Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Bialetti Un grande venditore Lesson from a great italian salesman

The concept of recreating the real taste of professionally made coffee to the home did not begin with Nespresso convincing us to become our own domestic barista. The octagonal  aluminium Moka  from Italy brought something near to the real taste of espresso coffee into Italian homes in the 1930s.  The stove-top pot produces coffee by passing boiling water pressurised by steam through ground coffee.

omino coi baffi - the little man with a moustache
 with hand raised ordering a coffee
Personalities in business are not new of course but there seem to be fewer 'characters' who are brand champions in the style  of Renato Bialetti.

The great Italian salesman and marketer died a few days ago  in Ascona, at the age of 93 and "fruits -of-success" would like to pay tribute to him and tell a little of his story which has a lesson relevant to today's sales professionals. 

Renato Bialetti, is the Italian entrepreneur known for having launched the Moka. 

While he lived in Omegna, Italy he was raised in a family whose business had been founded by his father Alfonso in 1933.  Renato started running the business in 1946.

Renato's mission was to make the Moka famous around the world and it started with a restyling of the design by launching the popular "omino coi baffi", a little man with moustache which is now the symbol of the Bialetti Moka worldwide.

The Bialetti Moka is now a global icon and an estimated 330 million have been sold worldwide. 

Obituary in the  London Times 24th Feb 2016

The Bialetti Moka Express was designed in Italy in 1933 by Luigi di Ponti, who sold the patent to Alfonso Bialetti, an aluminium vendor.The patent for the pot was acquired by Renato's father, Alfonso, in 1933.

The brewing process used by the Moka was devised by Alfonso. 

A soap story  

It was inspired by watching his wife Ada washing laundry in the fields of Omegna., on lake Orta north-west of Milan. 

Looking at the tub which had a central column that drew up a mixture of  soap and ashes when the water boiled- Alfonso realised that the method could be applied to making coffee.

Alfonso recognised the potential of the gadget – one of the first kitchen items to be made from aluminium - which promised to bring high-quality, espresso style coffee into homes for the first time. The principles improved on standard percolators where the circulated brewed coffee reduced its flavour.

Alfonso cast his octagonal 'caffetiera' in aluminium rather than steel. This gave a futuristic look as well as making it easier to mass-produce  using moulds.

But Alfonso struggled to market the aluminium pots on a large scale, only selling them at local markets around Piedmont.

By the time his son took over the company in 1947, only 70,000 pots had been manufactured.     But thanks to the younger Bialetti, the fortune of the Moka began to change.
The  Balietti Moka range on the shelves of the wonderful kitchen
 cookware department of Elphicks of Farnham

Renato launched a huge marketing campaign, renting billboards in major Italian cities and became a mascot for the brand, printing a caricature of himself on each pot.

Renato Bialetti’s temperament  was an unusual mixture of rigour and and imagination, exuberance and shyness, genius and recklessness.

A salutary lesson for us all

 Despite his success he kept his feet on the ground and like to tell of how he had once gone to a swanky car showroom in Milan and asked the price of a  Mercedes. 

The salesman had looked at his sober jacket, buttoned to the neck, assumed he was a chauffeur and asked when his master would pick up the car. Bialetti went next door and bought a Bentley !

Lesson :NEVER judge a book by its cover. – applies to show room selling and working off an exhibition stand today !

Renato Bialetti passed away on February 11, 2016. He was 93. After cremation, his ashes were placed in a large Moka Express-shaped urn. The urn was blessed in a funeral mass, then placed in Bialetti's family plot in Omegna, Italy.

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