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Pagina 1
DSI Essays Series
Simonetta Pattuglia
Integrated Marketing Communication
and Brand Management: the Case
Study of Fiat 500
University of Rome “Tor Vergata”
Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”
Department of Business Studies
Dipartimento Studi sull’Impresa (DSI)
DSI Essays Series
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Roberto Cafferata – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
[[email protected]; [email protected]]
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Alessandro Carretta – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Corrado Cerruti – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Sergio Cherubini – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Alessandro Gaetano – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Claudia Maria Golinelli – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Hans Hinterhuber – University of Innsbruck, Austria
Joanna Ho – University of California, Irvine, U.S.A.
Anne Huff – Technische Universität München, Germany
Morten Huse - Norwegian School of Management BI, Norway
Marco Meneguzzo – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Paola Paniccia – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Cosetta Pepe – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Harald Plamper – Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany
Francesco Ranalli – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
Salvatore Sarcone – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
John Stanworth - University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Jonathan Williams - Bangor Business School, United Kingdom
Managing Editors
Emiliano Di Carlo – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
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Sara Poggesi – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
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Mario Risso – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy
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DSI Essays Series
Simonetta Pattuglia
Integrated Marketing Communication
and Brand Management: the Case
Study of Fiat 500
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Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand
Management: the Case Study of Fiat 500
Simonetta Pattuglia1
The increasing investments in communication put in evidence the need for
innovation to fulfil and improve identity, positioning (brand and products),
reputation, goodwill, networking. This paper aims to analyze – following the
literature on brand management and marketing communication - the new
synergy between real perspectives and virtual ones in communication. The aim
is to demonstrate the importance of adopting a new integrated approach in
order to manage the complex issues involved in communicating the brand to
consumers and other stakeholders in the mature market of automotive. The
Author considers the launch of FIAT 500, the new Italian small car, a best
practice useful in terms of benchmarking, where many different tools and
media are used in order to support the appeal of the car but also to reposition
the corporate brand perception. A single product, a successful one, can be
devoted to a new approach in managing an old brand. Moving from the
empirical evidences of the communication strategies and operations, the paper
identifies in a qualitative way the most effective factors that have led Fiat to
attract again consumer attention and to succeed in repositioning its historical
brand. Using this case study, as an exploratory case, the Author suggests the
way in which a company can strategically plan and project an integrated
marketing campaign useful also to an effective branding rejuvenation.
JEL Classification: L1, L21, L62, M00, M14, M15, M31, M37
Keywords: Integrated Marketing Communication, Brand Management,
Consumer Community, Positioning, Automotive Industry.
Simonetta Pattuglia is Assistant Professor of Management, University of Rome “Tor
Vergata”, Faculty of Economics, Department of Business Studies
Introduction. The integrated marketing communication
The recent history of Fiat and Fiat Auto
The launch of the new Fiat 500
4.1 The A-segment market-City cars
4.2 The product: The triumph of “The iPod of cars”
4.3 A year-long launch strategy
4.4 The role of communication: The communication plan “500
wants you ! ”
4.4.1 The brand or the brand “turnaround and rejuvenation”
4.4.2 Internet and the web people
4.4.3 Advertising
4.4.4 The “fastes en direct”: Relational tools and events
4.4.5 The multimedia place
5. Results of the campaign. Some final considerations.
Editorial Notes
Paper presented to 8th International Congress Marketing Trends, Paris, 16th-17th
January 2009. Revised edition Dec. 2010
1. Introduction
It may not be necessary to mention the School of Palo Alto, which at the end
of the 1950s theorized that “one cannot not communicate”, especially thanks to
Watzlawick’s work (Watzlawick, Beavin, Jackson, 1967). The brilliant intuitions
and theories of the group of Californian psychologist have now become
common wisdom. Everyone agrees that the factual objects in the life of
businesses and institutions (as well as of individuals, small groups,
communities and societies) have communicational messages and contents –
whether intended or not. The point is, competitiveness and communication are
highly correlated. If there is no competition I can afford not to communicate,
but if I produce and I don’t communicate, I don’t sell (Cherubini, 2000) –
neither products nor identity. Individuals, businesses and institutions face
increasing competition, which means that communication is present almost
everywhere, even in those settings where historically it was taken as given or
considered as superstructure. An excellent example of this is communication in
the public sector, e.g. in the Italian public universities. In heavily constrained or
competitive situations, communication becomes a business function, even in
those sectors where only a few years ago it seemed unthinkable.
As competition increases, communication develops – and this is true both
with respect to direct competition and, all the more so, in the face of
international competition. Internal competition can be easily tamed (even with
the creation of “cartels”, maybe informal ones); global competition a lot less
But, of course, communication alone is not enough: a company also need
products and services. Indeed, it needs excellent products and services. The
main and most effective means of communication is an excellent product or
service capable of generating its own “buzz”.
Those in charge of integrated marketing communication within the
company (Duncan, 2002) should therefore be functionally involved in more
than just the definition of the product’s secondary features. The noblest and
most glaring aspect is undoubtedly the product design, which plays a very
important communicative role, as we shall see later when presenting our case
study. At the same time, products alone – excellent as they may be – are not
enough. Today’s world has become very fast (on a par with food). Rapidity of
action and excellent communication abilities must go hand in hand.
Communication is indeed an essential ingredient from an economic point of
view, since it can become a potential competitive factor itself. Therefore,
companies must learn to communicate irrespective of fashion and fads,
especially if they are to succeed and outlive their competitors.
Communication is an increasingly relevant, even essential, component of a
company’s success and positioning on the market. Any company has
compelling economic reasons to invest in communication (Kotler, 2008).2
The second thing we need to be aware of is that when we talk about
communication we talk about something sophisticated: the largest “share” of
the communication pie is of course accounted for by marketing
communication. However, in the present paper we wish to discuss
communication as a whole, from corporate to brand communication, from
traditional to web or web 2.0-3.0 communication.
Indeed, any organization should act according to an input-output
framework (a cybernetic matrix), whereby it transforms inputs – including
human capital and, above all, knowledge – in value-creating outputs (Rullani,
The new global economic, social, regulatory and communication scenario
we operate in is characterized by processes of digitalization, virtualization,
fragmentation, integration and – at the same time – disintermediation, digital
convergence (in communication and content), prosumption and the continuous
creation of knowledge (Tapscott D., 1995).
The new concept of consumption, including media consumption, creates
new contexts for communication: we go from “one cannot not communicate”
As Philip Kotler stated in a recent interview, “Companies will spend more in providing
special experiences to their clients than in offering better products and services” ( L’Impresa,
n. 11, 2008).
According to Rullani, knowledge – unlike other factors of production – creates value in a
number of different ways, as it lends itself several uses, thereby multiplying its value.
Additionally, knowledge confers the ability to interpret and attach specific meanings to
emotional and identity experiences, as well as an ability to self-regulate social relationships
among those actors sharing knowledge and its economic implications through specific
governance rules. For further details, see Rullani (2004).
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
to cross-mediality and to a culture of “convergence” in which media is a
concept that can be applied to any phenomenon capable of generating a
relationship with the consumer. Media convergence interacts with participatory
culture and collective creativity and intelligence (Jenkins H., 2006; Kozinets et
al., 2010).
Communication becomes more and more of a system itself, thanks to a
number of new communication trends, the most important of which may be
summarized as follow.
The role of information: As the industrial age was characterized by an
information asymmetry between individuals, consumers and companies,
the information age is characterized by the “information democracy” in
which information is ubiquitous – plethora of media and channels - and
cheap, so that “customers are being empowered with far better
information about marketers as well their competitors” (Shapiro, Varian
1999; Swaney M., Kotler P., 2001).
Branding: The creation and the continuous management and enhancement
of brands and branded contents as well as containers show us that if a
company wants to become leader in its sector, or to keep up the pace, it
has to be deeply involved in creating, positioning, integrating marketing
channels and communications, protecting and adding value to the brand
(Kapferer, Thonig, 2001; Aaker 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997; Aaker,
Joachimsthaler, 2000; Aaker, Fournier, Brasel, 2004; Keller, Lehmann,
2006; Ohlins, 2008; Kapferer, Thonig, 2001; Kapferer, 2008).
Relationship communities and event marketing: A special emphasis is given to the
relationship with the local communities and to event marketing. This is a
way of involving specific communities, which can be identified either by
the territory they live in4 or by the common interests (ideals, products,
brands) that move them. It is a new way of reading, thinking, planning and
managing the sponsorship of existing or ad-hoc events (Muniz, O’Guinn,
Consider, for example, the Renault Clio launch campaign, held in 2005 in the streets of Italy’s
main cities (Milan, Rome, Naples). The operation involved a number artistic events, concerts
and other shows targeted at the local populations.
2001; Cova, Cova, 2002; Bagozzi, Dholakia, 2002, 2006; McAlexander et
al., 2002, Muniz, Schau, 2005, Cherubini, Pattuglia, 2007) in order to reach
the position of “brand builder” (Aaker, Joachimsthaler, 2000).
