This is the third article within the “Marketing Mix” series, and this week is about Bentley.
I previously discussed Ferrari and Aston Martin, applying the same analytical framework to each brand to highlight their respective strategy, important developments, and peculiarities. Here you can find the previous articles regarding Ferrari and Aston Martin:
The first characteristic that distinguishes Bentley these days, is that it certainly is one of the most interesting brands in the luxury segment in terms of transition toward electrification.
Bentley was, in fact, recently put under the management of Audi, like Lamborghini before, thanks to the numerous synergies with it. Shared components and platforms with both Audi and Porsche are important efficiency factors. With it comes also the fast transition to electricity and a more sustainable future.
As highlighted in a review of the automakers' R&D spending, VW is by far the automotive group investing the most right now, and the majority of it is dedicated to ACES (autonomous, connected, electrified, shared). Bentley follows this effort with its Beyond100 Strategy announced in 2020, and aimed at establishing the British marque as the leader in sustainable luxury mobility. The symbol of this change is the EXP 100 GT concept, which won an important GQ award last year as the best concept car.
This decided change of pace naturally influenced Bentley's marketing and communication strategy.
The framework used is the Marketing Mix 8Ps, applying Booms and Bitner's 7Ps (1981) and Goldsmith's 8th P (1999) methods. The framework is described more in detail in the first article of the Series linked above, about Ferrari's marketing mix.
Bentley's product line currently offers three models, Bentayga, Continental GT, and Flying Spur. An SUV, a quintessential Grand Tourer, and a fully-fledged 4-door Luxury saloon.
The range might seem fairly limited compared to the other two brands analysed previously, but, while the others offering spans from performance to luxury cars, Bentley's product-line is much more focused on top-level luxury without overlooking significant performance for every model.
Also, each one is offered in various specs and trims. Most of them are introduced with the Bentayga that can be ordered in four different versions. The base model V8, the hybrid, which is more energy-efficient and still preserving its performance, the Speed, the fastest of all four, and the recently introduced S which improves on vehicle dynamics and looks sportiness.
As for the others, the Continental GT has three versions, V8, Mulliner, and Speed all coming either with the hard-top or as convertibles, and the Flying Spur, with three engine options, a V8, a W12, and a V6 Hybrid.
The line-up is following the Beyond100 strategy according to which every model will have a hybrid option by 2023. Also, Bentley's first full-electric vehicle should arrive by 2025 and will most likely be an SUV too. Since its introduction, in fact, the Bentayga has been by far the most successful model. Its sales have consistently accounted for around 50% of the total. In the last two years alone, 9,178 units out of the 23,123 produced were SUVs.
Like the existing one, the new model will most likely use Audi's shared platform. Either MLB (Modularer Längsbaukasten, German for Modular Longitudinal Matrix) on which are developed the Bentayga, the Urus, the Touareg, Porsche's Cayenne and Audi's Q range, or MSB(Modularer Standardantriebsbaukasten, modular standard drivetrain matrix) used for Continental GT, Flying Spur, Panamera as well as the electric Porsche Taycan and Audi E-tron GT.
Bentley's product line, as the brand, is at the absolute top of the market for reputation, materials' choice, and craftsmanship. Its most direct rivals are Rolls-Royce and Mercedes' division, Maybach. Bentley however maintains also its racing heritage, so, all of its vehicles, especially the sportier ones, are capable of noteworthy performance with the Continental GT Speed at the top, producing 650 bhp, for a top speed of 208 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 3.5 seconds.
The design language is extremely coherent across the whole line and it has been so over the last few decades. Clear design cues such as the double rounded headlights and the straight, muscular lines with an imposing stance, proper of a luxury vehicle are all unmistakeably Bentley. All of this though does not mean a lack of creativity or innovation. The design has been skilfully updated over the last generation to modernise each models' sculpture.
And the same happens inside. Every Bentley's interior features carefully crafted metal components, paired with refined wood veneer (sustainably sourced as proudly claimed by Bentley) to offer the best quality possible, but all on a very modern interpretation. From the comfort and luxury features to the now-famous 3-face rotating infotainment display.
Finally, every new model comes with a three-year warranty and a wide range of accessories and options to upgrade. A collection of luxury lifestyle items and apparel is offered as well to create a more immersive brand experience.
*Bentley branded accessories sold in the brand's Boutiques. Source: Bentley Media.
The price positioning is at the top end of the market. With the Bentayga being the cheapest and starting at around £140,000, with the hybrid version slightly less expensive and the speed version going up to slightly over £180,000. Follows the Continental GT with an entry-level price close to £160,000 and £175,000 for the convertible. This can go up to an estimated £200,000 for the speed version.
Finally, the luxury Flying Spur price varies between £168,000 and £180,000. All of these are before options, that can drive the car easily over the £200,000 mark, especially if they are part of a limited edition. For instance, the Continental GT First Edition costs £34,000 more than a regular one.
In general, Bentleys are priced significantly lower than its direct competitors Rolls-Royces, which all start well over £200,000, and reach the £300,000 with the flagship Phantom.
Prices though are aligned with those of other manufacturers' cars in a similar segment, such as Maybach GLS for an SUV, and Aston Martin DB11, or Ferrari Roma as Grand Tourers.
Also, Bentley, last year introduced the ‘Certified by Bentley' program. This includes servicing, warranty, and certification for pre-owned Bentleys. The program should boost the pre-owned market and limit Bentleys' depreciation rate which has been quite serious for some models, affecting the brand's reputation. Mid-2000s Continental GTs can be bought today for as low as £20,000 in the UK, which surely hurts the cars' perceived value.
