Brand yourself the Ferrari way

November 15, 2011: 5:00 AM ET
A 2009 Ferrari California

A 2009 Ferrari California

FORTUNE -- Think Ferrari and you think beautiful, fast, elite, Italian racing car. That notion pops into your mind even if you have never been behind the wheel of one -- or even in the showroom. "Put a Ferrari in the dark," says Marco Mattiacci, president and CEO of Ferrari North America, "and just by touching the car, you will recognize it as a Ferrari."

It's the type of brand that most individuals aspire to.

So if you want your personal brand to resemble a Ferrari, stop bragging and focus on simply becoming the best at what you do. That's one message from Mattiacci, who took the wheel in January 2010. "Execution is fundamental," he says. "Maybe I'm old school, but I let results talk."

Ferrari's success comes partly from its technical skill, but also from the exclusivity that the Italian firm carefully cultivates. The company does no mainstream marketing whatsoever -- no billboards, no ad campaigns. It relies on word of mouth, special events, and a growing social-media presence.

Its cheapest car costs $200,000, and fewer than 7,000 are built and sold worldwide annually. Each is customized for a buyer, who could spend around $40,000 on extras like engine upgrades. This not only leads to loyal devotees but also keeps the cars from being easily flipped.

Those who are selected to buy one -- and yes, selected: Dealers seek those who are passionate about Ferrari -- must wait an average of six to 12 months. The mission, says Mattiacci, is "to spread the culture of Ferrari" rather than simply sell cars. Isn't that a great way to imagine your own brand?

This article is from the November 21, 2011 issue of Fortune.

Back to Your career: The perils of self-promotion

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