tribe. A social medium that started out as a way to create a stream of consciousness with photographs has transformed into a photostream that is set in real life but has very little connection to the actual travel experience. It is to put up pictures that use destinations as props and backdrops. We’ve come a long way from picture postcards to a form of portrayal that simply mimics aspiration. Iceland wants to cut the number of Instagrammers visiting the country after an ‘influencer with 300000 followers decided that he had to capture a volcanic lake as his backdrop. He got stuck in clay after driving off-road through clayey soil and had to be rescued. 

n how many different ways can you pout? Especially from your best angle. So hotels are creating ‘Instagram’ oriented interiors, to attract this growing tribe. A social medium that started out as a way to create a stream of consciousness with photographs has transformed into a photostream that is set in real life but has very little connection to the actual travel experience. It is to put up pictures that use destinations as props and backdrops. We’ve come a long way from picture postcards to a form of portrayal that simply mimics aspiration. Iceland wants to cut the number of Instagrammers visiting the country after an ‘influencer with 300000 followers decided that he had to capture a volcanic lake as his backdrop. He got stuck in clay after driving off-road through clayey soil and had to be rescued. 

Brands struggle to maintain their ‘voice’

Brands have a distinctive voice
 Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash
Brands have a distinctive voice
Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash

It looks like Ferrari decided that this wasn’t worth more time and effort. But here’s the thing. Brands no longer control the narrative. They have little defense against a disgruntled customer venting. As the base expands, so do the customer complaints. Keeping everyone happy is not just impossible, it’s impractical. And when someone piggybacks on a brand as well known as Ferrari and all that it stands for, you know who the coolness wannabe is.

To build your own brand voice in a crowded market, reach out to us at contact@ideascape.in. We must warn you that the journey will be difficult but interesting

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