Brand Volkswagen's branding campaign continues

In the second phase of its branding process, the campaign is an aggressive effort at corporate branding – an initiative with central positioning of the mother brand at its core.

In order to strengthen brand Volkswagen’s core value, ‘innovation’, the brand makes a loud corporate statement through a country wide campaign titled ‘Innovations for Everyone’. The movement was initiated in India on August 18 and will run till November. ‘Innovation’ happens to be one of the three main assets that the brand stands for; the other two are ‘responsibility’ and ‘value’.

Volkswagen (VW), the largest car maker in Europe, sells its broad model range from the Fox to the Phaeton in more than 150 countries worldwide. The brand currently offers the Jetta and the Passat, assembled in Aurangabad, for Indian consumers. Also available on sale are the new Beetle, the powerful SUV Touareg, the Phaeton and the Polo.

The target group (TG) of this campaign is essentially the young and progressive urbanite, as well as new age middle class men who fall in the age bracket of 25-44 years. The media activities of the campaign will be concentrated in areas where the brand’s 47 (14 at the onset on 2009) dealers are located.

VW’s first brand campaign broke in India on November 11, 2009 and was accompanied by the market launches of the new Beetle and Touareg. Following this, the Polo was launched in March, while April saw the launch of the Phaeton. It is noteworthy that since the eye-catching brand campaign in 2009, the brand has focused primarily on communicating its individual products and has, accordingly, highlighted the features of each product. The present campaign, however, appears to be an effort to promote the mother brand, Volkswagen.

Lending a quick word on this corporate communication, Lutz Kothe, chief general manager, marketing and public relations, Volkswagen India, elucidates, “Right from the very old Beetle up until now, we were always the brand that believed in the democratisation of innovation. Given this, it doesn’t make sense for us to innovate only for some of our products; thus the catch phrase ‘innovation for everyone’.”

He adds that at VW, innovation implies cutting edge technology that is available to customers belonging to all the TGs – from the luxurious Phaeton to the more affordable Polo. Thus, through this campaign, the focus is on the innovative technology used in each of VW’s cars across all segments.

The creative duties for the brand lie with DDB Mudra and the media duties are with media agency, Mediacom.

The TVC is a rather simple one, wherein the entire range of VW products, comprising six cars, is displayed against a white backdrop. The image of each product is accompanied by a mention of one unique characteristic feature of that particular product and the MVO content is made to coincide to facilitate this.

The features emphasised are the Bi-Xenon Cornering headlamps (Phaeton), DSG gearbox (Touareg), TSI technology (Passat), iconic design (Beetle), electronic stabilisation programme (Jetta) and lastly, the fuel efficient engine (Polo). The descending move from hi-end features like fancy headlights to something as basic as fuel efficiency is a deliberate effort to stress on the fact that the brand has something to offer for all segments of the TG.

Speaking about the creative brief given to the agency, Rajeev Raja, national creative director, DDB Mudra Group, explains, “The prime aim was to convey that the brand’s innovations are not restricted to high end cars such as the Phaeton but that they percolate all the way down to the Polo.” He adds that this is a shift from previous campaigns as this communication is one in which the overall brand is speaking, as opposed to individual products under the mother brand.”

The media mix includes television, print, outdoor and online media. The TVC currently on air is a 40 second ‘master TVC’ and through the course of this campaign, several edited versions of the same will be rolled out. These versions include two 20 second commercials, one that communicates information about the products Phaeton, Touareg and Passat, and another that focuses on the Beetle, Jetta and Polo. Additionally, three mute versions of the TVC, with durations as short as five, three and two and a half seconds, also form part of the campaign.

Interestingly, Volkswagen has also launched an interactive website,, as part of this campaign. This website will act as a medium to reach out to people and encourage them to share their personal innovations in a forum. A ‘celebrity jury’ will then pick and reward the best.

Kothe adds that the brand has made ‘people’ an integral part of the Volkswagen family by introducing this website. “This is another step towards what the brand stands for – people,” he asserts. In the digital space, Bluetooth technology will also be used to create interaction with consumers – people will be able to download information about the brand and reach the Internet page via this technology.

Another critical aspect of this 360 degree campaign includes OOH (out of home) channels and this, claims Kothe, is part of the ‘still young’ brand’s effort to further the awareness it has already garnered. Kothe adds that full-fledged on ground events will not be granted salience as such events are reserved for new product launches. Speaking of market launches, the brand’s latest sedan, the Vento, is slated for a September 2010 launch.

Everyone liked the Innovation?

Industry experts are quick to applaud the creative bit but are quicker to express their bittersweet reactions when asked about the potential effects of the campaign on the brand’s individual products. The general sentiment is that this overall branding in a sense dilutes the positioning of each individual product.

Nabankur Gupta, founder and chief executive officer, Nobby Brand Architects and Strategic Marketing, is of the opinion that the campaign is very creative with a new approach to auto TVCs. “This works well to project a common innovative platform for their product portfolio,” he says. However, he goes on, “While it builds value for their mass segment, the higher end models will lose equity due to lack of differential,” he explains.

Regarding the TVC in particular, he opines that the photography quality could’ve been better as the design aspects of the products don’t emerge – other than for the Beetle – and that the lighting seems subdued. “The 40 second duration seems a little short and hurried. A 60 seconder would do more justice. Perhaps they should have launched the campaign with 60 seconds and then followed it up with 30 seconders,” he offers.

Sandip Mahapatra, vice-president and head, planning, McCann Erickson Delhi, feels that the campaign is ‘nice’ but that it is the easy way out. He says that the TVC tells the audience, “All Volkswagens are built in the same mould, so whether it’s the Rs 4.4 lakh-worth Polo or the Rs 60 lakh-worth Touareg, we build them equally.”

He says that the brand may as well name all the cars ‘Volkswagens’ instead of “going through the fuss about naming them all differently”. He complains, “If you like a Touareg, you buy a VW, you like a Polo, you buy a VW. You really cannot like a VW and buy yourself a Lupo. After 70 years of trying to expand beyond one car for everyone, brand VW is back to ‘one’. When you do this sort of work, you must stick to the principle you apply to thinking about cars. You mustn’t display all your cars. Ask Honda.”

He concludes by exclaiming, “The next in this series will include Skoda, Seat, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti and the 20 per cent of Suzuki that VW owns!”

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