Meta-politics & marketing+communication in Italy

Meta-politics & marketing+communication in Italy

This article is the second in a series, following Social networking and (political/advocacy) marketing.

The series updates some ideas that I kept sharing since 2008 on-line and off-line (e.g. see here a digest up to 2010, and on my Facebook profile), in English, French, and, of course, Italian.

First, as in the previous (English) article, a short cultural introduction; then, the English localisation (i.e. a translation with some cultural adjustments and clarifications) of both articles, leaving the marketing bibliography reference at the bottom.

The Italian Italian versions were posted on-line on


Communication and politics- as I wrote few days ago to an on-line friend:

I should say: in the end, anything I have been studying and updating/recovering since last Summer is nothing more than “updating/improving” my language skills:)

“language” implies communication, which implies the ability to listen and talk, as well as the associated cultural analysis skills

therefore, my “language” update is not just the traditional “foreign language” area, but includes: social studies (and I consider marketing under social studies, not under business), mathematics, business methodologies, and, yes, also recovering/improving/expanding traditional language skills

Language skills- and when you express something, it is politics&marketing, under another name.

Politics, because the mere choice of words to utter is, of course, a personal choice- also if you choose a pre-defined communication pattern.

And politics, from my humble perspective, starts from the individuals and aggregates up.

Marketing, as, whenever you communicate, you are projecting your own persona on your environment- and, therefore, you are “marketing” yourself and/or your ideas, products, etc.

If this sounds a little bit too individualistic, too extreme- then, you are probably coming from a different culture.

I had the chance of seeing Italy from a foreigner’s perspective since the 1980s, first by working with foreign colleagues who might have had the appropriate formal language skills- but made small cultural mistakes here and there.

And it is interesting how we Italians are quite good at “marketing” ourselves as those wearing the heart on their sleeve… while most people seems to forget that since the end of the Roman Empire, for a long time Italy has been a country where a basic survival skill was adapting to an endless series of invaders or mere “armed passers-by”.

But a side-effect of our institutional instability is an extreme individualism, that is partially shielded by the local culture, also if then it shows in small signs.

An old saying (not Italian, but it could quite well be) says: I and my brother against our neighbour, I and my neighbour against others- concentric circles of trust.

I must say that the “heart on the sleeve” image, with varying degrees of “pathos” is often just a cultural ritual.

As the economic structure of the country clearly states, the individualism transcends into opportunism, and implies that it is difficult to find a concept of “common good” that is shared at the national level- and, so far, it is probably one of the reasons why most Italian companies are too small.

A cultural difference example, reported by an Italian journalist: some smaller companies reacted to the credit crunch by looking for a way to reduce the need to get credit- by agreeing to pay each other on shorter terms.

In Italy… small companies focused on its own cash-flow: dumping downstream their financing needs (i.e. delaying payments to suppliers- following the “lead” of the Italian State, chronically fast in charging penalties for late payments, and slow in paying its suppliers).

The current Italian Government is trying to break this habit- by promising to pay its own suppliers faster.

The “common good” is often linked to a specific location or group, and this has side-effects also on politics.

A further side-effect is that, usually, it is easier to bring in somebody from outside the territory (from the local to the national level), than to transfer power or visibility to somebody from the same territory (as this would affect the local balance of power).

To say nothing about the “20 year cycle” that follows us since the unification of Italy (1861): a crisis of conscience that generates a convergence, with everybody asking for a “paradigm shift”.

Sometimes with external incentives, sometimes by our own volition, as a journalist reminded recently.

Not too long ago, the Italian Prime Minister said that we Italians ask everybody else to change- but, given the chance, we do not.

But, in the end- Italy at the end of each “cycle” tries to introduce systemic changes: the last time, I watched the Deutsche Mark (DEM) balloon from 700 Italian Liras (ITL) per DEM to 1200 ITL per DEM; this time, internal and external pressures (e.g. young Italians’ unemployment rate at over 30%- in a country where there is one retiree for each working person) maybe will generate significant structural changes.

The only issue: Italy seems to live on brinkmanship-based adrenaline, and this time the changes are being done at a painstaking pace.

Since few months ago, each week, new changes that have been on the waiting list for decades have been turned into law, or an agreement between major political parties that had been out of reach for years… has been reached overnight.

Stay tuned: probably, at least from a legal/institutional perspective Italy will jump if not from the XIX to the XXI century, at least to post-WWII… in months.

If you never lived in Italy, most of what you will read in “meta-politics” sounds as the re-invention of the wheel: but I think that probably it is useful to consider the context.

In Italy, we often complain that our country is not “normal”- but as Prime Minister Monti recently remembered, each one of us assumes to have a quite healthy relationship with the institutions and to be a “good citizen” (each press conference is turned into an impromptu lecture).

Yesterday, the New York Times published an interesting article on marketing, and how behavioral economics and statistics can help companies.

