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How a company tells its story

Recently published research explains the methods used by Italian industries to give value to their past

Companies and culture are also nurtured by the history behind them. It is a difficult and delicate game, using the past to nourish the organisational and manufacturing present, yet it appears to have become an everyday occurrence in the Italian national industrial system. Reality, like history, is nevertheless much more differentiated than one might think. Investigating into the various methods of representing a company’s own past is therefore important better to understand the various corporate cultures that populate the Italian manufacturing landscape, to observe its progress and possible targets.

This is exactly what Angelo Riviezzo, Antonella Garofano and Maria Rosaria Napolitano have done with their “Il tempo è lo specchio dell’eternità.  Strategie e strumenti di heritage marketing nelle imprese longeve italiane” (Time is the mirror of eternity. Strategies and tools for heritage marketing in long-standing Italian companies) which was published a few days ago in “Il capitale culturale” (Cultural capital), the University of Macerata magazine.

The work investigates the effective degree of use by long-standing Italian companies of the multiple tools potentially available to add value to their history with a strategic effect. It then analyses the literature on the topic, which helps identify the various tools for heritage marketing and, subsequently, their actual dissemination is explored. Specifically, accurate information has been gathered and analysed regarding the activities carried out by 238 medium and large-sized companies registered with the National Register of Historic Italian Companies of Unioncamere. These include a long list of some of the best and most famous names in the finest Made in Italy production, such as Zegna, Auricchio, Fabbri, Carli, Caffarel, Lagostina, Guzzini. All the major tools for heritage marketing are then taken into consideration.

The results illustrate how the awareness of their past is widespread among Italian companies and how it permeates the current corporate culture within them. Yet at the same time, the researchers have revealed how telling one’s tale is still “craft-based” and “experimental” for each individual company.  Indeed, there is only a minority of companies who demonstrate they have understood the benefits of a convinced and multi-faceted activity to enhance the value of their history. In other words, not every company achieves the same degree of investigation and awareness of its own past. But it is not a matter of distracted corporate culture, but rather the expression of the multitude of experiences involved, of the large number of paths undertaken by every company to get to where it is today.

The work by Riviezzo, Garofano and Napolitano helps understand better the variety of doing business in Italy.

Il tempo è lo specchio dell’eternità. Strategie e strumenti di heritage marketing nelle imprese longeve italiane (Time is the mirror of eternity. Strategies and tools for heritage marketing in long-standing Italian companies)

Angelo Riviezzo, Antonella Garofano, Maria Rosaria Napolitano

«Il capitale culturale», XIII (2016), pp. 497-523