Launching a car is like launching a newspaper

My relationship with Fiat is recent. It began in June at an AWNY lunch when I introduced the keynote speaker Laura Soave, who is launching the Fiat 500 in North America.

At the time I was struck by the similarity of Laura's job and mine. OK, she's in the car industry, I'm in the news industry, but here are the similarities: we're both working for iconic brands that have been hugely successful in Europe and are now going to market in the US with top quality modern versions of a classic product. In my case it's the Daily Mail's global success story the MailOnline. In her case it's the Fiat 500.

Europeans are getting fatter too.

Laura spoke lucidly and fluidly about her mission and how she was going about it. We've all sat through some hard to follow speeches of late, where speakers try to speak to the latest in social media, using the latest vocabulary without a full understanding. So this was a refreshing change. She spoke about the cute and trendy Fiat 500 design and how it had been adapted for the US market (bigger cup holders and wider seats …… don't sweat it, Europeans are getting fatter too). She talked about the mission for the distribution network had been to make made the visit to the showroom a pleasurable experience (she dubbed the new showrooms "studios"), she talked about they'd decided to focus on thirty or so markets – some of them surprisingly "truck country" for a fashionable car. And she talked about pricing, advertising and promotion.

What's modern about that?

So she talked about the 4 Ps. The title of the blog says "Modern Marketer". What's modern about that?

Well here's the thing. Fiat's one of the world's great car companies. I was in Rome last month and Fiats were everywhere (of course) and the north of England this month and (less obviously) Fiats were everywhere too with a full range of cars evident. You don't see them here though. Fiat wants to change that, and they can't just be launching the 500, they're re-introducing Fiat to the US.

The pay-off

An American of a certain age thinks of Fiat as an unreliable throw back of the 70s. So to overcome this old bias, Fiat are to re-enter the US market using an eye-catching and chic design and under the leadership of someone, young chic and of Italian extraction who personifies the brand. They're encouraging early adopters, chic trendy opinion leaders to buy and showcase their product. The word will spread. Thanks to the Fiat 500 everyone under 60 will associate Fiat with very positive thoughts. And thanks to twitter, Facebook, Google+ it will spread fast.

And Laura Soave never had to mention social media in her speech. She's that modern she just takes it in her stride.

Post Script

After I spoke at the AWNY lunch, Fiat offered me a Fiat 500 to test drive one weekend. I drove it around Southampton, Westhampton and Quogue last week and loved it. I've never known people wave, smile at me or offer "thumbs up" signs or photograph me just because of the car I was driving before. I've never written about a car in a blog before. The blog you've just read. See what I mean. Very modern marketing Fiat, very modern……..


Matthew Kearney has been working in the media in London and New York, in TV, cinema and in online for nearly 20 years. He joined the Daily Mail's leading news site MailOnline last year. Matthew can be reached at

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