It is quite long, but it is worth reading, and here is an excerpt:

The process within our brains that creates habits is a three-step loop.

First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.

Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.

Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop — cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward — becomes more and more automatic.

The cue and reward become neurologically intertwined until a sense of craving emerges.

What’s unique about cues and rewards, however, is how subtle they can be. Neurological studies like the ones in Graybiel’s lab have revealed that some cues span just milliseconds.

And rewards can range from the obvious (like the sugar rush that a morning doughnut habit provides) to the infinitesimal (like the barely noticeable — but measurable — sense of relief the brain experiences after successfully navigating the driveway).

Most cues and rewards, in fact, happen so quickly and are so slight that we are hardly aware of them at all.

But our neural systems notice and use them to build automatic behaviors.

Habits aren’t destiny — they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and a habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new cues and rewards — the old pattern will unfold automatically.

I wrote before about the “brinkmanship” attitude- e.g. everybody (from the IMF to the OECD) was worried in 1999 that Italy wasn’t ready for the “Millennium bug”, a.k.a. Y2K.

I used to remind my foreign colleagues that we Italians are used to have things (and laws) change at the last minute, and therefore not only we wait until the last minute, but, often, we prepare various alternatives: and, actually, I remember working in my first IT project involving Y2K in… 1987.

Therefore, what you see is not necessarily as crazy as what is really happening- maybe a little bit less productive than usual.

You just have to learn to read beyond layers of social constructs.

The flip-side: as we are used to work on multiple “options” at the same time, once an option is shown to be successful, almost overnight everybody converts: e.g. look at how mobile phones became embedded in the social fabric of ordinary Italians, who might refrain from reading books and newspapers, but often have more than one mobile phone.

Now you understand probably why that extensive quote: it shows how to build a Pavlovian reflex- but also gives you clues on how to undo the damage, by working on the three elements (cue, routine, reward).

But I would not spoil the pleasure of reading that NYT article, listing also few business and personal cases where that small bit of knowledge worked.

So, once the approach is discussed and shared… there are chances that we Italians too will change.

As I used to say when my foreign friends and colleagues asked how came that as soon as the latest “no smoking” law was enacted everybody complied (not what they would expect from Italians):

  • it wasn’t the first time that it had been tried
  • it had been on the books and enacted as planned- no changes
  • it involved fines not only for the customers- but also for the owners/managers of the venue where the violation happened

But more important: it used to be that, if something was still on the books for few years… maybe it was not going to change, and therefore it was worth at least considering compliance.

Anyway- time is compressing: and, nowadays, we Italians adapt faster (guess what happened after the recent high-visibility tax inspections in shops, restaurants, etc? an increase in reported revenue… in some cases, exceeding +400%!).

If you are interested in the subject of behavioral economics (on Wikipedia), have a look also at Socialnomics: how social media transforms the way we live and do business and Cyburbia : The Dangerous Idea That’s Changing How We Live and Who We Are; if you are a little bit of a number cruncher, or sceptical about statistics, a short book worth reading is: Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data.

Beware: often books (including a really famous one) show a blatant cultural bias- I would strongly advise to read something about cultural anthropology before you get carried away with behavioral economics.

Somebody could say that a 1500+ words introduction to an 8000+ words article is a little bit an overkill: but as a cultural introduction, it makes more sense…


The articles in this series aim to share few practical tools that I used in my activities, communication tools to be used to promote an initiative, idea, or, why not, some products.

Nonetheless, also if each tool has some “features”, it becomes relevant only when you integrate the tool within a well-defined context; otherwise: it could range from being useless to detrimental.

I think that it is a shared experience: way too often the choice of using a communication “channel” is more a function of its availability (or attractiveness for those proposing its use), than a way to satisfy a real need.

Politics, politics, politics: talk about it, about doing it, or even about letting “new blood” enter politics- but few talk about “political activity” as a method, and often we assume that everybody is thinking about the same model.

“Meta-politics” implies two interpretations: “beyond politics”, or, as customary since the Web became part of our everyday life, “the politics of politics” (as in “metadata”- data about the data).

Frankly, I heard using around Europe the latter interpretation only whenever somebody is talking about the integration of (non-European, non-Christian) immigrants, asking them to underwrite “shared rules”- pity that those proposing formal agreements seem to forget that European XX century dictatorships weren’t imported- grown and developed in Europe with Europeans’ consensus.

Often, politics is considered the area where choices are associated to partisan interests: a biased definition, linked to the original sin of representative democracy.

Two examples of “meta-politics”? Today, (in Italy- but maybe elsewhere is equally true), bringing about a more civilised discourse, and learning to identify what your counterparts say, before you start criticising them; tomorrow, taking care of the long-term sustainability of political choices.

Recently, the current “technical” Italian Government scored 5/5 on both counts: first, by trying to communicate without shouting and by sharing information (quite a feat, in Italy), then, by refusing to provide public funding support to the candidacy for the Olympic games Rome 2020, stating that, considering past and recent history, Mr. Monti couldn’t see how he could commit future generations to sign a blank cheque.

