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Human-Centric Marketing Road Trip (PART 2)



Matteo Rinaldi

If you missed the first part of our human-centric road trip, you can go and check it out HERE.



It was about sunset when I decided to veer north and continue my road trip. London, here I come.


Sixth Companion – Elisa Pogliano

Key Advice: Understanding people’s fears and tensions to foster innovation and enhance digital platforms.

Elisa, Founder, and principal Consultant of Hen’s Milk, and former Senior Director of Digital and omnichannel at Mattel for the entire EMEA region, left me with a blend of nostalgia, inspiration, and joy during our conversation. Her profound knowledge and passion for iconic brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, Polly Pocket, and Monster High, which many of us grew up with, were truly admirable.

I’ve always held Mattel in high regard, particularly for their ability to navigate the dynamics of children and parents in the shopping process. They’ve understood the significance of creating products and communications that appeal to both parties. What truly impressed me was Mattel’s outstanding work with Barbie, empowering girls to break free from stereotypes and showcasing that there are no “male-only” careers.

I’m not yet a father, but I’d feel immensely proud to gift my daughter a Barbie, given the brand’s values and the message it conveys.

Elisa’s extensive experience in the digital realm also sheds light on the need for an integrated approach between the physical and digital environments. Historically, toy stores have been places of joy for kids and opportunities for parents to win their hearts. The experience relied heavily on engaging the senses—touch, sight, hearing, and smell. However, Elisa pointed out that the pandemic had introduced new fears and concerns into people’s lives.

In today’s landscape, bringing children to a toy store has become a constant worry about what they might touch. What was once an inspiring and fun experience now risks turning into a stressful and perilous outing. In such a context, the role of digital has become increasingly pivotal.

Companies must elevate their efforts to create an emotional connection between brands and customers through digital platforms. Many individuals may prefer online shopping, using physical stores solely for order pickup.

Thus, during these unique times, companies must display resilience and adaptability by evolving their business models and reallocating marketing budgets.

The needs and fears of the new consumer will serve as a compass, guiding companies through these challenging times and prompting the creation of innovative solutions and more engaging digital platforms, which will remain relevant even after the current crisis subsides.

Elisa’s insights prompted me to explore the future of retail in a post-pandemic world. Then, my next steps led me to my friend Francesco Sodano, an expert in crafting in-store experiences.


Seventh Companion – Francesco Sodano

Key Advice: Prioritize the customer experience at the center of your journey.


Francesco Sodano, Director | Head of Retail Media & Trade Marketing Media World, offered me a sunny perspective when I visited Milan. Francesco’s extensive experience, which included stints at Philips, Samsung, Huawei, and now Media World had made him a true authority in the field of retailing. He had contributed a case study to my book on Human-Centric Marketing.

When we met, I posed a straightforward question. “Francesco”—I asked, “what do you foresee as the future of retailing?”

His response made me smile and reflect: “Matteo, no one can predict the future, but I can tell you that innovations in retailing aren’t driven by companies; they’re driven by customers.” He continued, “Everything we do aims to create a better experience for them, and to do so, we must not only know our customers but understand them deeply.”

His response was incredibly insightful. Francesco highlighted five customer-centric innovations he anticipates in the retail industry:

  1. Environmental Consciousness: Customers are increasingly environmentally aware. Retailers need to embrace sustainability as part of Customer Social Responsibility.
  2. Digital Information Gathering: People use the internet to seek information. The store should aim to inspire customers. Salesclerks should play more of a consulting role, understanding customer needs to propose the best product solutions.
  3. Big Data Utilization: Employing big data will help in understanding customers better and crafting more personalized offers.
  4. Innovative Loyalty Programs: Strengthening customer relationships through creative loyalty programs.
  5. Seamless Integration: Creating a seamless experience by integrating physical and digital channels.

His last point about integration led me to another expert, Alessandro Sironi, Chief Digital Officer of Huawei.

Keep reading and follow along our human-centric road trip!

Eighth Companion – Alessandro Sironi

Key Advice: Develop a fluid Omni-Channel strategy.


Alessandro Sironi, with a background in Safilo, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), and now serving as Global Marketing & Digital Director Technogym, had a perspective that was just right for a question that had long been on my mind: “What makes a digital strategy truly successful?” His response was brilliantly simple: “It needs to be fluid! We must holistically understand our consumers, as people. The corporate world has taught us to see physical and digital as separate realms, but, in reality, when viewed from a human-centric perspective, people move effortlessly between the two.”

