Jennifer Errico – The in-crowd pleaser

The best part of Jennifer Errico's day is going to work - at least when the weather's nice. The marketing manager at Canadian Scooter Corp. was a Vespa owner long before she joined Vespa's distribution company in 2006.

The best part of Jennifer Errico’s day is going to work – at least when the weather’s nice. The marketing manager at Canadian Scooter Corp. was a Vespa owner long before she joined Vespa’s distribution company in 2006.

‘I drive the Vespa S. Before that I had an LX and an ET,’ says Errico, who, along with PR director Sue Kuruvilla, handles Vespa marketing and communications at CSC, which employs fewer than 20 people. Errico directs the brand marketing – corporate partnerships and cross-promotions, retail and dealership marketing support, CRM and creative advertising. But when she talks about the products, she sounds more like a fan.

‘Until you’re on one, you do not understand this overwhelming freedom that comes over you,’ she says. ‘It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.’

Last spring, Errico built a campaign around the Vespa S in which street artist Fauxreel’s life-sized paper cutouts of hipsters, using the bike’s square headlight and mirrors for heads, were pasted up in trendy neighbourhoods.

Connecting to the savvy, cynical Vespa target is tricky, but the Squareheads campaign, created by Vespa AOR Dentsu Canada, earned over 1 million media impressions and love from mainstream media and bloggers – and boosted Vespa sales by 25% over last year.

‘With this target, it’s intuitive and about gut,’ says Glen Hunt, creative catalyst at Dentsu in Toronto. ‘Jennifer and Sue are in tune with who the target is, where to find them and what’s hot out there right now.’

‘They added to the streetscape, let’s put it that way,’ says Mike Farrell, chief strategic officer at Youthography in Toronto. ‘Nobody had any problems with it being a branded piece, because it had intrigue, relevance and realistic, resonant context. It was obviously executed by somebody that ‘gets it.”

The Squareheads campaign is a perfect example of the mileage Errico gets out of small budgets by eschewing mass advertising for less traditional tactics. Another is Dentsu’s viral video spot ‘Vespa – Built for Love,’ in which a guy tries and fails to jump his Vespa à la Evel Knievel and ends up riding off with a pretty girl instead. It spawned numerous YouTube responses, as well as kudos from P&G president and CEO A.J. Lafley, who picked it as his favourite spot of the year.

‘We have to do more with less, and because of that we’re able to really use creative juices,’ says Errico. ‘We feel that grassroots and guerrilla marketing are most effective. That said, there’s always going to be an in-store component. It’s important to have awareness, but we need that to translate into sales as well.’

CSC manages three Vespa lifestyle boutiques in Toronto, and works with its 62 dealers across Canada – up from around 20 in the past two-and-a-half years – to open similar stores in Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton. Errico spearheaded a customer follow-up program, launched in May, to keep in touch with owners via maintenance reminders and information on new models. ‘We’re the leader in the category, so I felt it was time to translate that into everything we do,’ she explains. ‘The [program] allows us to be connected to our customers, improve the customer experience and build brand loyalty.’

Errico worked with Toronto-based Ariad Custom Communications on the CRM program, as well as on building Squadra, an online community for owners and fans, with plans to include video uploading and best-route searches when the snow melts next spring.

‘So much of this is just a lifestyle,’ says Errico. ‘So anything to get people linked up to do cross country rides, for example, we just want to be a part of it.’

For Errico, who came to Vespa after six years at Canadian Tire, working at a small company has advantages. ‘I get excitement out of having a great idea and being able to run with it,’ she says. ‘We’re all running around with fires lit under us, because there are so few of us and so much to get done.’

Errico is making use of the winter lull to review the year and plan for a new model coming next spring.

‘We’re always trying to balance how we can attract new people to the brand without alienating existing fans,’ she says. ‘It’s important to remember that there are a lot of Vespa lovers out there, and whatever we do has to capture the essence of what Vespa is.’

Marketing team size: 2

Years at job: 2

First job in marketing: Brand analyst, Canadian Tire

Professional highlight of the past year: Vespa S ‘Squareheads’ campaign: the coolest thing I had seen in a long time

Marketing style: Understanding what I need to do and doing it

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