Vespa Hires a PR Firm

December 1, 2006

Background

In early 2005, Vespa motor scooters were suffering from low market share and minimal brand recognition. To fix the problem, Vespa's parent company, Piaggio USA, hired the New York-based public relations firm of CooperKatz. CK's challenge was to elevate consumer awareness for Vespa and ultimately help drive sales and increase the product's market share.

The Plan

The firm decided the best approach would be a comprehensive communications outreach program designed to encourage American consumers to consider adding Vespa scooters to their lifestyles. The result was "Vespanomics," a well-timed initiative that cleverly positioned Vespa scooters to media and the public as a transportation alternative in the midst of rising gasoline prices and growing concerns about energy conservation and the environment.

CooperKatz's cofounder, Andy Cooper, said the plan called for building a continuous flow of scooter-focused stories via targeted pitches, special events, reporter briefings, blogging initiatives, media test rides, and curbside interviews that brought Vespanomics to life for the media, as well as for the public. "The ultimate goal was to underscore that scootering is for more than fashionable pleasure rides. Its economic and time-saving benefits offer a new way to think about transportation and mobility," Cooper says.

Elements of the multifaceted plan included:

  • a full-page "open letter" in The New York Times from CEO Paolo Timoni of Piaggio North America to the mayors of U.S. cities urging them to help the country reduce its oil addiction, lessen CO2 emissions, decrease transportation congestion, and save citizens money by making their cities more scooter friendly. 
  • a series of story pitches to transportation and consumer reporters at daily newspapers and broadcast media outlets that included customized press material and access to Piaggio executives and to local Vespa dealers, owners, and enthusiasts for interviews
  • taking reporters on tandem Vespa rides to help them experience firsthand what it really feels like to be on a scooter
  • customized podcasts that highlighted the economic and environmental benefits of scooter ownership

Results

The results were impressive. Since the launch of the Vespanomics program in June 2005, sales of Vespa scooters has increased by more than 25 percent nationwide. Online traffic to the Vespa Website has consistently grown more than 100 percent per month, with nearly 1 million unique visitors during the third quarter of 2005. Cooper estimates that, to date,the Vespanomics program has resulted in more than 100 million audience impressions via 200-plus print articles and 50-plus TV placements.

Source

"PR Steals the Spotlight." John Wolfe. The Advertiser, December 2006.