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Between territorial marketing, market orientation, and the metaverse.

For our new format “Marketing Tales,” we met Virgilio Gay in a conversation that touched on many topics from territorial marketing to tourism, market orientation, digitalization, and the metaverse.

Virgilio began his professional career as a financial consultant, and initially, beyond personal curiosity, his interest in marketing was entirely marginal, or at least connected to the operational need to sell financial products. His encounter with the more strategic dimension of marketing and its application to territories happened when he was involved in an experimental initiative, the creation of the MiDA Foundation – Integrated Museums of the Environment, where he worked for 10 years.

The foundation’s model, based on the sustainable management of environmental and cultural heritage, was recognized as a national and international excellence, receiving awards and recognition, and finding broad resonance in the books of famous journalists such as Pino Aprile (“Mai più terroni“, “Never more southerners”) and Gian Antonio Stella and Sergio Rizzo (“Se muore il sud“, “If the south dies”).

It is during this experience that Virgilio encountered the paradoxes of territorial marketing, where the needs to promote a territory clash with the difficulties inherent in obtaining the collaboration of the various actors who operate in that territory, who see themselves in competition with each other and are therefore inclined to act in a not coordinated, limited, and short-term manner.

Several studies show, instead, that in a territory, a series of coordinated investments according to a collaborative strategy can lead to exponentially better results compared to individual and uncoordinated initiatives. It is increasingly necessary, therefore, to adopt a complex and multifocal approach that takes into consideration and involves different instances and viewpoints, defining the priorities and values of each function, and finding the right compromises between effectiveness and efficiency.

Very interesting in this regard is the etymological consideration of the concept of competition. The word derives from the Latin “cum petere,” which means to go together in the same direction. This explains the process well because if each person runs in a different direction, there can be no competition, and results cannot even be measured. To compete effectively, at least the rules of the game must be shared. In these cases, as often happens, the performance of the best pushes the followers to continuously improve, with easily understandable effects on the overall performance of the group.

When moving from territorial marketing to tourism, which for Italy should represent a huge opportunity, one cannot help but notice a certain confusion and fragmentation starting from the political level, where the tourism sector, which accounts for 7/8% of the national GDP (which becomes 13/14% considering the induced effects), is not given the same attention and importance as, for example, in the past to the automotive sector, which generates similar figures.

Tourism represents a showcase for the territory and should therefore be at the center of government policies, both locally and nationally. With important connections to health, transport, and urban planning policies, it should be considered a cross-sector and approached horizontally rather than vertically.

This is where the organization of a destination becomes a very important managerial aspect to effectively and efficiently promote the entire territory through the creation of an internal, participatory, and democratic steering committee, making the promotion activity sustainable and effective, even in terms of critical mass, today the exclusive prerogative of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), which, however, sell only individual activities without any interest in promoting the territory as a whole.

This is precisely one of the objectives of the project that Virgilio is coordinating in the Lazio Region, where a community of destination managers engaged in co-design activities is being created, interpreting their role not in the logic of localism but of a collaboration aimed at creating a regional product of tourism hospitality in Lazio.

An experience that once again can turn into a best practice to be replicated nationally, remembering that when we talk about attractiveness for tourist flows, the concept necessarily implies the idea of a system capable of organizing and coordinating the contribution of various actors for the creation of a holistic and attractive tourist product.

This converges with the themes of market orientation and digitalization, which must lead to a rethink of business processes starting from the customer’s perspective and awareness of the enormous potential of the technologies potentially available.

Speaking of technologies, the last point we touched on was that of the Metaverse and Web 3, not so much from a technical point of view but reasoning about the possible impact that these innovations could have on our lives.

The main problem is that for now, we are talking about a concept that is difficult to define, and it is not clear what the final configuration will be.

What is certain is that first of all, the Metaverse is characterized by interoperability, i.e., by the ability to connect different environments and pieces so that they can be used together. Then the creation of the Metaverse requires the convergence of different technologies, including Web 3, 3D graphics, blockchain technology, non-fungible tokens, and decentralized finance. Furthermore, the convergence between augmented reality, virtual reality, and extended reality must be considered, and how the different technologies will influence each other.

The result will probably be a hybrid dimension, where it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish physical reality from digital reality. As stated by Floridi, we will no longer be online and offline, but we will be in a society of “mangroves”: a third component in which physical and digital reality merge.

If Web 2.0 has allowed the connection of knowledge and people through a screen, Web 3.0 will allow us to live within this hybrid dimension, although obviously it will be necessary to identify the opportunities and limits of the technology.