Consumer-generated content models: A culturally alternative and less expensive
business model is used for producing and shaping contents and channels,
as witnessed by the recent proliferation of blogs, of peer-to-peer social
networks like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn, and social media like
Wikipedia (Venkatesh, 1999; Kozinets et al, 2006, Levy, 1997; Benkler,
2006, Jenkins H, 2006).
Knowledge and technology development as byproducts of new interactive
processes in communication (Castells M., 1996, Venkatesh, 1999, Jenkins
H. 2006).
The various forms, areas, tools and medias of communication create a new
marketing and communication mix that defines a new integrated marketing
communication that transmits benefits to the brand (Edel, Keller, 1989, 1999;
Duncan, 2002; Naik, Raman, 2003; Keller, Lehmann, 2006).
While advertising is effective in responding to primary needs, the research
and codification as well as the management of identity, starting from the brand,
require other forms of communication, marking a transition “from real to
virtual”. As we shall see, such a strong tendency towards “virtualization” is
associated with, paradoxically, an equally strong tendency towards tangible and
concrete forms of communication. “A marketing strategy consists in combining, from
the beginning and in all possible ways, the old communication media with the new digital
ones, to reach potential clients and stimulate their interest”.5
Investing in communication, even in a culture of communication, is a
crucial business strategy that allows companies to consistently pursue a number
of different goals in terms of identity, positioning (of products, brands and
business), credibility, goodwill, reputation, network creation and building
stakeholder trust (Grunig, Hunt, 1984; Keller, Lehmann, 2006), as well as
internal communication and corporate social responsibility.
Interview to P. Kotler, 2008.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
Thanks to the new ICT technologies, combined with marketing processes,
consumers have become increasingly smart, sophisticated, aware and hard to
please. They demand products and services that must be increasingly
adaptable, tailor-made and accessible, and companies must adopt a strategic
approach of maximum differentiation that has already been analyzed by
authoritative scholars in the 1980s (Porter, 1980).
Consumer profiles have become inseparable from the individuals and the
societies they live in. Therefore, companies should keep refining the
overlapping profiles of the individuals, the consumers and the audiences they
wish to address.
The mix of old and new media – which, according to Kotler, ought to be
combined – is redefining the consumption habits of the new consumers (prosumers), who are moving from generalist consumption, to on-demand
consumption, to shared and participatory (3.0) consumption – even of the
media. Therefore, we are moving from general to niche, responding to the
“long tail” approach (Anderson, 2008), and increasing individual patterns of
“Conversational marketing” becomes a likely paradigm that businesses can
adhere to: markets are characterized by the quantity/quality of information
incorporated in them. Markets are conversation: “A huge conversation is underway,
through the net people discover how to share knowledge” (Locke, Levine, Searls,
Weinberger, 1999).
Having discovered this, many companies keep creating new websites or web
pages dedicated to the “relationship” with clients and stakeholders. Such
relationships, paradoxically, go from being extremely virtual to being physical
and human. Relationships become events that bring together individuals and
communities. Companies are improving their ability to engage consumers.
Communication goes from being one to many, to being one to one, and then many
to many.
“Marketing assumptions must change“ (Swaney M., Kotler P., 2001):
segmentation techniques and criteria are increasingly based on a behavioral, as
opposed to cognitive, dimension – segments or clusters (communities) are
located, identified and profiled through the Web (Muniz, O’Guinn, 2000;
McAlexander et al., 2002; McConnell, Huba, 2006; Fournier, Lee, 2009;
Kozinets et al., 2010).
Thanks to the Web, it is possible to trace the cultural and lifestyle behavior of
consumers and potential clients – the pages they visit, the contents they are
attracted by, the time they devote to it, the way they get there.
Such an activity is – at least at a conscious level – not at all invasive towards
the consumer-surfer and relatively costless for the business-marketercommunicator.
Business communication, therefore, flows through better-targeted channels,
costs less in both absolute and relative terms, allows for a greater
differentiation of messages in order to provide information that is highly
focused on the needs of consumers and clients, and enables a deeper control
and monitoring of feedback and, as a consequence, better evaluation. “The
information-rich regime empowers customers with a new set of capabilities”
(Swaney M., Kotler P., 2001)
Products will become multi-platform (Keller, Lehmann, 2006) and will be
communicated and consumed through a number of different marketing
channels, which will foster the creation of an open relational environment.
“Favorites” will be made up of large lists of contents, that users will edit and
remodulate at will, creating new content that they will share with old and new
members of their social networks.
2. Methodology
The launch of the new Fiat 500, which we’ll discuss as a case study, represents
– in our opinion – a significant example of effective integrated communication,
a benchmark at both the business and the product level.
The study addresses the ways in which the Company, FIAT Auto, have
planned and managed a successful marketing and communication plan in
launching new Fiat 500, and the reasons and factors that contributed to this
Following the typical processes enabled by the case studies methodology
(Yin, 1981, 1994, 2004, 2009; Eisenhardt, 1989; Eisenhardt, Graebner, 2007,
and recognizing the persuasive power of the single case (Siggelkow, 2007), this
case study has been conducted through several observations of the Author
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
combined with the knowledge acquired by interviews with experts and
managers in marketing and communication strategies.
The unit of analysis has been the event of the launch, and the pre-launch, of
new Fiat 500 car, the processes that led from a declining period in business and
company communication to a period in which a new leadership was
established, as the late 2009 events have proved.
Secondary sources – company reports and communication artifacts (press
releases, advertising copy strategy, tv commercials, event communications,
websites instructions and information), articles based on interviews by the top
management and specialized publications – contributed to explore and in some
way to explain the evidences and complete them.
The research questions are: How did Fiat succeed in rejuvenating its brand?
How did the launch, and the strategy of a pre-launch, of new product manage
to lead the company to a new brand management? Which have been the main
features that have been characterizing the process of brand management in the
company? How did the company plan the marketing communication to reach
coordinated results able to succeed in launching a new product, rejuvenating
the brand and determining a turnaround in the company life? Which kind of
integrated marketing communication mix did the company choose to reach its
targets and its objectives ?
The case is a tangible and clear illustration of the progress made by
integrated marketing communication and of the broad reach of its tools, either
traditional and real, or virtual. As we shall see, Fiat Auto’s communication
strategy consisted in using a new product with a resonant name in people’s
memory to successfully convey a new image and, most importantly, to revive
and repositions a tarnished corporate identity and brand. As asset, the Fiat
brand is supposed to be still endowed with awareness, attributes, values, and
beliefs (Kapferer J.N., 2008), evoking emotion and nostalgia as well (Brown S.,
Kozinets R., Sherry J.F., 2003). For this reason, the company communication
effort should be considered a point of reference for other organizations in
both the same and other industries.
3. The recent history of Fiat and Fiat Auto
The year 2002 was Fiat Group’s annus horribilis, with new car sales at a
minimum since 1993 (Volpato, 2004)6.The revenues of Fiat Auto were down
10% and the company had a net loss of 4,263 million euro.
In an attempt to adapt to the new competitive environment, which urged to
focus on the core business, Fiat Group had already sold off a number of nonstrategic business units, such as Alluminio Teksid, operations such as
Aftermarket and Magneti Marelli’s Sistemi Elettronici, and its holdings in
General Motors (34%) and Italenergia (12%). In February of the same year, the
Group sold 70% of Fiat Engineering to Maire Holding, and in March it
divested itself of Toro Assicurazioni, the third largest Italian insurance group,
which was acquired by De Agostini in a transaction worth 2.4 billion euro. As a
result, the Group reduced its net debt by 1.4 billion euro and made a capital
gain of 350 million. In April the Group signed an agreement to allow due
diligence by The Carlyle Group, for the sale of the aerospace activities of Fiat
Avio – involving 14 production plants and 9 research centers – to a newco
established for this purpose by The Carlyle Group and Finmeccanica.
On June 1, 2004 Sergio Marchionne is appointed CEO of the Fiat Group.
He is tasked with carrying on and accelerating the company turnaround. To
this end, he redefines Fiat’s “business scope”, which has already been
refocused since May 2003.
The automotive business becomes once again Fiat’s true corporate mission,
on which all industrial and service activities are centered. The “historic” core
business of the Group – including cars, agricultural machinery and earth
moving solutions, industrial vehicles and components – becomes the core
business of the future. The executive team also carries out a radical
reorganization of the company: it gives the holding company a leaner structure
Commenting on the company results during the shareholder general meeting held on May
13, 2003, the then CEO Giuseppe Morchio said: “2002 was a very negative year for the Group.
We were badly affected by the negative operating results of Fiat Auto, which were not
counterbalanced by positive results in other business areas. In addition, we have incurred very
high costs as we began to restructure the company”.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
and hires new executives to work on brand management and commercial
activities. Indeed, one of the distinguishing features of the Turin-based
automaker – and one of the historic strategic and managerial “weaknesses”
(Volpato, 2002) – has been its tendency to underestimate the importance of
commercial activities, and more generally the importance of marketing and
communication activities related to the promotion of house brands (Fiat,
Lancia and Alfa) and a smart use of design7.