Personally, I think that if it was really a tremendous business opportunity, why only a minimal share of the funding was supported by the private sector? And do not forget that the first case in recent times of purely private sector Olympic games aren’t remembered as something worth repeating (I am talking from an Olympic perspective, not from the financial side).

Maybe, maybe… why European Union countries do not start doing a low-cost step toward a new European Marshall Plan, and present Greece as a permanent candidate to the Olympic games, re-using existing infrastructure built for their recent Olympic games, and sponsor getting back on a permanent basis Olympic games where they were born?

In the end- most countries do not know what to do with the infrastructure that they built for the games, and a Eurobond to finance infrastructural updates and improvements would actually create jobs.

At least (but logistics should be explored), any European country winning the opportunity to host the games (including Turkey, around the corner) could pledge to do part of the games as a shared initiative with Greece (if it was feasible in Asia, why “friendship Olympic games”, financed by an infrastructural Eurobond, should not be possible here?).

But this is the point of “meta-politics”: thinking outside the box, stopping to think only of being “for” or “against” (as it happened in Italy over the last 20 years)- and think that our political choices, not only within democracies, must be sustainable on the long-term (as recently shown in Myanmar, tanks do not deliver long-term political sustainability).

Yes, it is true- some latter day political rabble-rousers can wrap their own 30 seconds analysis in hours of stultifying yet adrenalin-inducing rhetoric: like a gas, their rhetoric can expand until it fills all the room available.

But “meta-politics” implies adapting your timing and ways&means of communication, respecting both your counterpart and the public (I do not believe that rules setting “time quotas” can replace a sound awareness of your own institutional role).

It is common knowledge that ritualised representative democracy results in a minority (however large) electing a minority; as shown in Greece and elsewhere, the old “social control” schemes have been made obsolete by the citizens’ ability to have direct access to information, disposing of the usual mediators- the “silent majority” (I am thinking of Graham Greene and Le Carre’ right now…) becomes visible when it communicates, and disavows the minority elected by a minority.

From café to Facebook

In Italy, in the 1980s we did not have just “Monday morning coaches”- everybody usually shared his (as it was mostly men) idea about what the Government should or should not have done.

But this usually happened between colleagues, or in your neighbourhood café: i.e. within homogeneous social circles.

Our modern communication tools (including on-line social networks) enable communications bypassing the usual social boundaries- actually, in Italy, we create new social boundaries.

An obvious side-effect: these new communication channels enable faster (dis)information dissemination, while at the same time wiping out the usual costs associated with access to subject matter experts (both the true ones and the “smart ass” variety, i.e. those picking up bits and pieces at face value, and then pretending that they have actually direct/reported experience to support their theses).

An old cartoon said: on the Internet, nobody knows if you are a person or a dog.

The risk? If the credibility of traditional “knowledge brokers” (i.e. professional channels- from politicians to journalists) is waning, consensus could build around information that has been willingly distorted, spread by self-appointed experts whose role is acknowledged by “common wisdom” (yes, the “vox populi…”)- instead of reasoned consensus.

But the changing nature of consensus and democratic participation within a (dis)informed society would require more than then few thousand words- and this just to present the existing positions.

On the Italian version of this article I suggested two recent books from my library/readings (as I found both in public libraries): “La governance tra politica e diritto” (i.e. governance, between politics and law), and “Il Piano Marshall e l’Italia” (i.e. the Marshall Plan and Italy).

Both books are easy to read without being superficial, and useful as introductory readings, whatever your political inclination, on the relationship between communication, economic reality, politics, and consensus (as well as on what both themes mean for Italy and Europe, including on the economic development model adopted since the 1950s and its potential future).

For English-speaking readers, I would suggest also a recent e-book from ForeignAffairs, The Clash of Ideas: The Ideological Battles that Made the Modern World- And Will Shape the Future.

Over the last month I have been quite busy “roaming” through public libraries, mainly to update my professional skills, but, as I worked since 1990 on cultural and organisational change in business, “politics/consensus building and communication about change” are basic “tools of the trade”.

Therefore, studying the trends and current status of society in Italy is a useful tool to compare my experiences abroad over the last decade.

Incidentally, the institutional/social evolution in Italy is curiously mirroring what in the early 1980s I remember discussing as a potential evolution of what is now called the European Union: I would not be surprised if Italy, from now on, if successful in reforming, could eventually become a “social litmus test” for the European Union to be.

In the next article I will share my ideas and experience on communication and negotiations, but this article is a “resting area”, aiming to inspire thinking not about the content of your communication, but the container, i.e. your “meta-political” reference model.

Ask yourself: is your model shared by all the others that will be involved in your communication efforts, or, instead, will you need to integrate your model with an interpretative schema, a “translation” that will enable true communication, ensuring that your “message” (whatever its purpose) is received by your audience?

