Piaggio USA, Inc.: Vespa Reintroduction campaign

Ed Dinger


The Vespa motor scooter gained worldwide fame when one was ridden by actress Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s film Roman Holiday. Manufactured by Italian company Piaggio & C. SpA, the Vespa became an international cultural icon, known primarily for its style. By the mid-1980s, however, the scooter had failed to keep up with engine design and failed to meet more stringent U.S. emissions standards. Rather than update the engine, Piaggio simply pulled out of the market. Fifteen years later Vespa was able to meet emissions levels and once again eyed the United States, where scooters were enjoying a resurgence. In 2000 the scooter was brought back to the United States, and Piaggio USA launched a marketing campaign to reintroduce Vespa to the country.

The Vespa reintroduction was a free-form effort in many ways. Dealers were allowed to develop their own ads and sell to whatever market looked most promising to them. The first advertisements began running in 2002. Regardless of region, however, the ads were often sexual in nature, playing off of the scooter's Italian image. At the national level Piaggio mostly worked cross-marketing deals with other companies and succeeded in placing the Vespa in many of these companies' advertisements. There was no announced budget for the campaign, much of which was funded locally with contributions from Piaggio.