In November 2004 the Group appoints Luca de Meo and Antonio
Baravalle as brand and commercial executives for Fiat and Lancia, respectively.
This shows the great importance that the executive team now attaches to the
brand, its management and promotion, and its commercial penetration. “The
revitalization of brands always starts with major work of internal rejuvenation” (Kapferer,
The agreement reached with General Motors in 2005, which after a long
and controversial mediation process puts an end to the joint venture between
Fiat and the US car manufacturer, is welcomed with great emphasis by the
Group’s executives.8
In mid February 2005, as a further proof of the fact that “Fiat Auto is the one
business unit within our Group we must focus our attention on”, Marchionne
becomes the CEO of the Group’s automotive business9.
Whenever design has been part of the mission, this has been crowned with success – as in
the case of the Panda designed by Giorgio Giugiaro in 1980. Not to mention, of course, the
shortsightedness of its distribution approach, with most resellers concentrated in Italy and
As Sergio Marchionne declared: “I firmly believe that the settlement reached with GM is fair
and equitable to both parties. While on the one hand it deals with the valorization of the put
option […], it grants Fiat all the necessary freedom to develop its Auto business. We can now
clearly focus on the operational objectives of Fiat Auto, and devote our full energies to the reestablishment and rationalization of our brands and the building of an effective network to
maximize the success of our new product portfolio. The benefits of the relationship with GM
are being preserved through a long term supply arrangement and other cooperation
agreements, such as participation by Fiat in the GM alliance purchasing team model.” (Fiat
Group press release, 13 February 2005).
While Fiat was trying to survive and overcome the corporate crisis that had begun in the
previous decade, its local suppliers, located both in the Turin area and in the region of
The image of an “icy, detached, bureaucratic and arrogant” Fiat – which, in the
words of the current head of communications G. Perosino, prevailed before
the advent of Marchionne – was being replaced by a Fiat that had become
“more direct, has style but it smiles”.10
In June 2005, Fiat Auto announces the sale of the six-millionth Punto, the
most popular car in Italy at the time. In September, Fiat announces a strategic
cooperation agreement with Ford for the development and the production a
small A-segment car for each company (Fiat 500 for Fiat and the future Ka for
Ford). The outcome of the synergies between the two companies would be a
reduction in the costs of development, equipment, machinery and materials.
This, in turn, would allow Fiat and Ford to charge highly competitive prices to
final clients.
The Fiat brand, tarnished after several years of corporate crisis, tries to
regain market share by relying on the new Fiat 500 and on its corporate
history, trusting in the unwavering loyalty of its customers. As Kapferer and
Thoenig (1991) have put it: “Consumers make a choice between defection and
loyalty. (…) they wait for the brand to recover. Once customers become loyal
to brand, they remains so for some time: the brand has some respite to recover
and recuperate”. “To bring brand back to life” (Kapferer J.N., 2008).
4. The launch of the new Fiat 500
Between 1957 and 1975, Fiat sold as many as 3.8 million Fiat 500 cars. The old
500 model had been conceived and designed by Dante Giacosa, the engineer
who in 1936 had already designed the legendary Topolino, a car whose engine
Piedmont, had managed to cope with the negative impact of the Fiat crisis and to reorganize
themselves. They had modernized their structures, diversified their client base (replacing Fiat
with other car manufacturers), internationalized their businesses with only a minimum degree
of delocalization, and adopted new innovative strategies (investment in machinery, facilities,
IT, research) not necessarily product-related. Ref. Api Torino, Cna Torino, Ires Piemonte, PMI
Indotto auto. Crisi Fiat superata in tre mosse. Le indicazioni di una ricerca Api di Torino, Cna Torino, Ires
Piemonte, June 2007.
G. Perosino, during the press conference for the launch of the new Fiat 500, 4 July 2007.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
was however very different from the new icon of Italian style. Back then, the
small Fiat 500 had a self-supporting body, a rear, water-cooled engine and
independent wheels.
On July 4, 2007, exactly 50 years after the launch of the first 500, the Fiat
Group launches the third millennium edition, with a production and
communication plan that shows the crucial role that the car itself is bound to
play for the Turin-based company as the Company declares officially: “For the
company, the birth of the 500 represents the start of a new chapter, a
declaration of the role that Fiat aims to interpret in the future on the market
and in society. The stimulus to a new model of conscious consumption. A
model for the exploitation of experience in the automotive field that focuses
on quality and emotions, on uniqueness rather than on mass-production,
where simplification does not mean doing without. The 500 is the tangible
synthesis of these aspirations. With the 500, Fiat smiles at the future” (press
release dated July 5, 2007) .
The history of the corporate crises of the Fiat Group are indeed punctuated
by the launch of highly successful cars, which “miraculously” managed to
reverse its decline: the Fiat 127 in 1971, the already-mentioned Panda in 1980,
the Fiat Uno in 1985 and the Fiat Punto in 1993 (Volpato, 2002).
The event draws a great deal of international attention proved by a huge
press coverage as result of effective communications11 at the launch (and prelaunch), the Group has already processed 25,000 orders (5,000 of which in
France alone), orders which increase to 185,000 by April 2008. The goal of the
Fiat headquarters was to produce 120,000 units a year.
Cittanova M.L., “La mythique Fiat 500 s’offre une seconde jeunesse”, Les Echos; “Fiat
France: L’échappée belle de Carlos Gomes”, Le Figaro; “Big aspirations for the little Fiat 500”,
Herald Tribune; “El Fiat 500 vuelve a circular 50 anos despues”, El Pais; Owen R., “Small but
still perfectly formed – Italy unveils new Fiat 500 at 50th birthday extravaganza”, The Times;
“La 500 fait son come back”, La Tribune; “Le secteur automobile turinois s’afranchit de la
tutelle de Fiat”, La Tribune; Maxwell K., “Fiat takes ride on a mini”, The Wall Street Journal
Europe, 5 July 2007.
4.1 The A-segment market-City cars
The A-segment-City cars is highly concentrated on the supply side. The
European market is dominated by Mini-BMW and Smart-Mercedes, with
144,000 and 94,000 units sold, respectively, in 2007, the year the new Fiat 500
is launched. As expectations build up around the new Tata Nano, other city
cars are also quite popular – Kia Picanto, Chevrolet Matiz, Toyota Aygo,
Peugeot 107, Citroen C1, Toyota iQ, and Twingo Sport.
The continental competitors of Fiat Auto, together with Corean and
Japanese automakers, have strengthened and expanded their presence in the
European and Italian markets since the mid 1990s (Gallo, 2003). According to
Volpato (2008), the car market and the demand for cars in particular have a
number of distinctive features. First, the product life cycle tends to get shorter
and shorter (currently it is 5.6 years). Second, there is a proliferation of market
niches, which has increased the number of segments (and sub-segments) from
the traditional four to as many as 23. Third, consumers are increasingly
attracted to cars for fashion-related reasons, which are determined by: 1) everincreasing investments in communication; 2) the use of an increasingly diverse
and integrated media mix; 3) a great acceleration of the pace of
communication; 4) a careful research of specific forms/tools to better
differentiate the “communication” of the product; 5) a radical change of the
contents of communication, to prevent messages from blending in the
“communication noise” in the background; 6) a repositioning of products
towards more luxurious versions (upgrading of models in terms of
performance, comfort and image); 7) additional (generally high tech) services
that give products a unique identity and make them more competitive.
At the beginning of 2008, however, the European car market was stagnant
(-10.2% on 2007, Source: European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association).
The downturn appeared to be due to several causes, namely: a) fewer working
days, due to several holidays; b) the new taxation systems that penalized
polluting vehicles (especially in Spain and France); c) the soaring cost of raw
materials; d) the economic crisis lurking in the background and the consequent
slowdown of consumer expenditure.
In the same period, new car sales in Italy fall by 11,5%, in spite of the
presence of financial incentives for the purchase of low-pollution cars (Anfia,
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
according to data provided by the Ministry of Transportation). Still, Italian
brands witness a good success, with a 32.8% increase in sales. Fiat is up 2.8%.
Even in Italian demand we observe a gradual strengthening of the small car
segment, with a clear preference for models fitted with high-tech solutions and
offering the same comfort and performance traditionally associated with large
In short: at the beginning of the new millennium car purchases are mostly
driven by “rational” factors, such as performance, safety, technology, as well as
fuel efficiency, and discounts and other incentives for the purchase of new
cars. But we should also mention “emotional” drivers, such as appearance,
product line and comfort, which account for a weighty 25% of the decision to
buy. The “focal point is the right price”.12
4.2 The product: The triumph of “the iPod of cars”
Just a year and a half after the beginning of the project, the new Fiat car begins
to take shape. Its main promoter, Sergio Marchionne, with an expression that
will echo across the world, will call it “the iPod of cars” – a car that is small and
easy to handle, yet endowed with advanced technological features and a design
that will make it a cult object, just like the Apple mp3 player and many other
small yet great objects that make up our modernity (or post-modernity). Cult
objects that have been ironically summed up in the advertising campaign
featuring the Fiat 500 together with other “magic” little items, such as the
Swiss pen-knife, the Bic cigarette lighter, the Bialetti moka pot and Rubik’s
cube (figure 1).