In Italy, a side-effect of fascism in the early XX century is a reinforcement of a natural inclination to a “us vs. them” attitude- as I wrote in a previous article, a stepping stone toward potential un-democratic social changes (watch the “Five steps to tyranny” BBC documentary).

The concept of “corporazioni” promoted by the Italian fascist government, i.e. society as a by-product of “homo faber”, the productive classes, and its post-WWII side-effects, affect current Italian politics.

While other countries routinely call to “reform lobbying”, we Italians have lobbies directly within the Parliament: look at statistics about the number of lawyers, doctors, public notaries, etc- and then, look at how over-represented they are within the Parliament, supposedly the legislative arm of our “representative democracy”.

It is true- enforcing a strict statistical representation would imply re-instituting the attempted fascist “camera delle corporazioni”: but the current over-representation is an equally dangerous weakening of the supposed independence of the Parliament, and its ability to represent society at large.

Probably, requiring that anybody elected to the Parliament takes a leave of absence from his/her profession, or simply enforcing incompatibility, would be a step forward, ensuring that whoever is elected is focused on doing what (s)he has been elected for.

Cui prodest?

Have a look on Wikipedia to the history of the Italian Governments from the “Costituente” (i.e. post-WWII), to recent times (if you can read Italian, have a look at an old book written by Giulio Andreotti, Governare con la crisi, outlining the history behind each Italian Government from 1943 until 1991).

Italy never had political parties surrounded by “Chinese Walls”, as everybody instead seems to remember now (e.g. even the two major parties, the Communist or PCI and the Christian Democrats or DC, sometimes overlapped more than really representing opposing views of the world).

Over the last 20 years, the weakining of the ideological premises further widened the distance between representatives and political parties, and strenghtened the “relationship” of each representative with his/her constituency, not to increase the representation, but to increase the relative power of the groups supporting each representative.

In the early 1990s (actually, February 17th 1992 was a turning point), an investigation nicknamed “Mani Pulite” (clean hands) removed the lid from the Pandora’s box of political corruption.

But as remembered by a judge, then representatives and other politicians were corrupt o.b.o. their political party (or to gain “weight” within their political party), while nowadays here and there cases of corruption show representatives and politicians simply lining their own pockets for their own personal advantage (e.g. investing in real estate for personal gain money that they control, money belonging to the political party that they work for- to the tune of tens of millions EUR).

Anyway, instead of trying to summarise, I suggest that you read another book that, while not necessarily supporting my thesis, delivers more information about how citizens interact with political parties “L’apparenza e l’appartenenza” (literally: appearance and belonging; published in 2004, but still more than useful and relevant).

In my view, what matters is focusing on priorities (e.g. I would rather have a short, American-style, Constitution, with “appendixes”, than a 300-pages legalistic contract: as I would like each and every citizen not only to read it, but also to study, understand, and apply it).

Along with the books I previously referred to, I would suggest also Democracy at work and A theory of justice, both focused on what democracy means, and the relationship between interest groups and individuals.

A systemic crisis

Landini (a trade unionist from FIOM, one of the largest associations, representing manufacturing workers) said few days ago something worth repeating (and I agree with most of what he said- in this instance): why Italy does not attract foreign direct investment (we receive a mere fraction of the FDI that comparable leading economies within the EU are able to attract)? Lack of flexibility within the labour market? No, as he reported that there are 46 different ways to hire somebody temporarily. He said that corruption and our overwhelming and cumbersome bureaucracy are the main culprits.

Personally, both in the private and the public sector, I think that turning into reality a “single point of contact” approach when dealing with bureaucracy and regulations should be the focus of restructuring the maze of authorisations and red tape that is wrapped around any public or private initiative in Italy.

Instead of just dropping authorisations and regulations that probably are still needed- at least, until we Italians get used to the concept of “common good”.

I remember that few years ago, when the Euro and the British Pound were on a mutual roller-coaster, up/down swings reaching 70%, a Japanese company decided to relocate to France- from the land where liberalism (in business) was born, to a country where the invisible hand of the State is quite visible, with unemployment benefits that fairly exceed the “ordinary” salary received by many in Italy.

The reported reasons for the relocation? The company was producing/assembling in the UK, but the main market was Euroland: how could work with 40% exchange rate fluctuations on a monthly basis a company whose activities involved mainly importing components and then exporting assembled products (to say nothing about the infrastructural issues left behind by the 1980s)?

Or: have a look at the foreign direct investment flows- do you think that either France or Germany can be listed as “low taxation and high flexibility” countries? Nonetheless, they attract more investments than Italy.

Direct political communication is a fact of life (e.g. Facebook): and this implies that it is more critical now than ever before in the history of modern nation states to provide e citizen (or netizen) with a set of skills and information enabling true, active citizenship.

