LBB’s Laura Swinton talks to Zeno Adami and Marco Cavallaro at De’Longhi and Serviceplan’s Matthias Brüll about the brand’s star-powered global strategy
On September 2nd and 2pm, De’Longhi dropped their ‘Big Bang’. Their first truly global brand campaign, starring none other than Brad Pitt - and with an ad directed by Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle and photography from Lachlan Bailey - was borderline unavoidable. And that’s exactly what the marketing team was aiming for.
The campaign marked a huge strategic and organisational departure for De’Longhi, the Italian home appliances brand best known for its espresso coffee machines. As Global Brand Director Zeno Adami explains, marketing to date has been largely focused on product but now the time has come to focus on brand.
“Delonghi is definitely on a journey,” says Zeno. “A couple of months ago we redefined our visual identity, our brand equity, and we redefined our objective, our overall purpose, which is to transform our home experiences into moments of leisure. So everything we will do moving forward will be with that lens.”
Previously marketing would be focused on new machines and new technologies - and media spend would focus on different markets and different times for different reasons. “It has served us very well as a strategy so far because otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But we thought that we’ve arrived at a point where it’s not only about a single coffee machine, it’s more about building a brand that really communicated what values DeLonghi stands for.”
So, why now? To understand that, you need to understand the business’s trajectory. Founded in 1902 in Treviso, De’Longhi started out making heaters, before moving to kitchen appliances - and over time it’s become best known for its coffee machines, particularly its espresso machines. While the brand is known around the world and has been growing year on year, it’s most successful in the espresso sub category and relatively small within the wider coffee category. So greater brand awareness was something the team were keen to achieve - and, in terms of timing, people around the world spending more time at home meant there was a shared global insight and driver that could support a global approach.
And this global push allowed the brand to make gains quickly, covering TV, digital, OOH and instore at once, explains Marco Cavallaro, Group Trade and Media Director at De’Longhi.
“We had to make sure that it was very big and very visible because awareness for us was the key metric here,” he says. “I think it was a positive moment for coffee, everybody was missing a coffee. So this was a positive win but we knew that to capitalise on that we needed to change the category awareness because the category is undifferentiated and this is a huge opportunity for us and also for retailers. It was a ‘Big Bang’ in every market. The boost of awareness we know is delivering a boost in market share, because people tend to choose top of mind and this was the single insight.”
However, this singular global push had involved a great deal of local nuance, particularly in the context of Covid-19, as Matthias Brüll, who is Managing Director and Partner at Mediaplus, part of Serviceplan, explains. “Covid times also affected the media consumption of people in a very short time period, so we had to locally generate insights, which media was going up in terms of usage, which was going down and what would it mean for us when we’re doing a campaign like this. In a nutshell, there are winners and there are losers on the media side in Covid times and we had to make sure that we bet on the right horses based on the analysis we did together. And I think this is the critical success factor for our campaigns that we are running.”
But that wasn’t the only key challenge of pace for the De’Longhi marketing team, there was also a change of process internally. As an entrepreneurial and family-run business - members of the De’Longhi family are still involved in the day-to-day running of the business - the marketing team loves to empower local markets, involve them and encourage them to act on their initiative. However, with a star signing like Brad Pitt involved, secrecy was of the utmost importance if they were to have maximum impact on launch.
That meant media agency Mediaplus (part of Serviceplan), creative agency M&C Saatchi Milan working secretly with the marketing team in Italy, which brought lots of extra challenges. “We were unable to disclose it to anyone working in our company, even in the markets. We were working on the strategic deadline, getting ready for D-Day and we had to do local analysis plans, scouting competitors and media landscapes and we were doing it in isolation,” says Marco. In February 2021, they were able to reveal to the company, local markets and retail partners that there was to be a new, high profile ambassador - but not who that would do. With retailers being major partners for De’Longhi, who often carry in-store promotional displays, the teams around the world had to get them excited about the promise of an unnamed celebrity.
And so to Brad. The process of choosing a celebrity ambassador - and persuading them to come onboard was tricky as it had to fulfill multiple criteria. Primarily, given the global nature of the campaign, it had to be someone who was recognised the world over. Moreover, it had to be someone famous for being in a field with near universal appeal. Zeno points to footballers as a comparison - even someone as high profile as a Ronaldo or Salha is going to alienate and fail to land with non-football fans. Given Brad Pitt’s career longevity and variety of roles, his awareness ratings globally are superlative.
Moreover, given the brand-building purpose of the campaign, De’Longhi needed an ambassador who would capture the brand which Zeno describes as ‘masterful, sensuous, surprising’. “Masterful, because we are ingrained in technology and innovation. Sensuous because the design of our machines is quintessentially Italian, and surprising because, with our machines, we always deliver something that people may not be expecting,” says Zeno, who goes on to draw comparisons with Brad Pitt.
“Brad Pitt is masterful, sensuous and surprising all the way,” Zeno continues. “He’s a master at what he does, he’s sensuous because he’s the quintessential cool person that is out there and surprising because he has done an incredible variety of roles from the relatively serious ones to the funny ones. It was really a match, and plus he is passionate about design, architecture, passionate about coffee as a category in general. In the end it was an easy choice for us and he was willing to jump on board.”
Craft also played into that brand character - hence the decision to recruit an Oscar-winning director and highly respected photographer. Zeno and Marco are full of praise for Damien Chazelle and his production company Superprime, particularly the authenticity he coaxed from Brad. Unfortunately, they were denied the full Hollywood experience - the shoot took place in March 2021 when US travel restrictions meant that they were unable to fly to LA from Italy. Instead, for two evenings, they set up camp at M&C Saatchi Milan to watch the shoot remotely, across a 9-hour time difference and nearly 10,000km distance.
Now that the campaign is out, the team is keeping a close eye on data from across their markets. According to Matthias, building a data capability around the campaign was something that the team at De’Longhi were keen for, in order to make sure they can maximise impact and also learn as much as possible for what is a very new approach for the brand.
“They had the ambition to build up a data room where we can very much analyse beforehand what we are doing in order to create success. It also helps us to measure different aspects of the success of the campaign. So, together with his team, we build that up,” explains Matthias. “I think from my perspective it's a big investment, and we just want to make sure that it pays off. So, it's an extra effort and they have a willingness to analyse very deeply, how we can create success and what works in which market, and we can create best cases and share them again with other markets.”
So far the approach appears to be paying off, with Brad Pitt bringing extra earned media and a high impact of every metric of success. But looking to the future, what the team hopes that they’ve built momentum for the brand to grow in the general coffee sector. They’ve got a solid foundation and one that Zeno says is encapsulated by the word ‘perfecto’, a key touch point of the campaign but also a brand promise with a distinctly Italian flavour. That ‘perfetto’ spirit is also baked into craft and aesthetics and is as much a statement of intent as a campaign tagline.
“We are bombarded every day with lots and lots and lots of materials. I think if you want to stand out as brand, one way is to create really quality content. Since this was our first time as a brand and we have a long game, we wanted to make a big splash globally with a big ambassador,” says Zeno. “We also had a responsibility to make sure that the content was incredibly high quality, and so that’s what drove us is the journey.”