The design project is carried out by the Advanced Design Fiat center,
headed by Roberto Giolito, who will declare: “We wanted to distil in the car
proportions and identity, but with a present-day interpretation”. As we’ll see
the product will actually be a co-creation between the company and its internet
brand communities (Lusch, Vargo, 2006)
Ref. Analisi delle motivazioni all’acquisto dell’auto, a quantitative and qualitative research
conducted by the Istituto Piepoli for UNRAE and Confcommercio (the Italian General
Confederation of Trade, Tourism, Services and SMEs), February 2008.
Figure 1: The Fiat 500 advertising campaign, 2007-2008, “Some little things are
The new Fiat 500 is designed to conjure up the past, but definitely without
being a copy or an unimaginative revival (vintage). The operation, as a
marketing strategy, is considered a brilliant and successful example of retromarketing (Cucco, Dalli, 2008) or retro-branding (Brown, Kozinets, Sherry,
The product is conceived as the most advanced in its segment – four
comfortable seats, and an extra sixty centimeters compared to the 1950s
version. The new Fiat 500 is available in a large number of versions, offering
all the comforts and devices of a small city car: from Bluetooth connectivity
for tech-savvy passengers to two-color seats (in several combinations) for
those who are looking for a distinctive and identifiable urban style. The
product range – comprising at the beginning two petrol models and a diesel car
– is gradually enriched with new sport versions, such as the Abarth and the
Cabrio, as well as other theoretically “unlikely” versions, such as the station
wagon, a second Giardinetta.
Technology and style are widely communicated by leveraging on the “5” for
effect: 500,000 ways of customizing it; 5-year guarantee or for 500,000 km;
seven airbags of 5-star rating in crashes. The whole thing is structured in such a
way that technical features and performance offer maximum driving pleasure
as well as reliability. The price is affordable, and again it plays on the “5”
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
element: the Fiat 500 can be bought with 500 cents a day, and it costs between
10,500 and 14,500 euros.
The new Fiat 500 does not overlook the fact that public opinion in 2007,
unlike in 1957, has a stronger awareness of environmental issues: the car is
already compliant with the Euro 5 standard that will be introduced in 2009,
and in 2012 will help Fiat achieve the lowest average levels of CO2 emissions
for all its models.13
The small Fiat 500, and its “sister the Ford Ka”, as it has been defined, are
the result of a genuine industrial and strategic partnership between Fiat and
Ford. By relying on a common manufacturing and assembly facility in Poland,
the two companies manage to keep their costs down, in order to compete in an
increasingly important and growing segment – the market of small vehicles, the
so-called “city cars”, suitable for driving around in highly populated cities and
countries with highly concentrated urban areas. However, competitors in the
same segment are equally appealing: Kia Picanto, Mini, Smart Fortwo,
Chevrolet Matiz, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, Citroen C1 and so on. Although
the segment appears to be very crowded, the Mini and the Smart are still the
most credible and aggressive rivals (see Figure 2).
The skepticism surrounding the Fiat brand, combined with the still-vivid
memories of the recent and extended negative performance of the Turin-based
car manufacturer, gives rise to less emphatic and excited judgments on the new
Fiat 500. Stuart Whitwell, managing director of Intangible Business, a famous
consulting company based in London and specialized in brand valuation,
Source: ANFIA, Associazione Nazionale Filiera Automobilistica (the Italian Association of
the Automotive Industry), press release, 18 April 2008. “Fiat sets European record in the
reduction of CO2 emissions, with an average of 137.3g/KM in 2007 – According to a recent
analysis by JATO Dynamics, the world leader in automotive research, FIAT is the car
manufacturer with the lowest average CO2 emissions among Europe’s 10 largest automakers.
With its 137.3g/Km, Fiat leads on Peugeot (141,9 g/km), Citroen (142,2 g/Km), Renault
(146,4 g/km), Toyota (148,8 g/km), Ford (149,1 g/km), Opel/Vauxhall (152,9 g/km),
Volkswagen (161,7 g/km), BMW (176,7 g/km) and Mercedes (188,4 g/km). The above data,
calculated as an average of CO2 emissions weighted by volumes, highlight once again the
commitment and efforts made by the Italian automaker to develop environment-friendly
sarcastically declared to The Wall Street Journal Europe (5 July 2008): “People
don’t buy the BMW Mini simply out of nostalgia for the old Mini. Buyers of
BMW buy a quality car. The new Fiat 500 may have some success in Italy and
other parts of Southern Europe, but I don’t think it is iconic enough to sell
equally well in other markets”. This predictive opinion will be completely
swept away by the event of the launch in the United States (Los Angeles
International Auto Show), dated 19th November 2010, heralding the return of
Fiat to North America.
Figure 2: Years 2000-2009. A comparison of sales of the main city cars BMW Mini Smart - Fiat 500, 2000-2009, Sales per year.
SMART 101853 104217 110167 111629 133580 131672 101754
94085 103377
24762 105713 116147 123551 128519 113655 143997 142839 135108
Source: Acea-European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association data, 2010
During the launch event held at the “Lingotto” in Turin, Luca Cordero di
Montezemolo, president of a reborn Fiat, declared: “Today is a very important
day for Turin and Fiat. It is a time when the product is glorified, a time when
every entrepreneur takes stock of his or her achievements”.
By way of comment, let’s consider Kapferer’s seminal words: “It is a mistake
to believe that the added value of brands resides exclusively in their sign value
[…] in short, in the image of self conveyed by advertising and communication.
A brand can only survive if it displays consistent creativity and if production is
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
based on a level of quality that is pushed to the extreme” (Kapferer, Thoenig,
4.3 A year-long launch strategy
At the moment of the launch, the partnership between Fiat and MTV
international broadcast, centered on the organization of surprise gigs, events
and parties, showed once again, if at all necessary, how the main target of the
new Fiat 500 was once more (as it was in 1957) a young target.
This is indeed a city car targeted at male and female adult populations with a
urban lifestyle and pace of work, that tries to keep up with their social and
professional development. However, the new Fiat 500 is still intended as a
“debut” car for young people on their first driving experience.
Therefore, the communication strategy chosen to launch the product is
targeted, if not at – strictly speaking – young segments of demand, most
definitely at its more innovative components. “The 500 is an inclusive not an
exclusive concept – said the Company - and Fiat felt that this was the best way to meet the
tastes of all its potential customers, without distinction, from the most minimalist to the most
eccentric” (Fiat Group press release, 5 July 2007).
It is a strategy that relies on integrated marketing communication, mixing
together traditional and innovative tools in order to generate and exploit a
precious “buzz” around the new product. The new strategy was implemented
through a combination of interactive communication, community building and
the organization of events, leveraging on the delicate relationship between the
company and the brand, on the one hand, and the users, on the other, who
were actively involved both in designing the product (see paragraph 3.4.4) and
in its launch following the practice of typical “online creative consumer communities”
(Kozinets, Hemetsberger Schau H.J, (2008).
As Volpato (2008) puts it, “With the launch of this model the company has
combined in a single operation three particularly advanced marketing
principles: a) establish a two-way communication with its audiences; b)
advertise the product not only in conventional ways, but also by activating
potential clients so that they themselves talk about the product; c) create an
“event” related to the product being promoted, so that media take an interest
and start dealing with the product”.
The whole process has been managed according to a well-known customer
retention approach, which leads consumers to experience the new/revived
product and enter a community of admirers that share awareness, common
rituals and traditions, as well as a sense of “moral responsibility” – all typical
elements of the so called “consumer communities”, especially in the
automotive industry (McAlexander, Schouten, Koenig, 2002).
In the period of the pre-launch, from March 2006 to March 2007, the
community of old-time “500 lovers” and new fans of the small Fiat car had a
chance to submit to the Turin-based automaker ideas and suggestions through
the website called “Configuration Lab”.
According to Fiat whose ambition was to create the “biggest internet-based
interactive marketing platform”, as many as three million enthusiasts contributed to
defining the new car. On the night of March 21, 2007, a preview of the first
official pictures of the new vehicle was arranged on the Fiat 500 website.
Technically speaking, the preview was meant especially for those who, in a
display of customer loyalty, had contributed for over a year to the designing
the product with suggestions, advice and comments. The on-line preview was,
therefore, a way of thanking the most passionate supporters just before the
general presentation to the press, which took place a few hours later on the
same day and then again on July 4, when the product was officially launched
and car dealers started accepting new orders. The first models were actually
sold at the end of September 2007.
On November 19, 2007, the Fiat 500 was declared “Car of the Year 2008”.
A year-long relationship with stakeholders, the press and the media produced
hundreds of articles and television reports and hundreds of awards.