In Italy, this could extend beyond the ordinary, formal school system, as the country still has a State-owned radio and TV broadcasting system, with the skills and resources needed to produce attractive cultural and educational “containers”.

Unfortunately, “race to the bottom” with private TV channels resulted in a long-standing trend with two distinct outcomes: “intellectual ghettoes”, with audiences almost impossible to meter, but highly praised by those belonging to the same circles that produce and watch them (and keep inviting each other in their shows); and the old, true, and tried “panem et circenses” variety, where the Coliseum and gladiators are replaced by reality TV, and easy-going news/political shows where talking and shouting replace in most cases analysis (and, again, the same people keep hopping from show to show).

Meta-politics and knowledge

Shifting from politics to meta-politics implies acknowledging that the voters want a direct say and that the old “vote and forget until the next elections” approach, with rituals that happen every few years (called “elections”), is now history.

So, doing politics does not imply being professional politicians- anymore.

In Italy, representatives get elected through a political party, but thereafter can do as they see fit- including switching allegiance.

And I already wrote in the past about few cases where members switched political party few times during the same term.

In Italian, “policy” is usually translated as “politica”- i.e. the same word used for “politics”: but still two different concepts.

Therefore “economic policy” becomes “politica economica”- an oxymoron for some, but, in the end, the issue is to identify and choose impacts: I think that assuming that any choice has to create only benefits is a populist inclination that already costed too much to Italy (about 2trn EUR, i.e. about 120% the GDP; see a chart showing its history here).

If Italy has a representative democracy, then increasing the level of “electoral competence” of those who are to choose representatives should be of paramount importance, I would dare to say “systemic” importance. If.

Also to avoid the usual “passata la festa, gabbato lo santo”, i.e. the attitude that we Italians excel in, of starting to distance ourselves from those that we voted and elected- as soon as we have even minor disappointments.

Currently, this means shifting the “sniping” from the café, i.e. visible only now and only to those sharing the same physical space, to on-line social networks, visible now and forever by anyone.

Probably… this implies revising the checks&balances- maybe taking a leaf from the private sector (as in Italy the trend since few years ago is to imitate anything coming from abroad and from the private sector), but for once choosing what does make sense within each context.

Checks&balances, notably controls, should be carefully focused on the appropriate roles and locations that are affected, e.g. by shifting all the controls whose impact transcends the electoral cycle from the Government to the President of the Italian Republic, currently elected by the Parliament, i.e. representing the whole country.

Of course, probably the first control functions that could be transferred are those currently assigned to the “political police” (technically, a preventive police whose task is to identify and control potential future sources of political/social unrest- and not necessarily the usual rabble-rousers), as well as some of those assigned to the “tax police” (as the Guardia di Finanza has a unique hierarchy, reporting to different members of the Government for different reasons).

Anyway, this would not really be a novelty, as the Italian Constitution already delivers this “watchdog” role to the Italian President, e.g. he heads the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura (see article 87).

Of course: as in Italy the Parliament represents citizens, these changes would work if the President will continue to be elected from the Parliament; if Italy were to become a Presidential Republic, then this “watchdog” role should probably shift to the Parliament, to avoid that the controller controls himself (another lesson from the private sector).

Meta-politics and controls

In the end, creating an “internal audit” function for the Italian State, focused on more than just accounting issues or the repression of specific violations, could be a shift toward a greater transparency.

Another lesson from the private sector: the internal audit should have a “wall” to avoid incurring in what my British friends showed me long ago: “loose lips sink ships”- and any conflicts of interest, or suspicion that could cast any doubt on the trustworthiness on the role holder.

Currently, the “Corte dei Conti” (the Italian equivalent of the US GAO) is formally “charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds” (yes, I copied the description from the official GAO description- as the basic role is the same).

The new “internal audit” would take care of ensuring the transparency and compliance of all the other decision-making activities.

Transparency: because, with all the communication channels available now (and probably in the future), a lack of transparency would negatively affect the ability of citizens to become responsible and involved actors in the management of the State.

If you remove reliable information, rumours and doubts will be amplified and spread, and even used by populists as Trojan horses to enhance their own visibility by riding the wave of atavistic prejudices, collective fears, and sheer disinformation- and in Italy and Europe, the first half of the XX century showed us what happens when populists are given a chance to take the lead just to avoid change.

Somebody probably could complain about the cost of an organizational and cultural change- in Italy often the attitude becomes: “change implies spending, we have no money, hence no change is possible”.

My answer (and, luckily, I am not the only one)? Sometimes, you need to reallocate existing resources (human and financial).

As an example: last week, I found and read in a library a university thesis on e-government ed e-governance.

Since the late 1990s, I had more than a superficial interest in both, starting from documents issued by the OECD and the EU in the late 1990s, and ending up posting articles on-line from 2003.

The thesis? Both in form and content- better than most books on the same subject.

