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Pitch Exclusive: Volkswagen’s Lutz Kothe to unravel his marketing secrets

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Pitch Exclusive: Volkswagen’s Lutz Kothe to unravel his marketing secrets

Volkswagen entered the Indian market as the 14th automobile brand in the country and yet has managed to create much buzz in the market, thanks to its high decibel and innovative communication strategy. Various models from Volkswagen’s stable are doing well in their respective segments. For example, Polo, which has carved a niche for itself in its segment; meanwhile, Vento has dethroned Honda City from its leadership position in the A3 segment.

From being a late entrant to a potential leader in a cluttered market, it wasn’t an easy task when Lutz Kothe, Head of Marketing and PR, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India, took the reins of the brand in India in 2009. He has been the brain behind the brand’s much talked about roadblock campaigns. How Volkswagen is doing it?

Kothe feels that the challenge for brand building as a late entrant in any market is a big risk, but simultaneously is a big opportunity too. “The risk is that as a newcomer you clearly have to understand the customers’ needs concerning rational and emotional aspects and have to combine it with the profile of brand and product to create a relevant benefit for your customers without building on a brand heritage. The opportunity is that you can start with a blank sheet of paper and form the brand and product profiles while creating an aspirational world around it. It is all on you,” he adds.

Volkswagen was aware of a key consumer insight in the auto category: While features are important, brands that sell are the ones people talk about. Hence, Kothe decided to start with an idea that would get people talking and create a buzz. And that gave way to the first print roadblock in India in 2009. The key newspapers displaying only Volkswagen cars (Beetle, Jetta and Taureg), one after the other, immediately created huge awareness for the brand. The company shared that after the first roadblock (November 11, 2009), within two hours, VolksWagen became No. 1 on Google search. It got people interested in the brand and the brand awareness, which was only 8 per cent in 2009 went up to 18 per cent without any new product launch.

This strategy of creating buzz is since followed for the launch of every product from Volkswagen’s stable. Earlier, speaking to Pitch about Volkswagen’s media strategy, Divya Gururaj, MD, Mediacom (the media agency for Volkswagen) said, “We start with one big innovation that gets the country talking and then follow it up with the regular mass media campaign.” She further commented that owing to the high buzz communication, the Polo and Vento were the most awaited launches of 2010.

At the Pitch CMO Summit, Kothe will unravel his marketing secrets behind the success of Volkswagen India.

Watch out for this space for more.

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