4.4 The role of communication: The communication plan “500 wants
In the car industry, the so called sequential funnel communication - which
accompanies “more capable consumers” (Swaney M, Kotler P, 2001) and
relies on tools and techniques to follow each of them from the very first time
they think about the idea to the final moment when a purchase decision is
actually made – can be quite complex, since a very long time may elapse from
the moment consumers think about buying a car to the moment they grab a
pen to sign the purchase agreement.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
For this reason, marketers and communicators in the car industry, rather than
relying on a vertically integrated marketing communication approach – for
example, starting with a traditional advertising campaign on newspapers,
television and/or online, followed by a promotional campaign and then by a
direct mail campaign, with a view to “close” the deal at the point of sale with a
motivated and aggressive sales force – tend at present to prefer a horizontally
integrated marketing communication, that uses several media, tools and many
digital touch points at the same time to hit the predefined target or those target
or out-of-target elements that contribute to purchase decision or define the
decision-making unit (Cherubini, Eminente, 2000; Swaney, Kotler, 2001;
Edelman, 2010).
A research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (2006), carried out on the
web with Google, showed that in the car industry, as in all the other sectors
where consumers purchase expensive items, new media – such as research
engines, blogs, personal and professional social networks, downloadable videos
and so on – were playing an ever increasing role next to more traditional
commercial techniques. As specialized current literature highlights more and
more frequently (Aaker, Joachimsthaler, 2000; Kapferer 2002, 2008; Ohlins,
2008), the 68% of the function directors interviewed said that online
marketing helps building brand awareness and leadership and according to
55% of them, it increases brand preference14.
Before consumers enter a car dealer, through the new media they can:
1) take an interest in the new product, as promoted through a multimedia
advertising campaign – on the radio, TV, newspapers, and of course the
web, with all its endless possibilities created by interstitials, pop-ups,
keywords, all the way to corporate blogs (Sawney, Prandelli, Verona, 2002;
Vescovi, Dallagnese, 2007; Cherubini, Pattuglia, 2009) or
2) take an interest entering the “conversation” that occur spontaneously or
guided by the companies among the communities on the web (Fournier,
Lee, 2009)
Economist Intelligence Unit, The future of marketing: From monologue to dialogue, 2006
3) become aware of the brand’s own essence and style, and of the product and
service it communicates through the various media it is conveyed by and
learn about all the features that until recently could be appreciated directly
at the dealership or seen on the catalogues provided by the sales network
(Kapferer, Thoenig, 1991; Aaker, Joachimsthaler, 2000; Kapferer, 2008).
By visiting the websites of car manufacturers, consumers may now learn about
ranges, models, colors, versions and prices also by participating to the
manufacturers’ processes. By engaging consumers in experiential events,
manufacturers and brands may attract potential clients well before they enter
the car dealership.
Finally, if marketers use new media to listen to consumers and learn about
their needs and preferences, then the Internet becomes a constant source not
only of outbound brand communication, but also of inbound communication,
which can be exploited to learn and profile, and therefore influence and
accompany consumers – tracking their purchase behavior – to the final stage
of their decision, knowing at all times what stage of the process they are at
(Barwise, Meehan, 2010).
In this sense, the traditional “funnel communications” – starting from
awareness and moving to familiarity, consideration, purchase and loyalty seems to be responding to a quite old vision of what really happens in the
decision making process of new always connected to media consumers
(Edelman, 2010).
As a more recent consumer decision survey made by McKinsey has proved,
new consumers start by considering an initial sets of brands, based on
perceptions and exposure to traditional and innovative touch points; then, in
an highly interactive second phase, consumers add or subtract brands after
evaluation of needs/desires/aspirations; finally the consumer chooses a brand
at the moment of purchase. But the process continues: there is an ultimate
phase in which, after the purchase, the consumer shows expectations and real
experiences to inform the next decision process and other people about their
possible decision making processes (Court et al., 2009).
As Keller and Lehmann stressed in a seminal study about literature on brand
and branding (2006), the ultimate success in brand positioning and brand
equity depends on the combined work and synergistic results that occur when
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
a company is well guiding an integrated brand marketing. Three areas are involved:
the contribution of the different brand elements (mark, logo, name, colours, the
complete identity), the impact of coordinated communication and channel strategies
and the interaction of company-controlled and external events15.
The integrated marketing communication campaign of the new Fiat 500, called
“500 wants you!” – with a total cost of 12 million euros – was a truly
international operation aimed, first and foremost, at allowing people, “the
people”, especially those connected through the Web and thus more
innovative and dynamic (and on average of a younger age), to take an active
role in the life of the new car, ever since its conception. So the communication
effort kicked off when the Turin-based automaker made the strategic decision
to produce a new A-segment car. Communication has not been ancillary to
other core activities, such as development and production. It has been an
integrated effort that has allowed Fiat to build the largest online laboratory for
listening, marketing and communication created until then in the car industry.
4.4.1 The brand or the brand “turnaround and rejuvenation”
Through the pre-launch (May 2006-July 2007), the launch (July 2007) and the
following promotion of the new 500, Fiat engaged in a brand revival operation,
which was all the more interesting since it occurred in a relatively short period
of time.
This operation – Kapferer’s words - can be named “brand rejuvenation”: even
though the sales may be at the minimum (as Fiat sales were at the moment of
the launch) some brands are still evoking resonance in our memory and are still
endowed with brand awareness, attributes, beliefs, company values. These
brands are still able to capture emotion and nostalgia. “Brand revitalization in the
narrow sense consists of recreating a consistent flow of sales, putting the brand back to life, on
a grow slope again”. Revitalization and revivals are based on an updating of the
complete offer of the brand while staying tied to part of its identity. The
revival implies a change in the product as in the market, or in the target market
(Kapferer, 2008): that’s what actually Fiat strategically did.
Keller K.L., Lehmann D.R., “Brand and Branding: Research Findings and Future priorities”,
Marketing Science, vol.25, no.6, November-December, 2006
According to the general feedback received so far (the new logo seen as a
cult by the press and the great success given by the public to the branded
gadgets) the effort has turned out to be very successful. As a proof of this, let’s
consider the indicator in communication, “the” communication code par
excellence – language.
According to Grunig and Hunt (1984): “Communication is successful when people
use the words and symbols being communicated to build up and idea that reasonably
resembles the idea of the communicator”16.
Language helps us understand the clever effort that was made to
communicate a brand identity and how such identity was well absorbed by
users, whether opinion makers, leaders or final consumers. The institutional
language adopted by Fiat in all communications related to the launch of the
new product – communication targeted at the press as well as the general
public (see the website and its by-products) – drew liberally on the
mythological world of cars to generate great expectations. “Undisputed
leadership”; “tradition of excellence in technology, design and human capital”;
“quality breakthrough”; “advanced response”; “total freedom”; “a funny,
extraordinary car”; “a jewel”; “a real asset” – these are only a few of the
emphatic expressions used by the company, which we quote here as an
illustration of the above-mentioned approach.
The language used by the media, as a consequence, was equally emphatic,
thus attesting to the effectiveness of the communication strategy adopted.
Reports everywhere talked about “myth” and “story” – a “myth that is part of
Italian history” “reviving the myth of the old cinquino”; “an icon of Italy on
four wheels”; “operation nostalgia”; “a city car to dream about”; “a mix of
revival, comfort and technology”; a story of “days spent outdoors, of holidays,
of Italy’s best moments” – as well as of “maximum driving pleasure”17.
Corporate communication –thus corporate branding- was, as we can see, a success.
Grunig J. and Hunt T., Managing Public Relations, Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 1984
These expressions were analyzed by the Author in few of the most reputed Italian
newspapers and magazines such as Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica,
Panorama, etc.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
As already mentioned, until mid-2005 Fiat appeared to be a declining brand, at
least as far as the registration of new cars was concerned. Still, it was
considered a traditional, if not historic, brand, that Italians were very fond of.
The owners themselves, the Agnelli family, were still being perceived as the
true “royal family”, in spite of the occasional unflattering stories reported on
the press (Ferrante, 2007).
However, on the product side, the public sentiment at the time of the
launch of the new Fiat 500 was generally negative: in spite of the favorable
judgments surrounding the Grande Punto and the new Panda, Fiat cars were
still considered reliable although scarcely appealing in terms of quality and
design, which are factors that must be combined in a successful brand
marketing (Thybout, Carpenter, 2001; Ohlins, 2008) . The brand was suffering
as a result. The “communication facelift” – to borrow Kapferer’s expression – that
had already been undertaken was not enough, although several brand
promotion operations were already underway, with good success among the
public and the press. In mid-2005, with the slogan “Fiat never sleeps and never goes
on holiday”, the brand manager L. Elkann inaugurated, under the “Lingotto”
sign, the Sardinian beach at Punta Marana-Olbia, as he did in winter with the
most exclusive ski resorts on the Alps. In the same spirit, he promoted the
distribution of merchandising such as sweatshirts and shoes, or the opening of
lounge bars across Italy, in order to support the image of a revived brand as well as
the sales organization and the actual sales of cars such as Croma or Panda. He
wanted to approach consumers with a communication that had to be different
from the past, when it was based entirely on the more traditional medium of
Corporate branding and product branding. The Fiat corporate brand needed a
distinctive new lease of life, which it definitely received through the Fiat 500
product brand (Collesei, 2006). Indeed, the only way to strengthen Fiat’s
distinctive identity was to renew its product(s) and to improve their
performance, quality, design, and image, in order to please consumers and
customers. Communication – in its most traditional and perhaps obvious
meaning of advertising and promotion – would only come at a later stage, after
production and financial risk had made a “difference” and created added value
(Kapferer, Thoenig, 1991; Aaker, Joachimsthaler, 2000; Kapferer, 2008).
