Runs on a nickel

What was the first thing that crossed your mind as you finished reading the above headline?
Runs on a nickel is the headline for a Vespa ad I just came across the other day. Let me quickly remind you, Vespa is the iconic Italian brand of scooters that have been transporting people in style for over 60 years. Their scooters are the most coveted in the marketplace as they represent the finest combination of form, function and emotion in the industry.

While there’s no doubt in my mind that people behind this headline did their homework, the first thing that crossed my mind was: “Vespa, is that really you?” Don’t get me wrong, I think I understand what they were trying to accomplish (and I certainly understand how tempting it is to try to save money on every purchase these days). But I was thinking: considering the essence of the Vespa brand, is this really an effective way to reach out to its core target audience?

In my opinion, in the US and Canada, the Vespa brand generally appeals to the middle class urban commuters; people who are trendy, creative, unconventional, idea people, if you will. “And if I am right,” I was wondering,”are these people generally buying Vespas because they supposedly run on a nickel?” A few days after I came across the Runs on a nickel ad, I found myself, by pure coincidence, near by the local Vespa retailer. In an attempt to learn more about the actual Vespa buyers, I decided to drop-in. I was almost immediately greeted by a friendly salesperson; and I proceeded to tell this person why I was in their store. “Fire away,” said the salesperson.

Question #1: In your own words, please describe your typical Vespa buyer.
The answer: Middle age but cool; middle class; urban, trendy kind of person.
Question #2: Why does this person usually purchase a Vespa?
The answer: Because of the appeal of the design and the Vespa brand; the quality of craftsmanship; the lifestyle associated with the Vespa brand.
Question #3: What role does high fuel efficiency play in the purchase?
The answer: It’s probably a factor, but not a major one.

I thanked the salesperson for the time and assistance and left the store.
(Did I mention that just being around the Vespa scooters made me feel more alive?)
“Okay, how do you feel now about the Runs on a nickel headline?”
“What headline would you use instead?”
Those questions were on my mind as I was driving back to my house. Before I tell you what I came up with, just for the fun of it, let me first tell you how I arrived at my solution. I first quickly reminded myself that, as a true iconic brand, Vespa is:

• instantly recognizable.
• worth experiencing again and again.
• built around a refreshing and original idea (transporting people in style).
• appreciated for the positive emotional associations it provokes amongst its users.
• fun to experience and talk about.

Considering all of the above, here’s the headline I came up with: Imagine us.
Why this headline? Because I think that the aim of the Vespa brand is to connect to the market with a playful and engaging emotion. This is why the message should be suggesting an enjoyable experience; have a premise; be memorable.

Said differently, instead of simply interrupting potential buyers, the Imagine us headline is offering them a destination; it’s inviting them into a companionship, into a relationship, if you will. You see, the goal is not just to peak the interest of potential buyers, but to drive it in the right direction. I mean, doesn’t Vespa = The Romantic Italian Scooter?

Here’s the first draft for the first point of contact :
(Think small ad on a message board of your local Farmers’ Market.)



Let me know what do you think about this.
Did you check out the video yet?
Don’t just sit there, check it out :-).


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