Beretta Gets More Bang From its Social Media Buck

If Beretta did any marketing in its early years, the primary channel for its campaigns was likely a Gutenberg press. The maker of firearms that range from $300 pistols to $100,000 shotguns, founded by Bartolomeo Beretta in Lombardy, Italy, in the early 1500s, has been owned and run by his descendants ever since. Beretta’s chief executive, like all Beretta bosses for the past five centuries, is known as “Mr. Beretta” among employees. Owning the title currently is Hugo Beretta. The next Mr. Beretta will be his son Franco. But while Hugo’s passion is the product, technology and communications is the bailiwick of Franco, EVP of Beretta USA.

“Early on, he decided that we needed to have a presence in digital communications,” says Beretta USA’s Web and Social Media Manager Matteo Recanatini, a 15-year marketing veteran of the company. “We look at Facebook as our key platform, but we can’t promote guns on it.”

What Beretta does promote is its e-commerce site that sells its line of accessories like scopes, bags, and apparel. Sales of such products is an important element in Beretta’s revenue and margin mix, Recanatini points out. But for a company like Beretta, whose marketing of its core product is subject to intense regulation that varies from state to state and country to country, social media provides an opportunity to build brand loyalty that can translate to sales of all its lines.

“This notion of social commerce stuck with me, experimenting with ways to use peer leverage to move the brand rather than us being in the mix of the conversation,” Recanatini says.

Influence is rewarding

In December Beretta went beyond its popular fan forums on Facebook and partnered with ShopSocially to create a mobile app that focused on the point of purchase. Gun buyers are extremely passionate about the products, so much so that YouTube is peppered with “unboxing videos,” in which gun purchasers lovingly record the extraction of newly purchased weapons from their boxes. The Share-a-Purchase app, created by ShopSocially, allows buyers to share the news and excitement of their purchases right inside the store, taking photos and posting them simultaneously on the customer’s Facebook page and Beretta’s e-commerce site.

“We’re looking to do two things with the program,” Recanatini says. “Through the ShopSocially platform, we can track how influential the friends they share with are and we can score them and offer them different levels of incentives. For instance, if you share your purchase with a friend and that friend buys something, you get $25 off your next purchase and your friend gets a 10 percent discount.”

The platform also tracks how many subsequent shares a purchaser’s friend makes and awards them points based on their reach. Depending on a customer’s level of influence, they may receive gift cards ranging from $25 to $100. Beretta is adding a gamification wrinkle to the program that will track the number of shares that emanate from a single gun purchase and award a free gun to the person with the most shares each month. Because gun buyers must fill out paperwork before being allowed to take a firearm home, Beretta can’t directly award guns as prizes. Winners will buy the gun, send Beretta the receipt, and the company will refund the purchase up to $1,000.

“Social is very important to us, but we work on quantifiable results,” Recanatini says, adding that ShopSocially worked closely with Beretta on A/B testing. He says the ramped-up program delivered a double-digit sales lift of products in the Beretta online store. Though it can’t be directly tied to the app program, the company saw a noticeable lift in firearm sales, as well.

Education and entertainment are Beretta’s two principal missions in social media, Recanatini notes. If the company succeeds in it well enough to increase engagement with its fans, they trust them to take it from there. “We want our fans to become our ambassadors,” he says. “We have limits as a for-profit company, but nothing prevents individuals on social media from saying that they bought this great product or found this great brand.”

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