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Case Study - Villa Lena

Villa Lena is a high-end agriturismo in Tuscany based fully in sustainability, wellness and creative activities with a strong organic gastronomy offer. Sure, many agriturismos are unique but Villa Lena stands out for so many reasons, not least of all it's specific challenges and ambitious goals.

PROJECTile worked with Villa Lena over an extended period with an unusually specific yet eclectic remit. Working directly with the Founder & CEO, our remit was to help evolve the articulation of the brand in general as well as focus of particular products and market opportunities, and to work in parallel with their existing digital agency and PR agency, both based in the UK, offering support, sectoral expertise and, where appropriate, deliverables to help them in serving Villa Lena's needs.

Additional aspects to our work involved advising Villa Lena on additional niche platforms in luxury and other segments to increase bookings, strategies to attract new profitable partnerships in the specialist events/experience markets that were already performing well (e.g. weddings, yoga retreats), and to act as a support and advice point for a reasonably new and inexperienced in-house marketing and management team.

The Process

Our starting point was to work with CEO Lena to review the brand in all of its active channels and articulations and compare these with aspirations, opportunities and already known areas of development. From there, we distilled a full project plan or work areas in order of priority, ranging from top-level brand articulation in copy to helping audiences accessing its channels—traffic was driven by their UK digital agency—to fully grasp the unique offer of Villa Lena.

Now, this might sound like old hat to some, but how many agriturismos do you know that have, among other USPs, all of the following on a sprawling estate?:

  • Complete commitment to sustainability—from the organic kitchens that supply the restaurant to the management of the forested hills, from the products produced on the estate right down to how the swimming pool is heated

  • Vaunted design throughout — a "less obvious luxury" combination cutting-edge contemporary design working in tandem with local artisans and with reclaimed materials

  • An artists' residency programme—from an art world background, one of the CEO's first initiatives was to establish and international and integrated artist-in-residence programme

  • A chef-in-residence programme — Villa Lena selects a top hot culinary talent each year to lead the kitchen in a unique concept based on visiting talent creating menus entirely from the estate's own produce as well as learning from local traditions

  • A vast campus — the froufrou 19th-century villa sits on a settlement that includes numerous re-used ancient agricultural and residential buildings, new build and contemporary leisure amenities and spaces able to host impressive premium wedding , corporate or other events

  • Local, sustainable luxury Food & Beverage — from wine to the famed white truffles, Villa Lena's estate delivers a cornucopia of both quotidian produce and luxury foods

The Results

First and foremost our work focussed in on defining Villa Lena's offer under a range of pillars and developing messaging for each offer within each pillar that was on-brand and, where necessary, prioritising selling points that were under emphasised to given the brand's core guest personas. This also involved working directly with the digital agency to streamline and hone the user experience: reducing duplication, rearranging sections (and introducing new sections as needed), and addressing naming of products, both in terms of brand and SEO.

The second stage of the project was essentially about content deliverables, most notably rewriting web copy and teasing out online content to have more of a storytelling approach. Part of this work involved working on Tone of Voice, developing an initial style guide given that, until then, the brand work had focussed primarily on top-level issues such as values, mission and broader definitions of identity.

Parallel to the second stage, a number of discrete pieces of work were completed. One was identifying markets and audience segments that were not being optimally addressed in PR and content, for example, gastronomy and bridal audiences, the latter being overlooked because it was performing so well. As we demonstrated, while the bridal events business was thriving, it was perhaps undervalued compared with other offers in Tuscany and the benefits of stronger focus on this area could increase its revenue through underscoring its true luxury experience for wealthy niche target markets (e.g. well heeled American millennials wanting to get married in Italy) in line with their value system.

When looking at the bridal offer—as with all other areas of the Villa's operation—a key part of the work was examining the potential for developing new products, offers and deals to optimise the quieter booking periods. In relation to bridal, one such option was developing new and more modest offers. At the time, the full weekend takeover product dominated. But, there was definitely scope for developing smaller packages—more likely to appeal to those getting married for a second time, of more modest means or not favouring an excessive spend on a wedding—particularly if offered during times wedding bookings were less in demand.

Another piece of work focussed on visual content and asset strategy. We advised not to use us and, instead, focus on the often leftfield photography being produced by artists in the residency programme that is both readily available, gives Villa Lena a standout presence in the field and, in the process of its acquisition, illustrates the brand's commitment to circular economies.

Yet another piece of work involved directly brokering introductions and/or identifying specialist travel operators with whom Villa Lena could develop profitable partnerships extending on the existing relationships it had in the field of yoga retreats. These ranged from wedding planners and organisers of creative writing retreats to extreme sports and hunting tourism (given Villa Lena already deploys a sustainable estate management strategy for the game such as deer, boar and wild fowl on the vast estate).

And, yes, there was a lot more. But those of the kinds of information, ideas and outcomes that we share with our clients (sorry if you're an agency junior scouring the Internet for concepts your lot haven't considered yet...)


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