5 Marketing Lessons from an Italian Vacation

5 Marketing Lessons from an Italian Vacation

Once you’re in advertising, your mind never switches off advertising. Your body may be in office from ‘8 to late’, but wherever you go outside of work – beach, cinema, sports event, etc your brain can’t help but look at the world as an ad man. So from my recent trip to Italy, here are some things I noticed and thus hopefully a few lezioni for you.

1. Give them a Colosseum-size experience

Italy’s most renowned icon, the Colosseum, is a non-stop carousel of tourists and activity. But it’s a lot more than a good spot to take a gazillion selfies and Facebook cover photos. From the guided tours, to the on-location library and gift shop, to the fake gladiators for photo ops – a huge sell takes place outside of your ticket price.

La Lezione: Think big and broad about your brand or product to make the most of the customer interaction. Make it more than a simple transaction. Think about how to maximize the customer experience – maybe even cross sell while you’re at it. Done well, the customer will not only embrace this bigger experience but share and ultimately encourage others to experience it as well.

2. Or give them a small pizza surprise!

I was enjoying some Nastro Azzurro, at a hotel bar in Rome when, without prompting, the waitress/chef proceeded to prep and serve some miniature pizzas for free. Not sure if I was looking hungry or not, but the gesture earned the waitress a tip that was probably worth more than the pizzas.

La Lezione: Giving a little beyond the expected to a customer can translate into you receiving a lot more than expected. The simplest inexpensive gestures can go a long way. Free advice, a small surprise discount, greeting card… the possibilities are endless. Make the effort and you’ll be the one receiving the reward in the end.

3. Meggy or masterpiece? Know your audience.

There was an exhibition titled Local Icons: Greetings from Rome at a modern art museum in Rome. The exhibition was basically about creative reinterpretations of Rome’s emblematic objects. This image represented a typical Italian hand gesture. When I first saw it I laughed as it reminded me of what Trinis would say is a giant meggy.

La Lezione: What might be a communication masterpiece in your eyes, may be a meggy to your consumers. Sometimes our notions of what’s known or important to our consumers are completely off target. That’s why it’s important to go deeper than what you think your consumers think. Learn what your consumers really understand and feel about your product and service.

4. What’s Your Gondola got the other Gondola doesn’t?

Amongst the gondola-filled canals of Venice, lies a maze of narrow streets with a multitude of shops for the barrage of tourists. Like the Gondoliers, much of these stores sell the exact same fare. So what made one stand out over the other, and thus get a sale rather than a walk past? Here’s an example: in a store selling Venetian masks, the proprietor showed us the workshop where he actually makes masks, gave an engaging education on mask types and even got dressed in full theatre gear for a mini-performance. Naturally his extra efforts earned him some extra sales of venetian masks.

La Lezione: In an era of commoditization, consumers always have another option to your product or service – always! So what makes you stand out?

Whether you have an interesting story, unique experience, vast knowledge, even your charm, giving the consumer more to feel than the competition makes the difference. It’s so often the intangibles that lead to tangible results e.g. passion, advice, confidence, commitment, etc. Find your intangible!

5. When plans say Arriverderci — say Buongiorno to opportunity

Just before boarding the plane to head home to T&T, my passport was stolen. Aside from the annoyance and expense, the experience did provide me with a vast education about airports, police reports, embassies, travel, hotels – and people (especially those with whom I was swapping passport-less horror stories).

La Lezione: When things don’t work out as expected, don’t miss the opportunity to learn. Consumers not responding as you intended? Sales flat?

When sales and/or marketing misses the mark – don’t miss the opportunity to understand why. Talk to people inside and outside your field. Get new ideas and a fresh perspective. Analyze and record what went wrong, and hopefully you’ll ultimately reach the right destination.

– Jason Stedman