Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I want you to concentrate.
I want you to focus and be very objective.
When I say to you Ferrari owner, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
Do you think of a person of taste and discernment, someone who has clearly worked hard all his life, possibly owns a successful business, and enjoys reaping the benefits?
Or do you think of a slightly obnoxious individual who adores rolling down the road in his Ferrari, making as much revving noise as possible, desperate for others to look his way?
I ask only because of the troubling tale of Philipp Plein.
My sense is that he loves his Ferrari. Or, should I say, Ferraris.
Plein is a German fashion designer who, one imagines, has been quite successful. After all, he says he not only owns a Ferrari, but also bought one for his mom.
He's so proud of his car and his clothing that he sometimes posts pictures to his private Instagram feed of the two in what he considers perfect harmony.
He has also posted images with less-than-entirely dressed models adorning the car.
You must decide whether this is the apogee of good taste or not.
It seems, though, that Ferrari may tend toward the not side.
You see, Plein says the carmaker's lawyers sent him a rather formalistic letter, asking him to remove his pictures of the car. Within 48 hours.
The letter reeks of either acute brand protectiveness or snobby myopia.
Ferrari's trademarks and model cars are associated in your pictures with a lifestyle totally inconsistent with Ferrari's brand perception, in connection with performers making sexual innuendos and using Ferrari's cars as props in a manner that is per se distasteful.
Some might venture that Ferrari's lawyers -- if this letter is genuine -- may need to get out more.
Waft along to Puerto Banus in Spain or many other havens of the rich and tasteless and you'll witness such visual feasts on many days and nights.
This letter, though, insists that the carmaker's brands are tarnished by Plein's pictures.
I fear that car buyers often imagine that, once the car is theirs, they can do with it what they like.
Could it be that Ferrari has some inclement clauses inserted into its sales contracts that forbid customers from taking pictures of their own cars? If Ferrari deems them not in good taste, that is.
It could also be, of course, that Ferrari believes Plein is taking advantage of the Ferrari brand to sell his own fashion line.
Naturally, I contacted Ferrari to ask and will update, should I hear.
Plein himself clearly finds all this bizarre. As he wrote on Instagram:
Can't even put in words how disappointed and disgusted I am about this unfair and totally inappropriate claim against me personally......obviously I love cars and ESPECIALLY FERRARI !!!! I bought my first FERRARI 10 years ago and recently I bought a Ferrari for my mother as her birthday gift !!!! I think it is absolutely ridiculous as a good client to receive such a letter from a company like FERRARI !!!
You can tell he's upset, can't you?
There's a simple lesson here for every entrepreneur who sells a product.
You cannot control how your customers will use it.
You might think your product is the height of art. Others might think of it as the height of what some refer to as Eurotrash.
Who knows where this tale might end?
At the time of writing, the 48-hour deadline has passed.
So, does Ferrari have a case for brand expropriation?
Or does it merely have its Speedos in a twist?
The verdict is yours.