MGIncontri | Uberto Fabbri Curcio brings the world of Ducati into the classrooms of the Master in Business Management

31 January 2023

The new cycle of appointments with companies and managers dedicated to the Master in Business Management Community has begun. Uberto Fabbri Curcio, Apparel and Merchandising Manager at Ducati Motor Holding, inaugurated this new session of the BMmeetings

Fabbri Curcio addressed the Master’s participants, bringing his valuable experience as a manager with a focus on both sales and branding in general. Indeed it could not have been otherwise when talking about a premium brand like Ducati

Fabbri Curcio’s experience develops mainly in the area of after-sales. In the definition of after-sales objectives, a first marketing theme opens up: what do we think of when we hear “after-sales service”? Probably, explains Fabbri Curcio, we think of a problem for both the customer and the company. But after sales is a company department where customer problems and needs can become opportunities. This is for two excellent reasons: the first is that the purchase of spare parts and assistance is an essential source of income for the company. The second is that impeccable service allows the relationship between the user and the brand to be leveraged, reinforcing the value and increasing the positive perception. Not only that, but service also impacts B2B, because it allows a good relationship to be maintained with the dealer network, the company’s actual interface in the relationship with the end buyer. The dealer, in turn, acquires the certainty of an income beyond the sale of the motorbike, which is bought only a few times a lifetime. 

One of the strengths of BMmeetings is the opportunity to go deep into company dynamics, ask questions, and get to know a company directly from the living voice of those who run it. And an insider like Fabbri Curcio did not disappoint the Master’s participants, providing them with data and figures from a sector that is not always in the spotlight. In fact, Fabbri Curcio deepened the opportunity offered by a good service by bringing real numbers and revealing the logic and KPIs at the basis of a complex system such as Ducati’s. The motorbikes sold each year are associated with a projection of the after-sales turnover that allows one to work on extensive and consolidated parameters. 

A system that becomes even more crucial and complex if we consider that most of the accessories used on and for the motorbike are seldom purchased with the motorbike itself but are part of the after-sales. And this is a big difference from the car market, where almost all the equipment is usually chosen at the time of purchase. “I take care of the last two parts of the after-sales department, which is divided into two different categories,” explained Fabbri Curcio. “The one we call Safety, which is everything you put on to protect yourself or to have better comfort when you ride, such as jackets, boots, gloves and the division more related to sport and lifestyle, where we have merchandising for fans who want to wear the brand, such as caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.” Categories representing a vital part of the company if we consider that last year’s after-sales turnover was between 16% and 17% of the company’s turnover: almost one-fifth of Ducati’s total turnover comes from the after-sales department. A sector that also has a high marginality because, as the manager explained, “the margin we make on, for example, t-shirts is higher than the one we make on motorbikes, and therefore our influence in the company’s total margin at the end of the year is between 22% and 25%”. 

Still on the subject of numbers, Fabbri Curcio explained that Ducati uses very simple KPIs to verify sales trends. First of all, the “per bike”, which is the after-sales turnover divided by the number of motorbikes that are registered each year. The total currently is around EUR 22,000 per year: around EUR 2,000 of accessories are associated with each registered bike. A KPI of this type is not intended to have precise data but a simple check of the trend over the years. Of course, this value is scaled according to the kind of product. For example, spare parts turnover is associated with the ‘bike park’, i.e. all the motorbikes that have been sold in the last six years. In this case, we are talking about 350000 motorbikes. After framing the value of the after-sales department’s work in numerical terms, Fabbri Curcio explained the importance of marketing to support it. The focal point? Customer loyalty, like passion for the brand, should always stay strong. “Ducati’s mission is to be the most desired motorbike brand in the world. Obviously, it is necessary to have long-term relationships with customers because we also have to make profits, so it is obvious that the more loyal customers are, the better it will be for the company in the long run,” Curcio explained. “So the question is: how do you create long-term relationships with customers or, in other words, how do you make the marriage between the brand and those who choose it last?” 

Uberto Fabbri Curcio devoted part of his presentation to illustrating the strategies and key points that enable Ducati to win and maintain a place in the hearts of its customers. First and foremost, working on brand identity and brand values. To do this, the first question is, “What is a brand?” One can find hundreds of different definitions in marketing books. For Fabbri Curcio, the best is the one whereby a brand is a promise. That is why the most successful brands have a clear promise and keep it. The promise is fundamental because it is the company’s basis and battleground. If there is no clear identity or you don’t behave according to your values, you will always have problems. And speaking of values, these must also be clear. Ducati’s values are style, sophisticated solutions, performance and trust. Together, these values are embodied in motorbikes that are aesthetically impeccable (almost every year a Ducati is the bike awarded as the most beautiful of the year at the EICMA in Milan), made with extremely sophisticated technology, which allows all kinds of problems to be solved, and highly performing from every point of view and in every context. But that’s not all: trust is fundamental. Ducati customers must be certain that the bike they buy is reliable, that the brand keeps its promises and that whatever happens and whatever type of service they need we will be there to support and assist them in the best possible way. In this sense, Ducati aims to offer the best of Italian style with northern European standards in terms of service and reliability

Alongside these values are the pillars of the company, also part of the brand promise to its customers:

  1. To sell products of value. “Our products are expensive because they are valuable, not because we put a price tag on them,” explained Fabbri Curcio. Ducati adds value by doing things other manufacturers don’t do, such as choosing expensive solutions that are often state-of-the-art in terms of technology and allowing certain aspects of the bike to be improved. These solutions are only sometimes the result of the company’s R&D: some things are available to all manufacturers, but Ducati chooses to implement them, and others do not because Ducati knows it has a target market that is willing to pay for the best. 
  2. Being a premium brand. “We are a premium brand,” explained Fabbri Curcio. “It means we do things slightly better than others and people are willing to pay for that. It has nothing to do with the elasticity in the relationship between quantity and price that characterises the luxury brand but is related to paying a premium price for a superior product.” 
  3. Nurturing emotion. Empathy and affection are feelings that a brand must be able to generate to deserve not only respect but also attachment from users. Because the brand no longer has value in itself: it only has value to the extent that it manages to emotionally engage its target audience. In the motorbike sector, the first lovemark is Harley Davidson, so much so that enthusiasts choose to have it tattooed on their skin: HD is the most tattooed brand in the world, and we can say that it no longer sells a product, but a lifestyle. 

Another essential element is listening. “We want our customers to be our first ambassadors and to speak well of us. We want them to continue to choose us and recommend us to their friends,” Fabbri Curcio explained. “That’s why we ask people who buy a Ducati to fill out an in-depth questionnaire and listen to how the brand is perceived by those who choose it. Digital communication is also important, allowing us to listen to conversations and understand how the company is perceived”. Ducati as a brand is more famous than the products it sells and in fact, has more followers and online interactions than the products sold. For many other companies, including Audi Italia, it is the opposite: the product generates more interest than the brand, and the number of cars sold is higher than online views. Listening is also important to understand how the brand is perceived by those who sell it: dealers are the brand’s interface with the customer, but they are still another company and making sure that the product is valued in the right way is a key part of the job. 

Uberto Fabbri Curcio’s speech enthused the participants of the Master in Business Management, who asked many questions, enabling the manager to go deeper into the topics discussed. Looking forward to the next appointment, scheduled for early February. 


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