The author? An officer (I do not know if from the Guardia di Finanzia or other branches of the Italian security forces).

Therefore, probably what is needed is to shift some of the resources allocated to the “studi di settore”, number crunching activities used in Italy to identify the “average cost/revenue structure” for each economic activity (with a significant group/guild self-assessment element), studies that often produce results that any consumer would not consider a “fair and true” representation of what they can see everyday.

Where to? Well, any change requires understanding what you are dealing with- including producing a continuous survey of the skills and experiences available within the public sector.

Why “continuous”? An example: long, long ago, employees from tax offices told me (and to other colleagues) that, as the State could not afford to pay training for each existing employee… they had to buy and share with colleagues the cost of updated material.

Therefore, at least while State employees will keep doing by themselves what the budget doesn’t provide, it would be a nice change to support those willing to invest their own time and money to provide a better service- and use their skills more efficiently.

Hoping that, eventually, skills (and resources) will be allocated where needed.

In Italy, usually infrastructures are built without considering the whole lifecycle: e.g. few weeks ago the mayor of a small village complained that he did not have enough resources to remove the snow from all the roads under his control… 400km of them!

One of the weakest areas is the allocation of resources to the training, coaching, and mentoring of employees, as well as the chronic lack of funding for routine maintenance, due also to the above mentioned cumbersome bureaucracy.

To summarise, what is “meta-politics”? As in Italy football (soccer, for my American friends) is “the” paradigm- playing a match implies that both teams agree on the rules, players remember for which team they are playing, and referees are independent (paid neither by the players nor by the teams), whose aim is only to ensure that everyone abides by the rules, whatever team they support when off-duty.

Think and read before you act

If you have a look at the Italian version, you will see that this “localisation” is turned upside down: first, the third article in the series, then, the second one.

The reason is quite simple: in Italy, often reading is considered akin to “taking sides”- and even in business I was often quite worried to see that people read more of the same, instead of reading to keep their own minds open.

Therefore, in the off-chance that some of the readers of these articles would first have a look or at least think about the books listed within the bibliography, I first posted in Italian what should have been delivered later (the bibliography), and then posted the article that you just read (the previous sections).

“Philosophising” is way too often considered something that transcends knowledge or, at least, information (I wrote in the past about the difference).

But while we Italians can talk at length, often it will take just a couple of questions (if you can get them through) to discover that somebody heeded the advice of a famous political philosopher who (almost) said that what you find in your mind is more important than what you can find in books- but forgot that, before coming to that conclusion… he spent a significant amount of time reading and studying books.

The same applies to communication: you can certainly re-invent your own wheel (and I admit that, coming from the practitioner’s side, I ended up doing it few times), but, if given a chance, maybe you can adapt existing wheels (and spend some time once in a while looking if somebody has put in writing interesting ideas- also if you don’t agree with them 100%).

A warning: this article derives from my experience, and both in “political” (e.g. advocacy) activities and B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business) activities my focus was to communicate about a knowledge-intensive “product”.

Or: I am usually oriented toward setting up a relationship that potentially extends long-term, by supporting customers (business/consumer or non-profit), ensuring that the they have a positive feed-back from our collaboration; therefore, I am less experienced/inclined in communication focused on creating non-existing needs.

Before listing the books, I would like to share something more on my selection criteria.

Choosing implies deciding

My starting point was quite straightforward: I am used to a marketing model focused on the identification of the short-/long-term motivation of my potential “customer”, assessing how this motivation matched the motivation of the “supplier” I worked for (products, services, ideas, other).

A practical example: if I dispensed a flyer for a political activity, my interest wasn’t limited to reducing my “stock”- but to communicate a set of values expressed by the flyer to those who received it.

If the recipient hinted (verbal/non-verbal) to an interest to communicate, I tried to find “cribs” in what (s)he said, not only to stimulate a non-superficial reading of the flyer, but also to incentivate the “message recipient” to talk with others and, if possible, acquire a new member.

While I was working on organizational/cultural change management, a customer once said that I wasn’t simply training and coaching his managers and staff- I was converting them, as some of them started, in meetings, to quote what I said- so, he said that I had founded a sect of “Lofariti” (Lofaro- literally, the lighthouse- being my surname, I let you guess all the jokes about “showing the way”, “give us the light”, and so on… try smiling a thousand times to the same joke as if it were the first time that you heard it!).

But also when “selling” as a teenager something much smaller, such as a game console, a computer, a computer software, or a videogame, I tried to reduce the “stress” implied in the choice.

Moreover when the buyer wasn’t going to be the user.

The simple act of choosing was often overloaded by a personal impact (or relational, toward those who were to use the gift).

What was the role of the middleman (guess who) between the object and the one doing the choice? A mere communication channel, able to “translate” the object into something “connecting” with the experience/philosophical inclination of the customer.

Beside “choice-induced stress”, another factor was the difference in our level of competence on the object that was the focus of our communication.