His approach was truly captivating. In essence, he argued that information now circulates at an astonishing speed, and customer journeys are increasingly nonlinear and unpredictable. Moreover, some activities carried out online can have a positive impact on physical channels, and vice versa.

Alessandro’s view was crystal clear: “In this new era, it’s crucial to remember that what we call consumers are, in fact, people, not robots with unchanging behaviors. Only by recognizing this, we can create an integrated strategy to win the hearts and minds of our target audience.”

Alessandro also worked on launching Huawei’s new e-commerce platform, and he shared a surprising insight: “Sometimes, even minor details like a different color or a slight change in button placement on an e-commerce site can significantly impact online sales. The user experience must be entirely customized to the preferences of the individuals you aim to reach.”

His story reminded me of another friend, Mariano Diotto, a Professor of Neuromarketing.


Ninth Companion – Mariano Diotto

Key Advice: Focus on how your brand makes consumers feel and strike a balance between emotional and functional benefits in your communication.


Mariano, a University Professor in Neuromarketing, had worked with various brands in Italy and abroad. He has authored several marketing books, and I was delighted to contribute to his latest one, titled Neurobranding released in Italy on July 10, 2020.

I’ve always found the world of Neuromarketing fascinating. I firmly believe in the marketing adage that people buy for emotional reasons and then seek rational justifications for their emotional decisions. Neuromarketing, in essence, is the science that helps companies measure the emotions consumers experience throughout their path to purchase.

Conversing with Mariano, I felt that Neuromarketing and Human-Centric Marketing were like perfect complements, akin to a burger with cheddar cheese or prosciutto with melon. Each is delightful on its own, but when combined, they elevate the experience. This synergy made me appreciate both marketing approaches even more, enabling us to delve deeper into consumer psychology and tangibly measure what truly matters to them.

With Mariano, we began brainstorming an approach we dubbed “Neuro-Human-Centric Marketing,” to focus on how brands evoke emotions in consumers.

People are inherently emotional, and they make decisions based on emotions. Consequently, brands must offer an emotional experience. However, it’s crucial not to fall into the trap of emphasizing only emotional benefits. As I noted in Mariano’s book, this would lead to “fried air.”

For example, Volvo’s reputation as the world’s safest car is not solely based on safety claims in commercials but also on the demonstrable safety features of their vehicles. To authentically deliver an experience, a brand must “walk the talk.”

Companies need messages that speak to various levels of product benefits, ranging from rational product attributes to emotionally engaging ones. Meeting Mariano reinforced the importance of maintaining a balance between functional and emotional benefits in our communication.

After meeting Mariano, I went to meet my last companion for this human-centric journey.

Tenth Companion – Federico Salina

Key Advice: Brands must build relationships on all digital channels where customers seek them.


As I was about to conclude my journey, I remembered my former colleague at Coca-Cola HBC, Federico Salina.

After his stint at Coca-Cola, Federico transitioned to Amazon, becoming one of its earliest employees in Italy. After accumulating invaluable experience, he founded his startup, Witailer, dedicated to helping brands enhance their presence on Amazon. Alongside his business partners, Jana Nurmukhanova and Federico Sargenti,

Witailer now manages over 60 clients across 8 different countries, generating more than 250 million euros for their clients. In less than three years, their team of 27 employees achieved these remarkable results.

My desire to meet Federico stemmed not only from our friendship but also from my curiosity about gaining a human-centric marketing perspective from a startup founder and Amazon expert—an individual deeply entrenched in one of the world’s most influential digital platforms.

His message was crystal clear: “Brands must understand how to establish a presence on all digital channels where customers are looking for them.” By comprehending people’s mindsets as they navigate Amazon and the type of information they seek, Federico and his team help multinational corporations create a smoother and more enjoyable online shopping experience.

It all became clear when Federico stated, “Matteo, recmember when we worked together at Coca-Cola, negotiating with Carrefour and other major retailers to secure more shelf space or additional visibility within supermarkets? Remember how every centimeter of space was crucial for crafting a more engaging path to purchase for our shoppers? Well, it’s similar when you want to sell your products on Amazon. Space is limited, and you must understand how shoppers move within that space. You need to grasp their mindset during the path-to-purchase and deliver the right message at the right time and place. Just as in supermarkets, it’s not just about displaying your products; it’s about conveying your story within those few centimeters.”

Federico’s words brought to mind Al Pacino’s iconic “inch-by-inch” speech from the movie “Any Given Sunday”: Life is a game of inches.

With this powerful monologue resonating in my mind, I bid farewell to Federico, heading home enriched and happier than before. The stories and advice from my companions had truly left a lasting impact.

Thank you for joining me on this incredible human-centric journey!