Bentley's manages its distribution through a franchise dealer network. Each dealer has to go through a strict application process and satisfy specific conditions to qualify.
As it usually happens, especially in big cities, these dealers are located in areas with a high density of high-net-worth individuals, where other luxury automakers' dealerships are clustered or within important business districts. In smaller urban centres dealers might be simply located in automotive dealership cluster areas.
Two examples are London and Paris, where the dealers are located respectively in Berkeley Square and within the 8th arrondissement. Both areas enjoy the characteristics described above.
The virus outbreak forced automotive companies to find alternative ways to keep their relationship with clients and provide the proper services. Bentley implemented numerous services within the two apps ‘My Bentley' and ‘Bentley Network'.
Bentley built its communication around the new sustainability mission with its ‘Brand Manifesto' stating all the steps toward carbon-neutrality. This and the unparalleled luxury are the two pillars of Bentley's marketing strategy.
Another characteristic that has been constantly promoted is the racing heritage of the marque. Bentley has used its history and success in racing and endurance on different occasions, with the first participation to Le Mans dating back to the 1920s. The latest and more innovative of these are the official participation in an E-sport series, and the steering wheel for both the Continental GT3 and the simulator developed in partnership with Fanatec.
Motorsport is still nowadays one of the main activities of the brand and a major promotion channel. Bentley participates through customer racing teams in different GT racing classes with its Continental GT3.
*Three main elements of Bentley's promotion, The EXP 100 GT EV concept, the Fanatec Steering wheel, and the GT3 race car. Source: Bentley Media
Built around the brand's pillars and ownership experience, Bentley organises also a series of events for both clients and prospects. They can range from car launches to driving experiences, to motorsport and lifestyle events. Naturally, venues and organisation reflect the luxury values of the company, including cocktail parties, music, and special presentations. Another range of activities is dedicated to enthusiasts as well, where they can take part in factory tours, and visit showrooms featuring the entire range and personalisation area.
Finally, along with all the more ‘traditional activities', a large part of the promotion nowadays happens through social media channels. Bentley enjoys a strong following across all the major platforms, but most of all the online visibility is given by the numerous channels of reviewers and enthusiasts who publish daily content about automotive. Naturally, Bentley, thanks to its unique characteristics of market-leading luxury combined with sportiness is always among the major players in this market segment, and a quick shift toward electrification could help the brand distinguish itself even more.
The points of contact between customer and brand are numerous. As mentioned before, the relationship develops through events, and direct experience at the dealerships, for example when specifying a car's personalisation at Bentley's Mulliner division.
New points of contact are added thanks to the expanding digital channels, apps, and other services for clients.
Employees too, go through a highly selective process of selection when applying and a consistent number of Undergraduate programs are also offered. Generally, the environment is judged positively and according to LinkedIn data, the average tenure is 6.7 years which is significantly higher than the majority of its competitors.
Bentley is regarded as the epitome of automotive luxury, and everything around it reflects this image. Franchised dealerships strictly respect the brand message from the employees' outfits to the furnishing and overall design of the spaces.
There is a proper sense of opulence as one feels while sitting in an actual Bentley car. Good examples of this are the Global Flagship Showroom opened in Dubai opened in 2016, and the CW1 House in 2014, a showroom showcasing Bentley's models as well as a dedicated space for personalisation, Mulliner room, and boutique.
*Bentley Dubai Flagship, Boutique, and Mulliner Department interiors. Source: Bentley Media
The Mulliner department reflects the brand refinement by showcasing a range of options that the client can pick from when specifying his/her bespoke car. Similarly, the boutiques display a wide range of branded items and lifestyle products all in an up-scale and refined environment.
The processes and customers involvement is changing in automotive. On the one hand, digital systems are more common than ever, due to a decisive boost during the pandemic lockdowns. With digital services, clients can get a more streamlined service and automakers can gather more data to keep improving their processes, products, and services.
When it comes to luxury goods, however, a higher degree of involvement by the company is not only preferred but also a key factor distinguishing a high-end service. For Bentley, this translates into the specification of bespoke vehicles through the Mulliner division or the new ‘Certified by Bentley' pre-owned program. Without reducing the points of contact also, digitisation will enable automakers to create more bespoke on-demand content for each client, as well as improve the quality and range of services with the use of more advanced graphics engines.
As stated on other occasions, an increasingly customer-centric luxury market where personalisation and rarity have become the true luxury, caused an important development in the luxury automotive segment. Every major luxury automaker has improved its customisation service, and many went even further creating few-off or unique pieces for super-wealthy clients.
Bentley, which was already offering a high degree of personalisation on its models, announced the return to the coachbuilding traditions at the beginning of 2020 with its Mulliner Bacalar, and open-top, 2-door, super rare grand tourer (only 12 units will be produced).
*Bentley Mulliner Bacalar. Source: Bentley Media
The division offers different limited runs of special editions, which are predesigned with some unique specifications, like the Pikes Peak. Mulliner is also constantly expanding its materials range. One of the latest is a tweed door finish available on all three models.
The true next-level innovation in terms of making the customer experience more personal and unique is the introduction of Adaptive Music Technology. Bentley partnered with LifeScore, which through an algorithm uses the vehicle's inputs like acceleration, or engine's RPM, to change the music accordingly in real-time. The same technology was introduced by Supercar Capsule's Founder Andrea Sensoli during our interview, but it is definitely a first for a car, distinguishing once again Bentley as an innovator and an absolute leader of the luxury segment.
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