MP3 marketing plan, or lack thereof

Marketing trade magazine MediaPost writes about Piaggio’s marketing plan for the MP3 in the U.S.:

Paolo Timoni, president and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas, … said the bike/trike targets urban and suburban commuters worried about global warming, gasoline prices and gridlock.
The approach isn’t new to Piaggio sibling Vespa, which has for the past two years been trumpeting its scooters as green machines in urban centers through mass transit poster ads promoting the iconic two-wheelers as gasoline and time savers in U.S. cities.
Timoni said that the company ran a study prior to launching MP3, based on a hypothetical situation in which 20% of car volume in New York City was replaced by scooters. “We learned that each of those drivers would save ten days a year,” he said.
Marketing for the vehicle will launch this spring when Piaggio runs a national road show taking the three-wheeled vehicle to cities, and a national open house at dealerships, talking up the environmental friendliness, savings and practicality of the vehicle. “We will run a traditional print push later in the year,” Timoni said.

So basically nothing new, he’s rehashing the Vespanomics/Vespetition screed. It’s a reasonable tactic on one hand, but there are very good arguments both for and against scooters in those regards. In any case, gas prices appear to be coming down, and the fickle American public will (sadly) soon hop off the environmental bandwagon, so their economy-based message may turn out to be just as futile as their luxury-based attempt. (Remember a few years ago when Vespa scooters were luxurious?)

Timoni also glosses over the fact that, publicly anyway, the MP3 doesn’t even have a name in America. Pre-launch marketing seems a waste of time when they can’t even connect it to the actual branding of the product. There’s a good buzz going on the MP3 now, but will that translate to brand recognition when it finally appears? (Wasn’t that supposed to be in December?) “MP3” was a horrible naming choice in the first place by the Italians, but does it make sense to leave it nameless until a week before it hits showroom floors? If so, why hype it at all, until then? And has anyone seen the cited Vespa “mass transit poster ads” in the U.S., let alone print advertising outside scooter publications? Sure, there’s been local, dealer-driven print advertising, but not much else.

I hope the MP3 (I feel dumb even calling it that, maybe I should go back to “X3“?) is the second coming of scooters in America. I hope Piaggio has a great name and a big, impressive, national media blast ready to go, and that bikes and spares flood into (and out of) dealer showrooms without a hitch. I hope Piaggio makes me regret my lack of faith in their marketing department. The MP3 is a truly original and exciting scooter, with merits well beyond the economic, environmental, and newbie-friendliness, and I hope Piaggio makes the most of this opportunity.

10 thoughts on “MP3 marketing plan, or lack thereof”

  1. “Marketing for the vehicle will launch this spring when Piaggio runs a national road show taking the three-wheeled vehicle to cities, and a national open house at dealerships”

    Wonder if any rallies will get some action?

    I have a sense that Piaggio engines sacrifice fuel economy a little for cleaner burning. I know usually the two things go together, nevertheless it would be interesting to see a comparison of other comparable scooters related to emission stats. Maybe this is another missed opportunity from Piaggio?

  2. The problem with that idea is that such data would be meaningful. From what I’ve observed, meaningful information rarely goes into selling anything.

  3. We received our packet on the MP3 yesterday.
    UP – They include a 2 minute DVD
    Down – they visually compare the MP3 to several wild animals, Guh-hay.
    UP – They actually show it doing a respectable stoppie.
    Down – They are OFFICIALLY calling it the MP3.
    Up – They’re putting a lot of energy into this launch.
    Down – They won’t be available at your local dealership until mid/late March.
    Up – They originally told us $7299 – They’ve dropped it to $6999
    Down – The few MP3’s already here are being loaned around to press gigs, motorcycle shows etc. Not scooter rallies…yet.
    Up – I am personally buying one and I will be riding it to everything.
    Down – 3 times the chance of picking up a nail.
    Up – Givi already makes a windshield for it…can the saddlebags and trailer be far behind?
    I’ll be working the Piaggio/Vespa/MotoGuzzi/Aprilia/Italjet/Derbi/Gilera/Benelli booth at the Cycle World show all this weekend…I’ll write a review on the show.


  4. Wait, so Phil is a Vespa dealer now? When did that happen? Not that I think it’s a bad thing — I think it’s a very good thing.

    I think there’s a story about Piaggio’s about-face on the boutique concept and the fact they’re mending fences with scooter dealers who, 6 years ago “didn’t serve our target market”.

  5. Phil’s been a Vespa dealer for a few months now, I was under the impression that the boutiques in Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati were closing (Cincinnati got a new dealer, too) but their sites are still active and they’re still listed on Piaggio’s site. Maybe Phil can shed more light on that.

    I think the ‘story’ is clear: Piaggio’s signing anyone they can, because any dealer they add must take delivery of a minimum order of scooters, which are then counted as “sold” by Piaggio. Dealers are not happy about it (Oh, what I’d give to be invited to the Piaggio dealer Yahoogroup) and it’s clearly not sustainable growth, but Piaggio seems concerned with nothing but short-term dealer sales.

    Four years ago, Vespa was all about luxury and exclusivity and boutiques, and today they’re all about economy, ecology, and Farm&Fleet. I would like the “new” Piaggio a lot if I believed they meant it, but either way, it’s all just marketing.

    The beauty of Vespa (and Piaggio) is that they are all of these things and more: They’re historic, elegant, well-engineered, exotic, affordable, durable, and smart. Above all that, they’re utilitarian AND fun. I’d expect a good marketing campaign for Vespa would focus on all those things,

    I think another big problem is that they’re marketing two products, Vespa and Piaggio, not to mention the entirely-separate Aprilia and Guzzi entities. Splitting their small budget four ways must be difficult. It also ensures we’ll never see a Derbi or Gilera in the U.S., which is totally unfortunate.

    Piaggio has very little brand recognition in the US, especially compared to Guzzi and Vespa.

    I’m not sure what they could do about that. Perhaps Group-wide advertising would help, maybe not. Probably working through dealers and avoiding a costly national campaign, but that local marketing needs to be much stronger and more cohesive (I’ve still never seen a Vespa ad in TimeOut Chicago, the Reader, the Onion, Tribune, or the Sun-Times, or on local cable. Vespa has sponsored a few small events and charities, usually upscale events like fashion shows. Perhaps focusing on Euro-centric events that attract a wide range of people is the way to go… A Vespa logo on the Chicago Fire jersey would hit suburban soccer moms, polish immigrants, the hispanic community, yuppies, and western european ex-pats, all people who would be receptive to scootering. Sponsoring the X-Games or marathons, or music festivals would accomplish the same thing.

  6. Smart scooter dealers know to put a rider on their GE Capitol agreement that allows them to review invoices from Piaggio before delivery. GE charges extra for the service, but it saves the dealer from carrying a half-dozen 4t LX50s in stock that they can’t sell.

    Piaggio doesn’t like it, but they gotta deliver _something_ in order to count the sales.

  7. Damn, if Phil an Collin and Vespa dealers now. Who’s next? Phil McCaleb?

  8. Sportique (or Collin) now has Vespa Colorado Springs or whatever it’s called.

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