By Luca Bertocci & Matteo Rinaldi
Human Centric Marketing can bring strong results, no matter the size of the company utilizing it. Although large multi-nationals are increasingly seeing the benefit of understanding their local customers more holistically, and the impact that has on brand and communications strategy, the same human centric approach can prove extremely helpful for start-ups and other small businesses in increasing their sales exponentially.
Three young Neapolitans with a common passion: an authentic and intense love for the brand Vespa. In 2003 Francesco, Danilo and Pierluigi, fresh from their studies, decided to take a step into the entrepreneurial world to turn their passion into their job and Il Vespaio Italia was born. Their business model generated revenue through three exclusively Vespa activities: the buying and selling of vintage Vespas, the restoration of original Vespas and the sale of official spare parts.
Despite the specialization of only working on Vespa motor scooters, instead of following the common practice of repairing any type of scooter or motorcycle, the three young partners felt like they were slowly but surely building a loyal customer base. Competition was intense and all too often the final customer’s decision was driven by pricing that was consistently brought down by improvising mechanics claiming to be more efficient than anyone else. In a region of Italy, and a business in general, where personal connections and the ability to bond at the point of sale is critically important, it was crucial that the three new entrepreneurs find a way to connect and bond with local Vespa owners.
Despite having an advantage over competitors in terms of work quality and delivery time, Il Vespaio Italia had not yet managed to break through and ensure their place as the only real choice for Vespa loyalists. What they were missing was an emotional engagement with their customer. People buy for emotional reasons and then justify their decision with rational reasons to support that decision. If they wanted to become the leader in Southern Italy while with a possible expansion to the north and maybe even abroad, they had to represent a lifestyle. Although their type of product is almost the opposite of Harley Davidson, they saw the American icon as an example of what they needed to do with Vespa.
What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.
– John Russell, Harley Davidson VP
Just like Harley, Il Vespaio needed to move from selling products or services, to selling an emotional experience. This would be their strategy to generate such a high level of engagement with customers that it would make the competition irrelevant.
The following is the touch-points strategy that Il Vespaio decided to implement.
INSIDE THE STORE – The Moment of Truth:
The first step that Il Vespaio took was to create an in-store experience that would be able to make it stand out from the competition. With a deep understanding of their target group (the butterflies) and their beliefs and motivations, they decided to create something really disruptive: to build an in-store experience reflecting a Michelin-Star restaurant environment.
By associating the restoration work on the Vespas to the creation of culinary masterpieces of famous Michelin-star chefs was a meaningful and easy to understand analogy for all customers that were already passionate about the topic thanks to the popularity of worldwide famous shows like Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen and similar trendy programs. The customer segmentation process had highlighted an out of the category connection between love for Vespas and the Foodies love for special dining experiences. The concept connected these Italian Foodies with much stronger emotions than the simple pleasure of the food itself, or in this case, the single piece of Vespa repaired.
The points below will clearly show how their communication inside and outside the store was fully integrated and built upon the value proposition created.
– The store layout was modified and two clearly separated areas were created: the ‘dining area’ and the ‘kitchen’. In order to deliver on such a rich experience, all people involved in the company had to change their ‘modus operandi’ to fit the analogy of turning the workshop into an elegant, well organized, extremely clean, detail-oriented and creative area – while maintaining full efficiency!
– The Dining Area
– The lights illuminate only the Vespas and the related articles exposed in the showroom, just like you would only illuminate the tables of a 5-star restaurant.
– Danilo and Francesco are responsible for service and they are dressed like professional waiters. They describe their Vespas like an expert Sommelier would describe the different varieties of fine wines.
– The Cellar – where they store the different Vespa spare parts, which recall a classic “French Wine Cellar”.
– The Kitchen
– The Open plan ‘kitchen’ is the actual workshop – separated by a thick window that keeps the hall quiet and intimate.
– All the tools and equipment needed to repair the Vespa are organized like kitchen appliances and utensils.
– Pierluigi has a chef uniform; he is in charge of the kitchen, while the other chef assistants have a different uniform.
– At the entrance, there is a trip advisor sticker as well as a little board showing the menu of the day – the Vespas that they will deliver that day.
OUTSIDE THE STORE:
In every successful touch-point communication strategy, the external, outside-the-store communications, has to be consistent with the inside-the-store experience. Consequently, several initiatives aligned with the brand experience chosen were planned for the entire commercial year. The first was the I Love Vespa competition.
– THE CHALLENGE: Show us how much you love your Vespa by uploading a picture of it on our Facebook page, and you will win fantastic Vespa gadgets.
– THE INSIGHT: People are so passionate about their Vespas that they enjoy sharing content about it, both in common situations or even in the most unusual ones, typically even more fun. By rewarding customers for what they already loved to do, the team of Il Vespaio showed a clear understanding of the passion that they shared with their customers.
We Will Take Care Of Your Baby Campaign
– THE IDEA: Follow the development of your reborn baby on a day by day basis (during the restoration phase).
– THE INSIGHT: For the most passionate customers, their Vespa is like their baby and always have a hard time separating from it.
Sharing with the public daily updates of the restoration phases built on one hand customers’ anticipation (to see the newly reborn) and on the other, it worked as a boost of confidence (showing that Il Vespaio Italia is so comfortable about their job that can show each detail about it to everyone).
Additional sponsorship & event activities selected fashion brands popular among their core target for collaboration. The elegance and beauty of YAMAMAY and CARPISA were a perfect match for the starred quality of the stylish Vespas of Il Vespaio Italia.
– There was an incredible rise in customer engagement and interactions on all social profiles of the company could be seen from the first moments of implementation. The likes of their Facebook page passed from a stable 1k to 7k users in just two weeks, with over 1,5k people participating in the weekly challenge with an incredible number of pictures and comments shared (currently counting over 17k loyal fans). Even non-owners of Vespa really enjoyed the initiative and started getting closer to this new world of stylish motorcycles.
– Instagram followers increased 4-fold in only 2 months, collecting on average a minimum of 150 likes per picture all without sponsoring any advertisement on this platform.
– The buzz generated on the various social networks caught the attention of local newspapers that wrote several articles about the “Il Vespaio Italia” case.
– The huge exposure attracted also investors from abroad, that got the dynamic Il Vspaio team access to three new markets – Germany, France, and England.
– Finally, probably the most important statistics. After 3 months of implementing the newly developed integrated communication and brand positioning strategy, the number of Vespas sold by Il Vespaio grew 300%. Mission truly accomplished!
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I think that for any business to grow and succeed in an environment that is only increasing in its competitiveness day to day and constantly throwing up new challenges, you have to start with the realization that all your assets, skills, and capabilities – even your brand equity – are perishable. To stay one step ahead, it is critical to evolve and upgrade your business with new thinking and new ideas – all the time.