The iconic car company is now owned by BMW. The Head of Rolls Royce said in a radio interview that Rolls Royce is not in the car industry or even the automotive industry.

What he was claiming was the Rolls Royce is more than a car: it’s a luxury. As he explained, people who treat themselves to a Rolls Royce are buying a symbol of success and luxury. Their customers are not buying a method of transport but a means of showing they have succeeded. That means Rolls’ competitors are not other car manufacturers but other luxury products.

This reminded me of Harley Davidson when it launched its “born again biker”  advertising, encouraging men who had wanted to Harley in the their youth to own one in their middle-age. Harley said their main competition was not another bike brand but a conservatory. The empty-nesters they were aiming at had a bit of spare money and the choice could be between a home improvement (the conservatory) or the bike.

The lesson for marketers is to think outside your industry for your competition.