Digital communications today mean mass customised communication, with a peer to peer relationship with the brand. As showed by the Pietro Coricelli case.
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The digital transformation process is dramatically changing marketing, communications and public relations. The point is not only how the company could reach the customers, but also how the customers could reach the company or its competitors. The new frontier of marketing communications and public relations implies a peer to peer relationship with the brand. No marketing programme can act alone, without a meaningful digital component. The digital figures are increasingly impressive:
- 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world (on about 7.5 billion people);
- 4.39 billion internet users;
- 3.48 billion social media users;
- 6.49 hours spent per day on Internet in 2018 (vs 6.10 minutes in 2014).
Social networks have changed forever the way we communicate as well as the way companies engage and make loyal the customers’ communities. The social figures are still more impressive:
- Facebook with its 2.121 billion users;
- Instagram, bought by Facebook in 2012 at $ 1 billion, with 894.9 million users;
- Snapchat, with its 306.5 million users;
- Twitter, with its 280-character messages or tweets and its 250.8 million users;
- LinkedIn, bought by Microsoft in 2016 at $ 26.2 billion, with its 604.4 million users.
(Digital 2019: Global internet use accelerates”, We Are Social).
The “social” contents are increasingly video-based since videos are much more exciting and involving than static images or texts. For instance, in 2018, the most searched queries on YouTube were music, movies, and babies.
In this disrupted communications scenario, the Pietro Coricelli Olive Oil case is particularly interesting. Founded in 1939 in Spoleto, in the green heart of Italy, it is today one of the largest oil olive companies in Europe, with an export to over 110 countries worldwide. In Italy, the group is at 6th place with a 5.3% market share (vs 9th position in 2017), overcoming historical brands such as Bertolli (7th place with 4.3%). The first place in 2018 is Farchioni with 11.3%, followed by Monini with 10.4% and Costa D’Oro with 8.3%, a very particular podium because all the companies are based in Umbria and are distant each other few kilometers.
In May 2015, a panel test assessment, with no chemical and physical analysis in order to assess whether the oil was virgin or extra virgin, was published to show that many brands were selling olive oil as extra virgin olive oil. Pietro Coricelli was among them! It was a disaster and the beginning of the true nightmare that came out on 10 November 2015, when Mr Guariniello, a judge of the Turin Court, formally opens an investigation against 6 brands with the accusation of commercial fraud. The scandal was an awful beat for the company: 1-year commercial block in China, rapidly decreasing sales, collapsing reputation. At the end of this bad journey, the company showed its total innocence at the Court because any kind of tests of the company’s bottles had a positive feedback (correspondence between quality and label). Furthermore, the company was also able to win against the Antitrust Authority, judged guilty because of the lack of further and deep controls behind the not correct test published on the magazine.
The company effort was basically aimed at re-building confidence, trust and reputation though a well-designed and executed communications strategy inspired by a total transparency. Apart from the traditional media, the company launched a food bloggers network aimed at increasing a positive attitude to the brand. However, the company and Chiara Coricelli, the actual CEO (Commercial Director at the time), soon realized that the product posts strategy was not enough. The issue required a different effort: the company had to talk about itself and the brand soul much more than the product itself. To that aim, they decided to build a strong reference for the brand and to “present” it like a human being: the use of the family surname; the values, such as family, innovative, young, daily, easy; a company “face” as brand ambassador (the choice was Chiara: woman, young, wife, mother, manager).
Chiara, as brand ambassador, started to tell a story: the story of a family brand and its people. When “Chiara’s Tales” were launched in July 2016, they exceeded 100,000 views in the first month. The engagement was high because Chiara told the tales of the region, the traditions, the recipes, the trends, natural remedies, cosmetic use of oil, or renewed traditional recipes from her home’s kitchen as set!
The most relevant result was the increasing growth of the company in 2018: + 1.9% vs -3.9% of the market in 2017-2018, the largest growth of the entire industry.
How did they succeed?
- The vision: the capability of the company to commit all the people in a coordinated effort aimed at recovering trust and reputation.
- The resilience: the strong capability of the company to take a positive attitude from this apparent disaster.
- The story-telling: when Chiara decided to link her face to the company brand, it was a tremendous risk, but the market appreciated that her face was becoming the brand face in a complete identification process between company and people. The “brand personification” was the real key successful factor.
That communications strategy generated a powerful re-positioning with a strongest image and corporate reputation. The authenticity of the tales was touching the emotional part of people. The tales made the brand a real human being, with values, beliefs and behaviours. And the market is awarding it!