Since 2008, Gianpaolo Grazioli, the owner of Auckland’s haute ice cream store Giapo, has combined experimental flair with culinary mastery to establish one of the most well-known ice cream stores in New Zealand. So what does it take to get Kiwis queuing for a frozen dessert all the way through winter?
Giapo is a well-known and well-loved brand. How did it get to this stage?
I don’t know. I don’t like the word ‘brand’ because I’m a human being and I love people. I can’t live without loving back and brands, in general, do not love back. I really think that most of Giapo’s popularity has a lot to do with my wife and I and how much we are committed to what we do.
What have been some of the challenges involved with establishing Giapo in New Zealand?
The challenges have nothing to do with New Zealand. This is a great country to start up in. It is what we do that is challenging.
What does it take to separate a business from all the other competitors in the industry?
There’s no such thing as a competitive advantage. It’s all based on what my customers think of me. We are what the customers think we are. And strangely, if you ask them what we are, they all respond in different ways. So, go figure.
How do you market your business? What are some of the key strategies that you use?
It all comes down to one word: love. We love our business, and there’s nothing else. My cooking style reflects my passion for what I am doing. And the customers make of that what they want.
Has your business approach changed over the years?
Absolutely, yes. We are so much more focused now that we have almost changed everything since we first started. Business as usual is an oxymoron, when you look at how we’ve changed.
How do you use digital channels to market your brand?
Essentially, I use them as my portfolio, as my showcase. So customers know what is new and what we are up to. I do something and I post it to the usual channels. I would love to blog more and write more about my story.
Innovation has played a big role in the evolution of your brand. What do you think other companies can learn from your approach?
I feel I can be quite a bad example for most of them. LOL.
Have any of your experiments gone wrong? How do you go about rectifying this and ensuring that it doesn’t damage your brand?
Being honest and apologising. All circumstances are different. I usually work on fixing my errors one by one.
You recently started covering the freezers at the store. Why this sense of mystery? What inspired this change of approach?
The main point is that what’s on display in the cabinet isn’t what the customer gets at the end. Before serving the ice cream, we first carefully prepare it with decorations of chocolate and pastry. We wanted to give more importance to the final creation than how the ice cream looks in the cabinet. It’s a bit like what happens in a restaurant: we never know where the chefs take the ingredients from, and then we are surprised nicely at the end by what is presented at the table. Some people like it, some don’t. I understand both. It works for us because it helps us be who we want to be and it’s telling the customers not to judge a book by its cover.
Do you have any tips for people who want to create a successful business in New Zealand?
Don’t quit your day job. Fight like hell. Be super focused. Create something. Products are a last century thing. Love is the way. Be prepared not to have a life for a while. Yes, get used to it. Do it for you because it is your way to heaven. Start blogging. Don’t give up.
This story originally appeared in the September/October edition of NZ Marketing.