Wily Antonio Federici brothers build ice cream brand on stunts and controversy

Frank Frederick and Philip are the grandsons of Antonio Federici, an Italian farmer from Portofino who invented what is now sold as Antonio Federici ice cream in 1896. Or so they say.

In just two years the brand has secured distribution in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Harrods via a rigorous programme of stunts that has included inventing a ‘Gelato’ party for this year’s UK general election and flying in an Italian tenor to sing to its herd of Friesian cattle at Clitheroe in Lancashire (it calms the beasts and produces richer milk, or so Antonio used to claim). It’s also had female opera singers touring Sainsbury’s stores.

And more recently of course it has secured worldwide media coverage with its ads featuring pregnant nuns and over-friendly priests, which UK regulator the Advertising Standards Authority has kindly banned. Saves on the media budget too. It’s currently threatening to plaster Westminster in London with a new poster for the visit of Pope Benedict XVl.

Job done really. I don’t know who the marketing genius is behind this (although he or she is bound to bob to the surface soon). Maybe it is the brothers.

But it all shows that a little goes a long way. Unless some aggrieved Catholic at Sainsbury’s or Waitrose delists it of course.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.