Unleash the Vespas!

Vespa junkies, rev your engines. The first blog in Vespa's campaign of working with fan bloggers launched today. It's called Vespaway.
Heather Green

Vespa junkies, rev your engines. The first blog in Vespa's campaign of working with fan bloggers launched today. Called Vespaway, the blog is being co-written—for free--by two hard core Vespa-ites, Jonathan Ogilvy and Neil Barton. The campaign idea, outlined at Vespablogs.com, came straight from Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion.

Ok, so, it's obvious why Vespa's owner Piaggio would do this—free marketing and the attention of the blogosphere. But why would Ogilvy and Barton be interested? The only financial compensation they will get will be Vespa schwag and invites to events. (Check out the Vespablogs FAQ).

After speaking with the two yesterday, it appears that Vespa is right about its bet that real fans really do want to write about the products and brands they love. Even for free.

"Why else would I do this without getting paid, if it weren't something I completely believe in?" says Ogilvy. "I think the world would be a better place if everyone rode a Vespa."

I guess it shouldn’t come as such a surprise, after we have seen how Tivo, Blackberry, and Netflix afficianados can be such cheerleaders for the brand. But I would bet that actively recruiting bloggers for a company would only work for these kind of cult products.

This is new territory. Cheerleaders can become gadflys. And Vespa is handing over the keys the the two bloggers. It claims it won't control what they write. But it is protecting itself by asking the bloggers to agree to a broad ethics guideline.

Generally they can't personally attack fellow bloggers or Vespa customers or dealers; they have to check what they post for factual accuracy, and they can't post information that violates copyrights or trade secrets.

Will it work? I really think it comes back to how much they love their lifestyle and want other people to be part of it. At first take, it looks like Rubel chose well or got lucky with his candidates.

In their blog, the two will be writing about urban living, with a good mix of scooter life thrown in. Both ride their Vespas instead of taking other transportation. Barton lives in New Jersey and works in New York City and takes the Holland Tunnel to work. Ogilvy says he got back into riding a scooter when he moved back to San Francisco five years ago and now writes about it on his own time for print and online magazines.

Next up: a Vespa blog in July featuring two female bloggers, one who is new to Vespas and the other who is an old hand and will help the newbie find her scootering way.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.