Some call it the changing face of advertisement, while some believe that it is thinking strange. Some feel that it has seamless ‘campaignability’ and others think that it is an unexpected revolution. However, nobody can deny that no car has ever been so admired and no advertisement has ever been so loved. It’s the tale of the German giant Volkswagen’s, (popularly known as people’s car) innovation in creativity that preaches the formula of hitting once hard to create awareness and then going very selective.
When the US consumers were obsessed with idea of ‘thinking big’ by having powerful cars, the classic ‘Think small’ campaign by Doyle Dane Bernbach introduced Americans to the advantages of a small car and made everyone live the American dream through radical advertisements.
What happens when your newspaper starts talking to you or it starts vibrating the moment you open it? It is not last night’s hangover but Volkswagen’s style to woo customers, which has made us believe that gone are the days when Indians used to be euphoric on a just musical Archies cards.
Companies have started spending and innovating on advertising. The emerging Indian middle-class has made the firms believe that the Indian market is getting transformed to brand-conscious individuals.
Experts feel that in order to generate awareness and buzz, campaigns have to go beyond television and the auto maker has harnessed the power of all medium such as print, TV, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to create effectiveness and has managed to devise a German plan with Indian improvisations. Apart from that, it has dedicated sites such as ‘Innovations for everyone’ and ‘Think blue’.
The brand believes in democratisation of innovation. It focusses on innovating for every product right from high-end cars to the lower models as well; thus, the campaign ‘innovation for everyone.’ However, experts felt that higher models might lose equity due to lack of differentiation. Volkswagen extended the ‘Think small’ to ‘Think blue’ campaign with the core message of sustainable mobility and environment protection through a range of activities in the ‘Think blue’ campaign.
The brand has left no stone unturned with ads from Beetle to Jetta to Touareg in The Times of India. However, experts believed that brands should be more conscious towards this kind of an activity because it is an expensive intervention.
To mark the beginning of the sales of its hatchback Polo, Volkswagen cut out a portion in the top of every 16 pages of the special edition of The Times of India in the shape of the car and made it possible to have a newspaper with a hole. A distinct feature of the car was detailed on the pages with every cut-out. The last page featured a full page ad of the car with the final message, ‘We've put a lot into it. You’ll get even more out of it.’
Lutz Kothe, Head of Marketing and PR, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India came up with this idea at the airport with his colleague while waiting for the flight. Kothe asked his colleague, “Has there ever been a newspaper with a hole in form of a car in India or in the world?” Kothe picked up a newspaper and made a car hole with his hand. That’s how the idea for the Volkswagen Polo’s campaign came up.
Sending a shiver
Creating the shiver of excitement and spending approximately Rs 5 crore for ‘world’s first talking newspaper with Volkswagen Vento’, Volkswagen mastered the art of creativity with audio advertisement in print to create buzz for its entry level sedan Vento. The campaign caught the attention of 25 lakh readers across five cities, when their newspaper spoke to them, talking about the Vento. While celebrating with family, Kothe’s niece handed him an envelope which had the drawing of a newspaper on which she wrote ‘Sounds of Volkswagen’ and ‘Speaker’. And that’s how came the innovative advertising idea of the ‘The talking newspaper’.
In an attempt to capture greater market share, readers woke up to a shivering newspaper ad of Volkswagen’s Vento and Polo, which got noticed on social media also. Some experts felt that it is a great idea but others were not sure of the effectiveness of the innovation because one doesn’t want to feel a shiver in the car.
Despite criticism, the ‘talking newspaper’ campaign received huge response and the page visits more than doubled with the campaign being the hottest search word in Google trends. The enquires increased by 200 per cent at the showrooms.
Painting the world silver, Volkswagen launched yet another campaign to garner maximum eye balls for its all new Jetta. People of Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai woke up to find their newspapers wrapped in a shiny silver jacket endorsing Volkswagen Jetta. Industry felt that the glitzy silver printing diminished the appeal of the car and the innovation was not very relevant.
On the digital front, the brand has created path breaking innovation around Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Volkswagen India launched ‘anything4jetta campaign’ on Twitter for its new Jetta cars and users could participate in the campaign by tweeting anything that was wacky and creative with the handle #anything4Jetta. There was a grand prize of a Jetta Car for the most catchy tweet and the campaign was the most trending topic on Twitter during that time.
The brand also created a clutter-breaking online campaign for its Jetta TSI called the ‘YouTube test drive’, which invited users to post any query they have on the Jetta TSI directly on YouTube and receive a video response to their questions. The campaign broke the conventional ways of depicting the features of a car and was on one of the most interactive ones on digital.
Witnessing the growing Indian professional population, LinkedIn became a natural choice to connect with current and potential car buyers. LinkedIn approached Volkswagen India with an opportunity to be the ¬first auto major to establish a presence on LinkedIn Company Pages. Volkswagen India opened up its pages to allow LinkedIn members to post reviews and recommendations of their car line in India including the New Beetle, Vento, and Polo. It also launched a series of recommendation ads encouraging more customers to join the conversation. In less than 30 days, over 2,700 Volkswagen fans had stepped forward to recommend their favourite cars and share these recommendations with their professional networks.
The brand has shown phenomenal work in the western markets as well. In order to give Americans a break from the elections, the brand launched a new marketing campaign ‘Why VW’ and launched a social microsite in a move to capture and share the stories of Volkswagen owners and fans. The TV spot titled ‘Smiles’ showed people – from babies to kids to adults to seniors – laughing uncontrollably and the spot ending with a message, ‘It's not the miles, it’s how you live them’.
The new website is divided into the values section, which contains information about the products and the stories section, featuring user-generated content. In 2011, Volkswagen launched the ‘The force’ commercial for Passat featuring a young child in a Darth Vader outfit trying his hand at using the force on various objects and creatures. ‘The force’ leaked a few days before the Super Bowl of 2011, generating 14 million views before it aired on TV, and eventually became the year’s top viral ad campaign, with more than 60 million views online.
In this competitive age, it takes lot of courage to undertake expensive initiatives. Volkswagen’s campaigns have stood out and created noise, which is the fundamental role of advertising. The brand has come up with the some of the biggest advertising ideas in every channel of communication with the simple philosophy of walking around with open eyes and an open mind.