The surprisingly positive impact of mistakes
Can a supermarket’s ad spot divide a Country? In Italy it’s possible, but there’s more than one lesson to learn.
I don’t know if it’s the same all over the world, but in my country, private companies are often facing competition with politically endorsed ones. For example, in the field of great distribution, there are private supermarkets and cooperative markets. These last ones are politically supported by the left party. One of the most famous private markets in Italy is named Esselunga (which means “long S”). It’s more than a supermarket. Its former owner and founder had written a book: a sort of j’accuse against the Italian policy about private enterprises in favor of the politically supported cooperatives. Indeed, his book was titled “Cart and Sickle” — a sarcastic resume of the left policy about great distribution.
This short anecdote should give you an idea of the communication and marketing of this company: their commercials have always been a perfect snapshot of the social reality. Their communication is headed to middle-class members, preferably in northern Italy, who live in cities, and who are enough cultured to appreciate their puns with the name of some products.
Therefore, their usual customers mirror in their ad spots. In this way, they even brought customers to become supporters of their idea of private initiative; a place where customer and company share the same values. Despite it might seem excessive, buying from them is in some way a political choice. As it’s said in American Pastoral:
“Everything is political. Brushing teeth is political” (Philip Roth)
In their long-tested ability to portray society, they have now moved their target to middle-class millennials, who face more problems in sentimental issues than economic ones. But after many years of puns and pay-offs, now they shot the commercial that divided Italy.
It shows a mum and her little girl who are shopping in the supermarket. The kid wants to take a peach, despite they are not planning to eat it. Then the scene moves to their home, where the girl is preparing a small backpack, as her father comes to pick her up for the weekend. At this point, it’s clear that the two parents are divorcing. The girl arrives in her dad’s car and she gives him the peach, saying “It comes from mammy”. The dad looks at the window of his former house, where there’s no one. As they drive away, the girl looks at a family with a father who is teaching his son to ride a bike, under his mother’s look. The camera closes up on the nostalgic expression on the girl’s face.
I tried to sum it up the best I could, but it should be clear how long is the ad spot. Indeed, it takes 2 minutes …an eternity, if compared to the usual 30 seconds or less.
Anyway, the length of the commercial is not its only problem. The main problem is the link between the Supermarket’s name and the sad feelings shown: all the characters are evidently disillusioned, sad, and nostalgic. Wow! They hooked their logo with a sad little girl -while everyone knows that a rule of marketing is: to link your brand to positive feelings.
Besides, the chosen target is really narrow: a millennial, heterosexual, divorcing, couple of parents. Maybe they tried to be even more selective but failed. This is a third rule of marketing they broke: you shouldn’t shrink your audience, especially if you are selling food.
Now, the question is: can three mistakes give a positive result? As incredible as it may seem, the answer is: yes!
The commercial was broadcast on Monday (September 25th) and it immediately ignited a hard debate, in every part of society. Common people on social media, teachers of marketing and communication, and even the Prime Minister gave their opinions about the ad spot. But why?
The Italian government is now represented by a right-conservative party. The left party argued that the Supermarket shot a commercial to endorse the government, as they showed how sad is the daughter of a divorced couple. So, the left party stated that the ad spot was an attempt to judge and condemn the idea of divorce, in favor of a traditional married couple, who are the main right’s voters. The Prime Minister limited saying that she liked the commercial, while some delegates went as far as saying that the left is delirious.
After a couple of days, the director of the advertising campaign was interviewed on the national News, and he simply said that they were looking for a story from nowadays. They simply wanted to show a modern family, in which shopping at the Supermarket is one of the usual activities.
The matter is that everyone in Italy joined the debate, at every level and with any background. The old saying goes: “Talk bad, talk nice about me, but just talk” was refreshed once again. But above all, above comments, polemic, and talks, the Supermarket’s quarterly income is more than positive, and the sales seem to have skyrocketed, after one week of the “peach campaign”.
So, what’s the lesson we might take? I think that you can show your logo for a few seconds, and you can even make big mistakes in your communication, but you must always be genuine. It’s not as naif as it may seem: focus on your founding values and strictly adhere to them, even if they seem too common and too old, such as family relationships and feelings.
Your customers can forgive even your most disastrous mistake, but they won’t forgive any betrayal of the values you shared with them, and that’s especially true the older your Company is.
In an era where consumers crave authentic connections and real emotions, perhaps the most important lesson here is, once again, that marketing is no longer just about selling products. It’s about telling stories that resonate, reflect societal realities, and provoke thought. It’s about sparking conversations and engaging with customers on a deeper level.https://crafty-writer-7727.ck.page/0327cbeaf0: The Peach of Discord: a Commercial Ad’s Unexpected Lessons on Values