The “transaction” (have the flyer/message accepted by the recipient, sell the object) was just a component- personally, I considered useful to have the recipient “feel better”, usually through a “knowledge transfer” (sometimes, to de facto convert the “recipient” into a communication channel toward others).

Of course- it was even more relevant while selling services or software products targeted to somebody required to perform a role with knowledge requirements that weren’t really fulfilled.

As an example: if you are able to use a spreadsheet, this does not imply that you are able to use it to produce within minutes a draft balance sheet.

After heading in that “direction”, a second step is choosing the “communication code”, or “lingo”, i.e. decide the audience the bibliography is targeted at, to identify, between the available options, those that are a closer match for the average audience member abilities, assuming that no preliminary formal training is delivered.

Therefore, the next step: identify books containing a large enough number of real(istic) case studies, hence enabling readers to understand what, within the material delivered by the book, is really relevant to their own needs and interests, and what should instead be either adapted or merely considered a curious case.

Considering that the aim is communication within politics, advocacy, or whenever the “transmitter” holds more information on what is communicated than the “receiver”, I added a further criterion: choose texts that quote recent cases.

In marketing and communication, publishing case studies cookbooks logically follows the events that are outlined within each book: therefore, merely mimicking what your “competitors” did isn’t necessarily a “best practice”.

This additional constraint steered me toward selecting books covering a wide range of industries, with fairly recent cases, to help the audience think on what differentiates their own “market”: allowing them to think outside the “imitation box”.

Often, choosing the audience and which channels are the most appropriate ones is more a function of habit than the result of a clear SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats- wonderful brainstorming tool, if you really use it, instead of just filling four boxes with whatever comes through your mind).

But you risk doing just the opposite, i.e. considering differentiation as an end in itself, something that requires “tutoring” your audience before your message can be understood.

Challenge yourself with what others did- this allows first and foremost to choose “why” you want to communicate- a choice that narrows the set of tools available.

Last but not least: each one of the books listed was either written in Italy with an analysis that, albeit following the “traditional” marketing approaches (Kotler, etc), chose a European cultural perspective, or followed a non-traditional path.

Designing a bibliography

I did my search using the Regional on-line library catalogue of Piedmont, as I aimed to quote mainly books available in public libraries, and I had a chance to visit libraries in Turin (where the 2006 Winter Olympic games were held).

I think that there are other “metaOpac” (OPAC’s OPACs) around Italy.

A disclaimer: I dropped few “ethical guidelines” that I added at this point within the Italian version- but I think that there is no need to explain the side-effects of “faking it up” in marketing/communication.

Communication tools are useful to reach those who might be interested- but do not forget that interacting with the “receivers” quite often will affect your own position or product/service offer.

While this bibliography is focused only on marketing and communication in Italian, mainly with Italian cases, I think that, if you haven’t yet made up your mind on your message, it would be advisable to read something on risk management and perception, starting from real cases.

As for game theory and neurolinguistic programming (or communication models derives from classical rhetoric): cum grano salis- both are, in my view, decision-making and rhetorical tools that pre-date their formalization in the XX century, but, as any tool that is presented as if it were “the” tool, it is advisable to keep in mind your original aim- and avoid getting diverted by the tool.

Or: not only ends do not justify means, but using all the means available just because they are avaiable isn’t really a wise choice.

Have a look at a partial on-line catalogue of my readings and library, and search by keyword (either in English or Italian- the system should automatically find the associate books in both cases).

Completing the on-line listing will take quite a while- I expect the activity to be completed by the end of 2012 (and I will add a short comment on each item).

A reasoned bibliography

I split the list in sections, and I added an explanatory paragraph for each book.

As far as I know, most Italian public libraries should carry on their catalogue each one of the books that I listed.

If you are really interested, e.g. because you are abroad but delivering PR/marketing services to companies working in Italy, or doing your thesis, and you want to know more on each book before going to your favourite e-commerce bookshop, let me know.

Do not worry: I will not charge for my replies! The only condition: whatever I will say (but not your questions) will go on-line, so that anybody else will be able to benefit.

Non-conventional marketing
mainly books and references on marketing based on generating a long-term impact on the “recipient”, e.g. by using the existing social network (on-line/offline), or by converting each encounter between the “transmitter” and the “receiver” into a memorable experience (of course, for the recipient)
Basic ideas
few basic elements, both on marketing and on communication (PR and political communication), with guidelines to choose additional readings
detailed elements- from setting up activities, to how computers and data collection should be used, to statistical or qualitative analysis
Case studies
two books offer an overview on various industries, and two monographs on the tourism and automotive industries

