Volkswagon Automotive Group (VWAG) is already neck-and-neck with Toyota to be the largest automotive company in the world, and with its planned takeover of Porsche later this year, it might well solidify its position. VWAG owns the prestige brands of Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Bentley, but its largest brand is its mainstay, Volkswagon. In the US, though, the VW brand is no way near as successful in other countries, especially Western Europe, Brazil, and China.
VW is trying to address that by investing in new dealerships, a new US production plant (VW has not had a manufacturing presence in the US since 1988), and a new set of advertising campaigns. But other than increasing brand awareness, are VW’s marketing efforts coordinated to solidify a brand position in people’s minds? VW used to stand for inexpensive, solidly built and engineered automobiles, but what does it stand for now?
Let’s take a look at two of its higher profile advertising efforts, one on-line and one in traditional media. In traditional media, they have their “Punch Dub” commercials introduced at the Super Bowl. I like them – they are catchy, funny, and memorable – but I’m not sure what message I’m supposed to remember, other than to just be aware of VW cars. That would be OK, but it would be more powerful if they provided a reason – other than a fun game – to be more aware of them. And the tag line at the end of the spot is “That’s das Auto” (“That’s the car”). I’m not sure what that means.
On-line and in real locations, VW has been running a series of concepts and viral videos called “The Fun Theory”. This is their “experiment” showing the easiest way to get people to change their behavior (in good ways) is to make the new behavior fun. As such, they’ve created a piano staircase leading to/from a subway station, a pinball exercise machine at a bus stop, and others. Again, these are enjoyable spots, but what is the message? That VW is a responsible company? I’m not sure.
About the only commonality I find between the two sets of spots is a sense of “fun”. Is that their new brand position? I’m not quite sure. But I do think they would be better served if they knew and made it a little clearer to their intended audience(s).
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