It’s the dessert mystery of 2017: is Gelato Messina’s superfan “Cecilia” real, and did the campaign based around her love of ice-cream work?
At the start of the year the artisan gelato brand posted a video featuring a voicemail message from a heartbroken fan whose new year’s resolutions were thwarted when she discovered her local Gelato Messina store was closed on New Year’s Eve.
In a post that’s received more than 10,000 engagements on social media, Gelato Messina put out a call to make contact with this distressed individual, asking to “get back together” with her.
What resulted was the discovery of Cecilia Zenca, a Melbourne Messina devotee that the company then flew to Sydney to for a taste of an ice-cream flavour made in her honour, the “Voicemail”.
The whole saga has opened up ice-cream conspiracy theorists and brand sceptics to the idea that Cecilia herself might be a clever branding concoction, but the Gelato Messina team tells SmartCompany they wish they had come up with the plot. Some customers were delighted with the quest to find the desperate customer, and seemed unfazed by the idea it could be a setup, while others were more than happy to label it a clever advertising campaign.
But others have pointed out that Cecilia identifies her profession as acting on her Facebook pay, questioning whether she was engaged to act in the campaign for the brand. In response to a comment on Facebook from one customer, she confirmed that acting is her profession, but insists she contacted the brand by choice.
“We have had a few skeptics who have thought Cecilia has been in on it from the start … I guess you’ll always get those. If we’d have come up with it as an idea I’d have been very happy, but I think it’s hard to make a story like this up,” a spokesperson for the brand said this morning.
As for the reach of the initial voicemail message? “It has become our most watched, shared and commented on video in Messina history, so the organic brand reach has been great,” the spokesperson said. Even media outlets in the UK and US are interested in the brand.
After Cecilia tried her ice-cream flavour, Gelato Messina offered customers the chance to buy a tub of the limited edition product for $1 via a delivery deal with Deliveroo. However, the brand copped some heat from hungry fans when stock quickly evaporated and some fans were left disappointed.
“You owe Sydneysiders a lot of icecream,” said one customer after missing out on the deal.
Sue Parker of DARE Group Australia says that while the story will naturally raise some questions on the authenticity, SMEs should keep in mind that there’s real power in “stepping up and standing out” and “being bold” with their branding strategies—you just have to keep issues of trust in mind.
“Is it a stunt? I don’t know,” she says.
“Us SMEs have to think of the most creative ways to get our brands out there. But it always comes back to reputation and it comes back to trust.”
While Gelato Messina experienced strong brand engagement through their social media channels as a result of searching for and finding Cecilia, Parker says it’s always worth keeping in mind that continued actions that affect trust when it comes to branding comes back to your relationships with suppliers, staff and customers.
“If you can’t maintain truth, then your brand will be damaged,” she says.