How Peroni uses images of Italy’s “Golden Age” to justify a price premium

by Nigel Hollis | July 07, 2014

I am always intrigued by examples of brands that mean one thing at home and another abroad. When I wrote my book, The Global Brand, one of my basic themes was that brands do not need to be exactly the same in every country. In fact, going abroad may offer the opportunity to reposition your brand in a way that it could never achieve at home.


One such example is Peroni Nastro Azzuro. In its homeland of Italy, Peroni is a mass-market brand, perceived to be cheaper than the average. Nastro Azzuro is Peroni’s upmarket brand and – presumably to help it command a price premium – does not carry the Peroni name.

Over the years, Peroni has improved its salience but remained undifferentiated. Share has grown but not its ability to command a price premium. Unfortunately, Nastro Azzuro, which is perceived as more expensive than regular Peroni, has not been able to justify its own price premium. Its marketing has failed to establish a differentiated positioning that justifies paying more for the brand.

In 2003, Birra Peroni was acquired by SABMiller, a company that understands that one size fits all sometimes fits no one when it comes to marketing. SABMiller decided to leverage the Peroni brand by launching it in the UK. However, they chose to recombine the Peroni and Nastro Azzuro names and leveraged the brand’s Italian origins as strongly as possible. The launch was successful and its success widely noted in the industry.

More recently, Peroni Nastro Azzuro has been advertised on TV using images designed to evoke what was described to me as “the Golden Age of Italy.” Have a look at this ad and see how it references sixties nostalgia, stereotypical images of Italy and premium brand cues: flying boats, carefree lifestyle and powerboats. To an Italian, it seems outmoded and unconvincing. To a Brit, it triggers aspirational desires for an Italy that owes its origins more to books and films more than it does any reality.

Mass-market beer is pretty much an undifferentiated market. The vast majority of people cannot tell one beer from another unless branded – not many product categories require double blind taste testing to establish the true degree of preference between alternative products – so positioning is everything. In adopting an Italian lifestyle positioning in the UK, Peroni was able to stand out from the crowd and be different enough to justify a premium positioning. The end result has been that the brand has almost doubled its market share in five years while commanding a price premium.

One last point before I close. When I showed my Italian colleagues the UK Peroni advertising, they were non-plussed. The imagery and lifestyle shown were far removed from their everyday experience. One commented that another well-known Italian brand had explored using such an approach and it did not work. The lesson to be learned is that what works well at home may not work well abroad and vice versa.

So what do you think of the Peroni example? Why was it so successful in the UK? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Nigel, July 09, 2014

    Thanks for the comments. I have a couple of thoughts in response.

    I think there is a huge difference between corporate aspiration to take a brand global and the receptiveness of a local audience. Corporations tend to have homogeneous cultures and are able to enforce strategy and implementation. This makes the one-size-fits-all seem sensible and doable. Country culture differs far, far more and is subject to strong but subtle influences which largely go unrecognized by those who are part of the culture and may be inexplicable to those outside. This makes one-size-fits-all marketing risky at best. At worst it might mean the brand misses out of far better sales simply because it did not pitch its message right.

    The expectation that the n+1 market will know or care what the original market positioning is strikes me as over-stated. First, how many people really get to know about a specific brand not found in their country thought the Internet? Precious few, I suspect. And, as Simge notes, people only care when what they find offers new aspects and benefits. That favors technology and leading edge categories not the more mundane, everyday ones. Then you have the cultural aspect which shapes what people are likely to find personally relevant. 

  2. James Hier, July 07, 2014
    Not too many companies are willing to do the hard yards of long term brand building. Not sure if it has broken even to date.  Worked on it early on and they had a vision they haven't deviated from. 
  3. Ciju Nair, July 07, 2014

    Interesting perspective and I used to believe that, in an increasingly smaller and digital world, the opportunities to go abroad no longer offers the opportunity to re-position your brand. Mostly because brands are increasingly global these days with aspirations to appeal to larger audiences/markets. Hence maintaining consistent imagery and positioning across markets becomes critical. The opportunity to re-position probably exists for a local brand when going from original market to next (2nd market). May not be something to pursue in the n+1th market because the image in 'n' markets would dominate the one in the n+1th market. In that case, it may be easier to build a flanker under a different brand name to pursue different positioning.

    Also very true that what works well at home may not work well abroad but there are some universal truths on branding and consumer behavior which when nuanced with a local marketing lens can be leveraged in all global markets e.g. the equation between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is universal across the globe and P&G leverages it well for its detergent brands in various markets. 

  4. Mats, July 07, 2014
    I haven't seen the UK Peroni work, but I would suggest that it is quite common for brands to have a different status abroad than in their home country. As a Swede, the images of IKEA and Volvo immediately come to mind, where (just as in the case for Peroni) they are more "different" outside of Sweden than at home. Similarly, German brands such as Audi, AEG and Mercedes would seem to be more premium outside of Germany than in their home market.
  5. Simge Ayzit, July 07, 2014

    At these days we are all talking about localisation and Peroni example shows us that; localisation important yes, but different cultures should be considered too. In a changing world we are able to reach each content anytime we want and we we feel close to brands which give us new aspects and benefits.

    And with this strategy Peroni give people new aspect which is warm and joyful..

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