Brand elements. In the age of one-to-one communication, Fiat had to manage its
presence and visibility in the industry, as we have seen, in a truly innovative
way starting by the key brand elements such as logo and its features (Schmitt,
Simonson, 1997; Kohli, LaBahn, 1997; Keller, 2003). The corporate logo –
modified for the sixth time in thirty years – was restyled so that it remained
recognizable even with a new graphical appearance. The modern-looking
sanserif characters set against a blue background were abandoned for a
traditional font set against a red background.18
Brand Value and Brand Loyalty. The innovative communication surrounding
the brand, through the restyling of the logo and more, creates a new brand value
– a value determined by the quality, credibility and “freshness” of the new
product, and therefore of the company that has launched it, as well as by the
loyalty that such a high-quality and communicative product may generate.
Loyalty towards the product itself, the company and the brand. A loyalty that
feeds itself, also thanks to inter-customer relationships - “the Brand Community
Triad”, consumer-brand-consumer – the increasingly credible relationships
fostered by interactive communication between the consumers-fans of the
product and the brand (Schouten, McAlexander, 1995; Fournier, 1998;
McAlexander et al. 2002; Aaker et al., 2004; Muniz, O’Guinn, 2001; Keller,
Lehmann, 2006).
Moving one step forward, thanks once again to multimedia and web-based
tools, marketing and communication professionals engaged in promoting the
company and the product become part of the consumer community being
built around the product (see Figure 3).
This way, marketers and communicators give an increasingly active
contribution to building the brand and its value, creating a framework where
interactions between consumers and clients, brand and product, may
proliferate and create innovation (Kozinets, Hemetsberger, Jensen Schau,
2010). “This is the message: behind the product and the normal corporate
Antonio Romano, a leading Italian brand designer, who assisted Renault in renewing its
brand, recently said: “I believe Fiat has done a good job lately. With the new logo, renewed
only eight years after its previous restyling, the company has shown once again its willingness
to turn a page on the dramatic situation of the past decade”( Italia Oggi, 25 March 2008).
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
communications there are real people who understand and care about their
customers”(McAlexander, Schouten, Koenig, 2002)19.
Figure 3: A customer-centric model of a brand community. Adapted from
McAlexander, Schouten, Koenig, 2002
4.4.2 Internet and the web people
According to a modern integrated marketing communication approach tended
to stress the compatibility between new interactive media and high
involvement experience (Aaker, Joachimsthaler, 2000; Fournier, Lee, 2009), the
brand communication of the Fiat 500 has relied on an effective combination of
advanced and innovative activities and tools, as well as more traditional ones,
including public relations and live events. According to Kotler, “Internet has
become a true medium of brand communication”.20
Fabio Galletto, marketing manager Fiat, declared: “We believe in a marketing ever growing
interactive where the consumer becomes “consumer-actor” and the protagonist”.
Dini, A. “Aziende Lovebrand”, cit.
Accordingly, the integrated marketing communication program had in the
Internet its general content management and agenda setting tool following the
scholars who referred to “collective innovation” of consumer groups or
“crowds” in which the consumers are recognized as a collective force,
collaborative and creative (Levy, 1997; Benkler, 2006; Jenkins, 2006; Tapscott,
2006; Kozinets et al.., 2008).
The Fiat 500 website was conceived as a “great online lab”. Since the
beginning, through the official site, users could participate in the
“configuration lab”, which allowed them to play around and model their own
favorite 500, their concept car, and to save their ideas on the website. The
many versions of the car produced by the Turin-based automaker correspond
to those proposed and most voted by the Web people. Following Hargadon
and Bechky (2006) approach, the moments of collective consumer creativity
are enabled by four categories of related activities: seeking, help giving,
reflecting refraining and reinforcing behavior. These practices are findable in
online communities of consumption as well (Kozinets et al., 2008).
This “distributed production” system was the concrete expression of a new
prosumer attitude that modern consumers, taking on an active role, increasingly
tend to display. As the underlying behavioral patterns of consumers change, so
does marketing, moving from a “push” logic (whereby messages are received
by passive subjects, such as the viewers of generalist television, as opposed to
the customers of satellite or digital TV, who are willing to search for content
and “pay to view” what they have chosen) to a “pull” logic (the message
recipients actively draws on the Internet, iPod, YouTube, social networks, etc.
to get to the desired message content).
It was a matter of communicating virtually, and therefore globally, to the
nth power: communication as product design. On the
website, for over a year (from March 2006 to July 2007), surfers could send
ideas, recommendations, suggestions concerning the design of the real
product, which in the meantime was being developed in Fiat’s design labs,
blending personal interests, hobbies and consumption activities with the social
need for belonging, difference and identity (Kozinets et al., 2008).
Surfers from all over the world were rewarded on the night of March 22,
2007, when they enjoyed an exclusive preview of the online pictures of the
newborn car: according to most accounts, thousands of people watched in
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
rapture. The virtual preview was by all means a way of thanking the many fans
who proved to be a cooperative community. A page dedicated to the new car
was published immediately on Wikipedia.
500 wants you is still conceived, and forever will be, as a “cooperative web”
effort: users are allowed to customize the website, manipulate the page
structure, move the boxes as they see fit and reduce to icons the ones they are
not interested in. This way, surfers can create their own page (my home),
which they can access any time they visit the Fiat 500 website and modify as
many times as they want. The site features also a “500-ology”, an online
encyclopedia full of stories and images, written with the many contribution of
web surfers.
4.4.3 Advertising
In 2004 Fiat didn’t have any car – i.e. new products – to promote, hence the
company decided to launch a shocking advertising campaign where foreign
brands thanked Italians for buying their cars in large numbers. The
communication campaign hit Italians like a whiplash on their chest. In 2005
Fiat advertised the new Panda, hiring the Jamaican four-man bob team. This
was followed by the a new campaign, in Fall 2005, with the Grande Punto
associated to the very Italian singer Vasco Rossi. The national-musical climax
was reached with the advertising campaign of the Bravo, a “magnifica creatura”
(marvellous creature) celebrated by the song of Gianna Nannini. At the
beginning, and before the new Fiat 500 was launched, the “renaissance” of Fiat
was communicated mainly by means of “classic” advertising that hit Italian
collective imagination with a brand that relied on Italian voices – first Vasco,
then Gianna.
Although definitely a traditional medium, advertising was the only way to
quickly shake the old and aristocratic Fiat out of its torpor, through a
consistent, relentless pull on the consumer. The advertising effort reached its
full expressive power when the showman Fiorello was hired to advertise with
his gags Fiat’s brand and products, with a series of TV commercials that drew
on his highly successful “W Radio Due” radio show.
In 2006 Fiat’s advertising investment totaled 107 billion euros, making the
company rank seventh among the big spenders. In 2007, according Nielsen
Media Research and Unrae data, Fiat Auto was the second largest spender,
before Toyota, GM, Citroen, Renault, Ford, Peugeot, BMW and Mercedes.
The list of the most heavily advertised products did not feature, however, the Fiat
500 (we’ll come back to this later).
The first official commercial of the new Fiat 500, and the associated
advertising campaign signed by the Leo Burnett agency, did not appear until
Fall 2007. The campaign, that seemed very pervasive and generated a huge
“buzz”, was in fact born from an idea of the CEO Marchionne, who gave it a
sharp institutional (corporate) yet strongly emotional and engaging feel with
two main objectives, as the Company said: “…. The first is about
remembering and underlining that Fiat has always been part of the Country,
both in the bad and good moments, participating to the history of the Country.
The second one is a message of thanks to all the Italians, who have been
trustful in the difficult periods, and in return of this trust and affection we give
them back the car they were asking since a long time”.
The restyled Fiat logo was made to appear as a “symbol of all things Italian” – a
symbol among symbols, perhaps arrogantly so, according to some opinion
leaders.21 “Life is but a collection of places and people who define time. Our
time”: as the script scrolled, the screen filled with the images of joy and pain
that have made Italian history and art over the past fifty years – among them
judges Falcone and Borsellino, Ciampi, Montanelli, Togliatti, Mother Teresa of
Calcutta, Carla Fracci and Eduardo De Filippo. In the commercial, the Fiat
logo was associated with the “eternal battle between Good and Evil”, between
“what to be and not to be”, which is a constant feature of everyone’s life at any
point in time. The images were taken from Tornatore’s hit movie New Cinema
Paradiso, the soundtrack Back to Life was written and performed by Giovanni
Allevi 22 – a cult movie and a cult musician, respectively.
