The marketing approach that Laitmon Inc. created to reintroduce the Vespa motor scooter to U.S. consumers was absolutely unique to the sector. We decided to distribute the scooter through a network of "Vespa Boutiques" which also would carry a dedicated line of clothing and accessories to position the Vespa brand as a fashion statement in and of itself. Accordingly, when it came to selecting a PR firm, we chose an agency with a fashion rather than automotive background.
The Vespa Boutique opening was coordinated with a themed launch party at the Paramount Studios movie lot, creating the perfect venue for the slogan the Laitmon team created for Vespa: "Everything old is new again." It was a star-studded evening, with Vespa center-stage. Featured guests included Audrey Hepburn's son and Gregory Peck's daughter, who hopped on a Vespa in homage to "Roman Holiday," the 1953 movie starring their parents, which first brought Vespa to the attention of the American public.
The PR agency recorded comparable ad values of $4.4 million from September 2000 to May 2001. The buzz translated into high visibility cross-promotions. Laitmon enticed Neiman Marcus to feature a custom Vespa in its 2000 Christmas catalog. The following year, Hammacher Schlemmer featured a Vespa on the front cover of its Christmas catalog.
We leveraged the brand's newfound incredible momentum and cross-demographic appeal to place Vespas in the some of finest shops on Madison Avenue in New York City, including Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, the windows of Bloomingdales and in front of some of the best known Italian Restaurants in New York City.
Vespa even starred on Broadway. We converted one of the scooters to run on batteries and placed it in the hit show "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." The dealer who supplied the Vespa got a program credit for the run of the show, plus a heap of visibility and new customers.
Serendipitously, the PR agency that Laitmon had engaged also had Coach Leather as a client, which started us thinking about how to get the Vespa into Coach stores. It seemed a bit gratuitous just to ask Coach to put leather on the seats. But the Laitmon team, with the help of a Coach licensee, hit on the idea of approaching, the executive creative director of Coach, to pitch him on personally designing several Vespas that would be built and painted to his specifications. He agreed, and consequently Vespa was an eye-catching prop in many Coach stores well into the fourth year after its launch.