Is Alfa Romeo’s Newest Upgrade Package a Setback for Italian-Americans?

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A waffle maker with mozzarella sticks inside a red Alpha Romeo interior

Cultural sensitivity: a slippery slope for sure as we approach 2020. While the #woke nature of today’s world appears to be transitioning us to a more inclusive and accepting society, it grows discouragingly less-accepting and less-inclusive when it comes to the dated sensibilities of past generations.

At the risk of virtue signaling, I take great pride in the fact that (despite being a 40-year old man raised by a working-class family in north-central Massachusetts) I have no desire to judge anyone by any factor of whether they’re not an asshole. However, I am still the product of a generation that viewed interracial couples on TV as an oddity, simply because it wasn’t widely depicted. If you were acting stupid, we might call you ‘retarded’ or ‘gay’, simply because we failed to recognize the hurtful implication of the connotations. It’s the ugly truth. And like our Traditionalist grandparents (who horrified us by using certain racially-charged slang) any failure on our part to evolve would make us a pariah among the youth of today.

And with Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) still making up 20% of American consumers, it places retailers (of all types) in a precarious position. How do you market effectively to the diverse spectrum of consumer sensibilities when older consumers lived through racial segregation, and the younger consumers demand the right to choose their gender identity? How do you ensure that your marketing message retains its energy when you’re trying to tiptoe between ideas that were okay this morning but are considered offensive as of mid-afternoon? Needless to say, American retailers have their work cut out for them.

And Fiat-Chrysler of America might just be the newest social pariah…due to a promotional endeavor which has enraged the Italian-American community. The promotion, offered by a New York Alfa Romeo dealership, entitled buyers to a number of perks designed to upgrade their ownership experience.

This, of course, is nothing new…especially when it comes to high-end vehicles. Ferrari. Porsche. BMW. Dealerships who specialize in such brands are known to offer branded accessories, such as hats and driving gloves to help expand brand recognition (and envy). Other options might include car-related enhancements that heighten the bragging rights enjoyed by the owner.

But O’Connor Alfa Romeo made a misstep in offering a complimentary Panini Maker (with car-lighter compatible power cord, for mobile use) and a pallet of frozen mozzarella sticks with dipping sauce packets to be delivered to their homes.

In a man-on-the-street poll, Tony Robuccio (age 28, Brooklyn, NY) claimed to be appalled, with his ire torn between, “the blatant insensitivity” and the idea that “some Irish is selling fine Italian automobiles” adding “plus, that’s not even a Panini maker. It’s to make friggin’ Belgian waffles!”

In a formal statement, representatives from the Italian American Civil Rights League (IACRL) call the promotion, “An unacceptable, and poorly conceived trivialization of our native culture. Nearly twenty years into the 21st century, this kind of ignorance cannot be allowed. Plus, you call that pasticcio sludge ‘marinara sauce’? Inaccettabile.”

If you’re anything like us (i) you agree that, as a society we can do better and (ii) mozzarella sticks sound awesome right now.

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