Il Riformista, 31 March 2008.
The young Italian composer, whose music had already been used by BMW, Giovanni Allevi
said to the press:“It’s exciting to know that my music is associated to the historic Fiat brand. I
consider it a sign of affection towards myself and my musical creativity, which is deeply rooted
in Italian traditions. The association with Fiat will allow so many people around the world to
become acquainted with my notes. […] For a new all Italian Renaissance”. In, 4 July 2008.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
“The new Fiat belongs to everybody” is the claim that wraps up the commercial and
the campaign, that ends with an overview of the seven changes the logo went
through before reaching its present form. In just about two weeks, beginning
of the day of the launch, the commercial was broadcasted 23 times during
prime time on the RAI and Mediaset channels, for the most part on Canale 5
(11 breaks). The Fiat logo appeared only once in the final commercial, after
Falcone, Ciampi, Gaber and Valentino Rossi.
The pay off “You are We car”, featured in the massive billboard campaign
for the new Fiat 500, finalized the renaissance of a brand that appeared, if not
dead, definitely tarnished and doomed to decline.
4.4.4 The “fastes en direct”: Relational tools and events
According to some scholars, the above mentioned features of a typical brand
community – a sense of belonging, shared rituals and common traditions, as well
as a sense of moral responsibility towards the brand – would not exist in the
same way in the absence of brand promotion events, “brandfests”
(McAlexander, Schouten, Koenig, 2002). The benefits that the members of the
brand community derive from “physically” attending events that are expressly
designed to create brand communities are symbiotic in nature, being the
outcome of a process of “socialization” of the brand.
The new fans and participants of the brand promotion events enjoy the
social approval of old-time loyal customers (just read the comments posted on
the Fiat 500 website by both newcomers and veterans). At the same time, the
more recent fans grant old-time loyals a leadership role in the communication
Marketing and communication professionals, as we have seen, also give
their own contribution to the community. What we are witnessing, here, is a
typical win-win situation created by a strategic marketing mechanism
strengthened by new technologies and characterized by a higher degree of
emotional involvement.
Fiat seemed to understand this perfectly well. As written by the French
newspaper La Tribune, the company organized and inaugurated what we may
call “fastes en direct” (live celebrations), which, as we shall see, if supported by a
substantial investment in communication, may justify a reduced investment in
those items – such as billboard advertising – which ex ante appeared quite
The actual launch took place with a series of events covering the three days
of July 4 to July 6, 2007. The day after, with a pinch of malice, the French
talked about “lancement en fanfare” (Les Echos) and “grandmesse du lancement” (Le
Figaro). The English, with no more benevolence, wrote of “big aspirations”
(Herald Tribune) and “50th birthday extravaganza” (the Times).
The event held at the Lingotto on July 4, 2007 had a 7000-strong guest list –
among them, 3750 car dealers from 63 countries, the 500 workers of Mirafiori
(the Fiat plant in Turin), 1000 national and international journalists, 200
suppliers, and 1000 other guests selected among politicians, businesspeople,
celebrities, fashion designers and, last but not least, sportspeople. It was also a
time for massive celebrations in many Italian towns – Turin, of course, and 30
others chosen among those cities with the most beautiful “piazzas”.
The willingness to build corporate social responsibility around the brand
lead Fiat to promote a large charitable initiative in cooperation with “L’Albero
della vita Onlus”. During the launch events held in the different cities, the
company supported – through the sale of its merchandise – the project “Un
nido per Pollicino”, aimed at assisting needy parents and their young children,
helping them to “grow up” in a hopeful and joyful environment.23 The
initiative continued at the dealerships across the country, especially during the
open days.
L’Albero della vita Onlus undertakes educational initiatives for younger children within a
larger project called “Pedagogia per il Terzo Millennio®” (Pedagogy for the Third Millennium). The
project is carried out in cooperation with the Fondazione Paoletti and places a great emphasis
on communication an a means for improving human relations. Here is the Onlus’ institutional
mission: “Pedagogia per il Terzo Millennio® is a system for development and communication
aimed at improving human relations. It is the outcome of the experience acquired over the
many years we have spent studying the mechanisms affecting human behavior and those
factors that allow it to change. Our research team, made of doctors, psychologist, philosophers
and physicist, has been engaged for several years in applying and promoting this system in
educational and social settings”.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
The show in Turin, held on the river Po, was designed by the creative minds
and producers of the Winter Olympic Games, with a grand fireworks finale. It
was, to put it shortly, “Notte Bianca 500”.
The day after (5 July) the small Fiat 500 was presented to the President of
the Italian Republic at the Quirinale, followed by another press conference in
front of over 1000 journalists. For two days the Fiat 500 was on display in the
30 Italian piazzas.
The following weekend the car was already on sale at the Fiat car dealers
across the country, who in the meanwhile had a chance to present the new car
locally to their clients and stakeholders with parties and other events
resembling those held at the corporate level.
As the Mito 500 continued its road show, the car went on display in Rome,
at the Miti in Italy exhibition held in the Eur suburb, from 6 to 17 September
On April 18, 2008 the Design Week opened in Milan, featuring the “500
Work Pop” exhibition organized by Fiat in cooperation with Guzzini. On July
5, 2008, the “500 picnics” were staged. To celebrate the Fiat 500’s first
birthday, the world’s most beautiful cities, from Budapest to London, from
Milan to Paris, from Palermo to Rome to Valencia,24 hosted “the coolest picnic
around” (as the company announced in a press release), to which everybody,
500 lovers or otherwise, where “obviously” invited. Car enthusiasts could bring
their own 500 or, lacking one, cycle all the way to the event. The program
featured music, shows, entertainment and “community”. Moreover, the event
included an art contest for singers, dancers, musicians and street artists selected
by Fiat in cooperation with MTV. The prize: a Fiat 500, of course, and white
Fender guitars. The picnics were highly successful, as shown by videos and
photos uploaded on the dedicated site.
Picnic 500 events were also held in many other cities across the world: Athens, Budapest,
Cape Town, Casablanca, Copenhagen, Hel (Poland), London, Milan (Idropark), Munich (Hans
der Kunst), Palermo (Parco Case Rocca), Paris, Rome (Semenzaio S. Sisto), Tokyo, Rotterdam,
Valencia, and Zurich.
4.4.5 The multimedia place
Even distribution – which thanks to the new creative layouts of exhibition
spaces and shop floors has become once again a crucial marketing driver –
gained the right prominence and a new emphasis in the Fiat 500 Temporary
Store in Milan. This was the first store entirely devoted the Fiat 500 and its
values, in the belief that such a place could offer consumers and potential
clients unforgettable experiences and positive memories.
In the Fiat 500 Temporary Store enthusiasts could find all the information
they wanted to satisfy their curiosity; the could buy all sorts of merchandise,
book a test drive and read magazines and books about cars. From April to July
2008 the store could be visited on the Web, through a laptop or a mobile
phone, after registering on the 500 pop.up store, the Internet version of the
physical showroom in Corso Como.
The Fiat 500 temporary store was meant to offer consumers a rewarding
shopping experience and a very higher level of customer satisfaction. Indeed,
the whole idea of sales being confined to traditional car dealers is considered
obsolete. By they time consumers enter a physical dealership, they will have a
wealth of relational and multi-sensory, often virtual experiences, which have
made them active participants in the Fiat 500 experience. The Open Days
organized by car dealers complete the experience and lead consumers to make
a purchase.
5. Results of the campaign. Some final considerations.
“The value of a brand does not lie in its assets, but in the ability of a company
to make a profitable business with this assets” (Kapferer, 2008). Fiat actually
did it in an effective way as recent forthcoming events have proved (Fiat is
conquering the American market by the purchase of Chrysler Group in 2009
and effectively reorganizing its presence in four areas –Italy/Europe, North
and South America, Asia).
The analysis of this case study, as exploratory one, related to the integrated
marketing communication and brand management of the new Fiat 500, has
been selected because it seemed “particularly suitable for illuminating and
extending relationships and logic among constructs” (Eisenhardt, Graebner,
2007) or “unusually revelatory, extreme exemplar or opportunity for unusual
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
research access” (Yin, 1994). The case reveals that the Group’s corporate
mission was not limited to selling the city car of a “reborn” Fiat, even though
sales have given a positive contribution to revenues so far.
The actual goal, or better still the strategic meta-goal of the Italian
automaker, was a great integrated marketing communication effort, articulated
at both the national and international level, and at both corporate and
marketing level, which is still alive and devoted to accomplish a “rejuvenation
of the brand” (Kapferer, 2008).
For this reason, the case study we have analyzed is in line with the general
topic of this paper, the relationship between a modern end effective brand
management and an integrated marketing communication approach based on
the creative and collaborative effort of the consumers, and should perhaps be
considered a benchmark for the automotive industry and other businesses.
