The Average Joe buys the car for a standard set of mundane reasons. Yes, for any given vehicle, exterior styling usually ranks somewhere within the top five criteria – and, in fact, ranks #2 overall according to J.D. Power – but most often the reasons mirror Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Cost. Safety. Quality. These “basic needs” will help Joe thrive within the fauna and allow his DNA to survive according to Darwin’s theories.
Similarly, we assume the non-average-Joe’s motivations are farther up Maslow’s pyramid since well-funded celebrities can afford cup-runneth-over luxuries and, therein, address “psychological needs” like prestige, self-fulfillment and feelings of accomplishment. Bling. However, this assumes celebrities are so vastly different that it ignores millions of years of encoding and, frankly, dehumanizes them without an opportunity to speak-up. As it turns out, the buying process for celebrities follows several familiar criteria: safety, comfort and customer experience.
In some regards, it would makes sense for any buyer worth millions of dollars to be concerned about his safety, but interestingly the celebrity’s interest in safety isn’t automatically just his own safety. “Celebrities will call and say, ‘I want a safe vehicle. I want a high-quality vehicle,’” says Zoriy Birenboym, the CEO of eAutoLease.com in Brooklyn. “But they’ll say ‘It’s my wife’s birthday on Saturday and I want a safe SUV for her.’ Sometimes they’ll ask for side airbags or something all-wheel drive for the kids. In fact, safety features are still the most frequently-requested features over entertainment or technology options.” This observation is echoed by Omar McGee, the founder of Posh Luxury Imports in Los Angeles. “Safety is especially important when they’re buying a vehicle for their family. ‘Size matters and specifically, space for car seats.’”
That said, celebrities don’t ignore their own safety either. “The most important component in finding a vehicle for me was safety,” says TV and movie star, Kyla-Drew. “Cameras, Sensors, Airbags, Visibility, Communication, and the overall safety record of the vehicle. I’m an attentive, cautious teen driver, so having the additional guidance and safety measures helps minimize my driving stress level.” Kyla recognizes the dangerous, congested environment of Los Angeles and its frantic commuters. “Advanced technology in a vehicle is extremely helpful. Not only do I appreciate the Lane Changing and Lane keeping features, the communication technology is top tier. I’m not comfortable touching my phone while driving. In fact, it locks automatically when it senses I’m in driving motion. The advanced communication technology allows me to use voice commands which is definitely helpful when I need it.”
Comfort is also an important factor, especially for the athletes among the celebrities. “When you’re taller than the average person, choosing to drive an exotic vehicle is not about balling and bling; it’s about balance and fit,” states JaVale McGee, the center for the 2020 NBA Champion L.A. Lakers. “Exotic cars are always going to be reliable transportation at their higher price points, but since they can almost always accommodate men or women over six feet tall, then the extra room and comfort becomes not only added luxuries, but part of the reliability you can find in these types of vehicles.” After the videoed experience of JaVale’s purchase experience, Omar emphasizes JaVale’s point about comfort. “An actor in a Ferrari is perfect. But when we see an athlete or a person of size is getting in-and-out of a car, by using the steering wheel to pull themselves out, we explain how that will be problematic for long-term durability and how that means, that particular vehicle is not going to work for them.” And it isn’t just about the ingress/egress comfort, but the long-term, cockpit comfort per Lenny Krayzelburg, 4-time Olympic Gold Champion. “I’m usually driving 15,000 to 20,000 miles per year, so I’m typically looking for seat comfort.”
The most commonly stated need according to all parties is a smooth, quick, pleasurable and private customer experience. Per Birenboym, that begins with being treated as a normal human being. “Celebrities just want to be taken seriously and have good customer service just like any other consumer. They want to speak with someone that will give them the needed information to get the right product. Part of that is being comfortable and approachable. Part of it is being discrete.”
And a big part of that relationship is creating trust “I know what I don’t know,” says Krayzelburg. “Based upon that, I seek guidance and build relationships with people that are knowledgeable. Thereafter, I trust their knowledge to provide feedback and a back’n’forth conversation to find the vehicles that meet my needs.” And the trust goes beyond just research. “The promptness of how someone gets back to me; how much information are they able to provide about my needs. The follow-up and follow through. Once you see the pattern of care and customer service, then you start putting more trust into the relationship. Kinda like if you trust your dentist, you’ll keep going back to your dentist. It’s almost like a lifetime relationship.” And according to Birenboym, “They need a trusted resource for their personal information and details. Can you meet me somewhere or deliver the vehicle to my children across the country? Eventually the trust factor and relationship changes into being invited into their homes and their lives.”
But in the end, the time to complete the purchase becomes an especially impactful factor for celebrities. “As I stated, I travel a lot” states Krayzelburg. “Knowing that I have a go-to company that can eliminate a lot of mundane experience of negotiations and spending wasted hours is tremendous. We could even make a deal over the phone and have the car delivered to my house.” And Lenny is not the only time-sensitive buyer amongst the celebrities. “I want the buying process to be simple,” says fashion model Authur Kulkov who has posed for the likes of BMW’x X5. “Time is important. Frankly, I want the dealership experience to be much simpler than, well … dealing with T-Mobile’s Customer Service.”
That desire for top-notch experience, though, is not unique to the rich and famous. “Everyone, including celebrities, wants to be treated well,” says Omar McGee. “We all want the red-carpet experience. Can you imagine going into a showroom and everybody is there to cater to you? With a glass of wine? A cigar? Or having the dealer rep coming to deliver to your doorstep? And having an expert, who has listened to your needs, prepare the top three cars that interest you? No distractions. No autographs. A sense of privacy, trust, convenience and speed. We all want that.” Celebrities just want to feel special in the midst of buying a great product.
But hey, who doesn’t?