I – non-conventional marketing

Angelo Mellone and Bruce Newmann
“L’apparenza e l’appartenenza – Teorie del marketing politico” Rubbettino 2004

see the detailed visual mindmap/outline for the book

Bernard Cova
“Il marketing tribale – legame, comunita’, autenticita’ come valori del Marketing Mediterraneo”
Sole 24 Ore (I reviewed the 2007 reprint, but a 2010 edition is available)

interesting overview on the concept of tribes, including temporary ones (cfr. “L’apparenza e l’appartenenza”) and those built on purpose for events

Mauro Ferraresi, Bernd H. Schmitt
“Marketing esperenziale – come sviluppare l’esperienza di consumo”
Franco Angeli 2006

how to create and use personal experiences as a marketing tool

Debora Tortora
“Experience marketing e creazione di valore – relazioni e interazioni tra consumatore, offerta e contesto” G. Giappichelli Editore Torino 2007

contains an analysis of a research done in Salerno, down to the questionnaire and the conceptual tools used

II – basic ideas

Philip Kotler – Kevin Keller
“Il Marketing del nuovo millennio” Prentice Hall 2010

compared with other books from Kotler, this one is focused on an audience that needs to know about current marketing trends from a management perspective; of course, using (Italian, foreign) case studies

Muzi Falcone
“In che senso. Che cosa sono le relazioni pubbliche” (con 3 DVD) Luca Sossella Editore 2008

from the publisher: “six meetings with 50 key actors, six experts, two teachers, and a publisher to produce three DVDs and a book on the PR business”- contains an interesting analysis of the Italian PR market and its relationship with the media industry (in Italy, a professional journalist needs to be a guild member)

Franco Giacomazzi – Marco Camisari Calzolari
“Impresa 4.0 – Marketing e comunicazione digitale a 4 direzioni”
FT Prentice Hall 2008

the “tools” section might be obsolete, but what matters is the model used to identify which tools are more appropriate for each potential aim and “receiver” audience

Elisa Rancati
“Market-drive management – mercati globali e metriche di performance”
G. Giappichelli Torino 2009

more than a book, a bibliographical collection along with a commentary, with discussion outlines on a wide range of themes, and references for each theme

III – tools

Roberto Grandi e Christian Vaccari
“Elementi di comunicazione politica: marketing elettorale e strumenti per la cittadinanza” Carocci 2007

an introduction to political marketing from an Italian perspective

Giorgio Marbach
“Ricerche per il marketing” UTET 2006

an introductory book on market research and polls, as well as an outline of the related techniques, including statistical techniques; the main use for a foreign audience? to pick up the Italian “marketing lingo” and few Italian cases useful as relevant examples while pitching in Italy or for Italians

Paul W, Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeiffer, David J. Reibstein
“Marketing metrics – misurare e valutare le attivita’ di marketing”
Pearson 2008

for a foreign audience: as it is a translation of an American book, it could be useful more as a complement to Marbach’s book, as its orientation is focused more on activities/processes in marketing

Furio Camillo – Silvia Mucci
“Focus group per il marketing – casi e metodologie di analisi di dati non strutturati” Franco Angeli Milano 2008

an introduction to focus groups and other “group techniques” (e.g. Delphi, brainstorming), through four case studies, from traditional products to pitching a “concept”

Sonia Ferrari
“Event marketing: i grandi eventi e gli eventi speciali come strumenti di marketing”
CEDAM 2002

partially obsolete, but anyway useful to identify what entails event marketing within the Italian market

Devrim di Finizio, Matteo Fini, Davide La Torre, Luciano Pilotti
“Marketing intelligence – per le aziende e le istituzioni”
Isedi 2007

it is quite technical, as it aims to describe how information technology can support marketing activities- ranging from CRM and databases, to neural networks; useful if you lack the budget for a group of IT experts, but you have (or need to recruit) collaborators with IT skills to support your marketing activities (unfortunately, available only in Italian)

IV – case studies

Piergiorgio Re – Anna Claudia Pellicelli – Fabrizio Mosca – Elena Candelo – Stefano Bresciani – Bernardo Bertoldi – Elisa Cerruti
“Strategie di marketing applicate a differenti mercati” G. Giappichelli Torino 2007

an anthology of cross-industry case studies: events, logistics/air transportation, competition within converging industries, automotive, musea

Elena Candelo
“Destination branding – l’immagine della destinazione turistica come vantaggio competitivo”
G. Giappichelli Torino 2009

case studies on marketing places, with a detailed analysis of few cases, and a methodological analysis using other cases to explain theory (cfr. Kotler “Marketing Places”); interesting, includes the analysis on few Italian and foreign cases of “brand recovery” and crisis management

Elena Candelo
“Il marketing nel settore automotive” G. Giappichelli Torino 2009

contains an industry analysis from the European Commission, along with an analysis of consumers’ purchasing models (useful as a reference model for activities that assume that “receivers” will have a long-term involvement)

a cura di Vittoria Marino
“Casi di marketing internazionale” G. Giappichelli Torino 2010

a collection of case studies, from the internationalisation of Italian companies, to the setting up of branches of multinational companies in Italy


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