Some limitations of the study can be considered those related to a) the fact
that the interest of the case responds to a contemporary descriptions of recent
events and the need, on the contrary, of observing facts from a long period
approach and a more complete scenario and b) the need of comparing this
case study with others similar to stress analysis from a “replication logic” point
of view (Eisenhardt, 1989; Eisenhardt, Graebner, 2007).
The company carried out an integrated marketing communication aimed at
repositioning the corporate brand – and the Groups brand(s) – around new
(rediscovered) brand values: “Italian style”, “Made in Italy” – in a word,
popular, yet trendy, culture. A repositioning centered around the identity and
image of a car manufacturer that produces popular yet trendy cars, for older
and younger crowds alike. An image that goes beyond the Fiat 500 and Fiat
Auto and involves, independently and synergically, the other brands of the
Group: the more luxurious Lancia and the more sporty Alfa.25 A marketing and
In December 2007, during the conference “High Tech High Touch. La comunicazione oggi
tra reale e virtuale”, (High Tech High Touch. Today’s communication between real and virtual), organized
by the Master in Economics and Management of Communication and the Media, Economics
Department, Università Di Roma Tor Vergata, G. Spagnolo – Head of Marketing and
Communication of Lancia Automobiles SpA – illustrated the set of values and associated
messages that the Lancia brand had chosen as a basis for its revival – elegance, luxury,
accuracy, heritage and tradition, character, a modern interpretation of traveling in comfort. A
communication strategy that finally stresses the importance of distinction and
modernity, or values evoked in aged people (Kapferer J.-N., 2008) renewing
products by means of a mix of co-marketing and co-branding initiatives aimed
at younger customers, by definition more dynamic and innovative, as well as
older ones.26
Having examined the composition and horizontal and vertical integration,
at both a strategic and operational level, of the different communication
techniques adopted in this case, we have found that the effective launch of a
new product may have a number of positive effects on the overall product
range, on the company brand itself and the group. A budget in communication
of a similar amount (12 million euros plus 4 million for leaflets and
brochures)27 would have not generated the same massive coverage results by all
national and foreign media had it been devoted only to the corporate brand
and had it not taken advantage of the “buzz” generated by product
communications and, most of all, by interactive and event-based
communication surrounding the new car.28 A campaign focused exclusively on
the Fiat brand would have not had such a large following all over the world –
especially if it was just an advertising campaign29.
detailed account of the marketing and communication strategy of the new Lancia cars is
featured in the present volume.
26 We should also mention the partnership between Fiat and Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha at the
moto grand prix – a strategy aimed at capturing younger customers without neglecting the
“hard core” of old 500 enthusiasts, attracted through a series of promotions like the one
organized with Fabbri (the brand of the historic Italian “sour cherry”) with the game “Con
Fabbri vinci Fiat Cinquecento” (Fabbri gives you a chance to win a Fiat 500).
Rumors have it that for the launch of the new Alfa “Mito” the company spent 30 million
euros to allow potential customers “to talk online and get excited”. See Odini A., “Alfa Mito
parla il linguaggio del web”, Marketing Oggi, 5 September 2008.
Volpato G., cit.
The so-called corporate or institutional brand campaigns, usually aimed at (re)positioning a
corporate brand, are more conceptual, even too sophisticated for the generalist media audience
(TV and newspapers), too elitist. Just to mention other famous cases in different sectors, it is
worth remembering Enel’s “L’energia va oltre quello che vediamo” (“Energy is more than
what we see”) institutional campaign (2006), or Ericsson’s “Mobile Broadband Benefits
Society” – campaigns that sometimes take on a global dimension and are often targeted to
specific stakeholders.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
Corporate communication is generally aimed at transmitting a company’s
values and identity; it is targeted at specific external or internal audiences as
opposed to the consumer market.
On the other hand, product communication, interactive and community
communication, and event-based communication, if adequately integrated,
quickly achieve the company’s communication goal, whether it’s positioning,
sales, brand awareness or brand image.
The main communicative goal of the Company was “Participation”: Fiat 500
is the car for the people, made by the people. This represents a big change of
perspective: the participative approach renewed completely the old fashioned
brand management system of the Company (Volpato 2008).
“The Automotive one is a technical sector, generally made by technicians
and really specialized people. On the contrary we wanted to think about Fiat as
an open source organisation. People’s participation is what really makes the
difference between a successful brand and a “lovemark”, and 500 is really close
to be a “lovemark”. 2.0 is participation, sharing, respect”30
The ambition of the Company was to create the biggest internet-based
interactive marketing platform. On the 3rd May 2006, 500 days before the
official launch, the platform “500 Wants you” was born and the count-down
Figure 3: The communicative process
Fiat presentation of the campaign “500 belongs to everybody” (2006-2010).
The communicative approach was devoted to the “Consumer Engagement”:
the Company asked all the users their inputs and suggestions to build together
the 500 in five hundreds days: “Just free your creativity, let’s shape a new 500
which also speaks about you!” : “to give voice to people’s aspirations and build
the new 500 with them because 500 is the car of our dreams, of happiness and
positive thinking, of our desire to move on”, the Company outlined.
The new 500 reinterprets these brand values and forms and asks people to
give free rein to their impulse to express themselves, to imagine and to dream.
500 days, more than twenty different platforms (both for specialists and for
general users) were created: an international laboratory.
The results of FIAT campaign in the (pre-)launch of the new 500 are
actually astonishing: in the period, May 2006-July 2007, 109.549.789 were the
visited pages; 9.129.813 were the contacts, 6.529.857 unique visitors, 96.169
registered users. 47.093 were the on line configurations in the Concept Lab.
The most selected colours were white, red, black, and light blue: the
designers at the Style Centre then made the necessary changes to the actual
final colours used to ensure that they were best suited to the character of the
The Concept Lab in the period 3 May – 14 December 2006 received 171,070
configurations and 22,481 suggestions.
There was also a great success for the so called “Design boom” page of the
Concept Lab: three were three categories, accessories, lifestyle, everywhere.
5,433 people registered in the contest from 97 countries; the Company
received 1,057 design projects. An international jury was composed by Giorgio
Armani, Jasper Morrison, Gabriele Salvatores, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.
For the “ 500 wants a mascot” (design a mascot using the new Fiat 500
inspiration) initiative the graphical proposal submitted were 1,263 in the period
June -October 2006
From December 2006 a new chapter in the Concept Lab wad added:
interiors. Configurations received: 111,638; suggestions received: 75,558. The
final design of the stereo and gear lever knob has been suggested by the users.
On Tuesday 20 March, by reserved access and exclusively between 9 pm and
12 am, all registered users had the opportunity to see the official images of the
new car in world première. The results were noteworthy: 114,462 unique
visitors on 20 March; 15,000 users viewed the première.
Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Management
In the meantime a great operation in online booking was spreading out: the
car was booked from 32 countries in the World. The Company declares “one
booking request every 40 seconds!”.
The 500 launch event (Turin, 4th and 5th July 2007) streaming “Welcome
Bambina!” was viewed from all over Europe and people had the opportunity
to connect to the website and see the show and the convention. The 4th July,
91,920 were the contacts for the Show in the web streaming, the 5th 99,305 the
contacts for the Convention.
The website “500 wants you” had more than 500,000 unique visitors on the
5th July. Canale 5, the Italian commercial broadcaster, had anaudience of
4.780.621 with the share of 34,7%, the audience media 2.927.366 with the
share: 22,1%.
1.500 journalists from all over the world participated to the Convention on
the 5th July, with a streaming of 99,305 contacts; in the meantime the website
“500 wants you” had 423,665 unique visitors.
As the Marketing & Communication Direction stated: “ There is a 500’s
recipe: The ability to look at the world with children’s eyes; the awareness that 500 belongs
to everybody; - people’s participation; - Joy, the smiling eyes! At that point a strong
positioning was defined, but we added something else to be even more different from anybody
else: we wanted everything regarding 500 to be a world first application, such as something
never seen from people because never done before”31.
According to the company, the Fiat 500 merchandise were very much in
demand even in Japan, even until the car had not been introduced yet. Even
the Fiat 500 itself was conceived as a sort of corporate merchandise by the
manufacturer, as shown by the “perfect alliance” – as the Group called it –
between Fiat and Ferrari. The Ferrari have decided to provide their sales
network with the small city car as a courtesy car. A limited edition of two
hundred luxury models, painted in a bright red color, representing a
paradoxical “prancing horse version” of the city car.
Interview to the Fiat Marketing & Communication Direction, Eleonora Coffaro,
December 2010.
Fiat, the Turin-based automaker, will further refine its repositioning, tying its
communication destiny to the international success of a continuously growing
The Italian brand, after a long crisis, is now able to compete with the other
brands of the automotive market thanks to effective communication programs
based on its history, innovative products, “creative consumer communities”,
very good combination of old and new tools that are able to reposition the
consumer perception and loyalty.
The more recent history of the company is able to prove it. A comparative
cases analysis between different successful examples would be suitable to
deepen this research in the future.
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Integrated Marketing Communication
and Brand Management: the Case
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