Vespa Looks Back: 50 Years Of 50cc's

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Vespa has been tooling about since the ’40s, and sidelining as a movie star since the ’50s. Unlike a lot of ’50s actors, and popular artists (excluding Miles Davis and a few others), the brand stayed cool into the ’60s and beyond.

A Vespa actually commits suicide in one UK film, where the main character rides a rival Lambretta. The doomed Vespa -- a lovely chrome Vespa GS -- belongs to a character played by Sting, who ignominiously ends a long, callow reign of cool by winding up a mere bellboy at a beachside hotel in Brighton. The film ends with his Vespa sailing into the sea from the top of the cliffs at Dover. How cool is that?

One can be quite sure someone will make a reference to the film, Pete Townshend’s “Quadrophenia,” in Vespa’s social/digital campaign in the U.S., commemorating the 50th anniversary of the brand’s 50cc gadabout. The campaign, which spotlights user-generated content, looks at each decade since the 50cc’s birth. 

The five-week effort -- a decade per week -- combines Vespa's own creative input around what was happening in the transportation, pop and cultural landscape over the decades with what Vespa owners have to contribute about their scooters and the brand’s history. 

While much of the social-media and content elements are at LaVespaVita.com, which the company launched last year, Vespa is also doing a parallel promotional sales element to spotlight its 50cc scooters plus those of its sibling brands Piaggio and Aprilia. 

Melissa R. MacCaull, VP of marketing at Piaggio Group Americas, tells Marketing Daily that the product campaign  hones in on how the scooters evince Italian design and high technology, with the message that "there is essentially a scooter for anyone," she says. The effort includes an invitation for non-riders to become owners through $199 financing and a free two-year warranty. 

The company also has a running promotional campaign offering a $250 Visa card (for gasoline, but not necessarily). Vespa is also running an earned-media program aimed at non-endemic press -- and journalists who aren't riders -- and timed with the warmer months: the company is delivering scooters to scribes so they can incorporate the bikes into their spring and summer lifestyle content.

MacCaull says the anniversary component of the campaign "Is something that we identified as a program that could promote sales but also serve as a rallying point for earned media. And it's an easy way for owners to contribute to the 50th." 

The industry has seen a strong lift in sales of 50cc scooters, per MacCaull, who says industry stats show a 27% growth between 2011 and 2012. 

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