The multinational German automotive group was originally created by a Nazi organization called the German Labour Front. The company hired Ferdinard Porche to design the first Volkswagen car which was produced at the Wolfsburg factory (Lal, 2005). However the factory was destroyed during the Second World War. After that, Volkswagen benefited very much in the post-war when Germany supported their automotive industry. The problem was that their only car at the moment, was not very popular because its physical aspect very rounded in comparison with the more square cars popular at the moment (Haig, 2004). Additionally, the image of the brand around the world was affected by a strong association with the Nazis (Haig, 2004).
It was until 1959 when Volkswagen hired their first advertising agency (Doyle Dayne Bernbach) to change their brand positioning. It was then, when they decided to call their only car Beetle and break down with the negative associations (Haig, 2004). After the success of the Beetle, Volkswagen had several launches that contributed greatly to enhance its image. It spread the market by offering different products to different target markets, for example it launched the Golf (in the medium segment) and the Passat and Variant Passat in the luxury segment (Madeira, Furlanetto, Palacios & Almeida, 2000).
Volkswagen has demonstrated to have longevity through their strong brand and products. They have maintain their image by improving their models since they where created. Which have position them as a reliable brand, very important from the customer perspective in this industry. Not for nothing it literally means “the people’s car”. (Haig, 2004)On top of the quality, Volkswagen continues to produce their cars with distinctive personalities. A piece of evidence, is the Beetle as a character in Disney movies “Herby”, and the multiple nicknames across the world (James Aitchison and Geoffrey Precourt, 2008).
Moreover it is known that thanks to a deep analysis of buying behavior in order to connect to the customer mind set, have distinguished Volkswagen and take it to success in each of their communication strategies (Direct Marketing Association, 2010). On example that actually remains in the advertising history is their “Think Small “ campaign, performance in the 50s where not only succeed with sales but change they way to advertise since “It was one of the first advertising campaigns to treat audiences like they had some intelligence” (Teague, 2007).
The appeal of the New Beetle By the time it was planed to launch the New Beetle, VW identify that the brand equity was low same than sales. Thanks to the research conducted, they gained a deep understanding of the consumer perceptions and liberated a new appealing accordingly. The results indicated that VW drivers were young, educated and more passion about life. Additionally VW cars were perceived as affordable and more unique than other companies. However, they also found contradicted opinions since other people saw the car as toy and with low quality (Lal, 2005).
The 1990s was a decade of extremes and contradictions for Americans, in one hand they were building larger houses and driving more expensive cars in the other hand they were also working more hours and being oppressed by their jobs in order to pay for such things(Cengage, 2000). It wasn’t any different for VW. Although many analyst suggested that the New Beetle would mainly attract baby boomers that owned the original, Volkswagen realize that could appeal “cut across traditional automotive demographic boundaries” since people of all ages responded with a big smile (Stanfel. 2007). It was called a mission impossible for the agency since they found them selves in a very contradicted situation as well, they wanted to keep their classic car but make it more modern, attract mature audiences and young at the same time.
Finally, the results of the research leaded VW to appealed consumers differently from the competition or any way they did before, the challenge was to bring a legend from the past into a present environment, reaching into consumers memories. They managed to evoke emotions using some of the product benefits but more focused in perform a sensitive and original approach, something that had never done before (Bob Liodice, 2010).
Overall, they tried to connect with their consumers in a more personal way and the fact that the Beetle was looked as a funny, cute, or even a toy made it easy, because all of these associations were positive and acceptable for the personality’s car. Understanding the success of the current advertising campaign In order to understand the success of the New Beetle, is important to highlight that all the previous research done was the driver to condense the key objectives needed to be done. Although the target market they found, was a difficult and challenging goal to reach, it was the base to build a strong and very focused strategy.
For instance, they produced adds for both of their target markets. While the copy in one print ad, “Comes with wonderful new features like heat,” approaching particularly the baby boomers that knew the original Beetle’s heating system problems, the use this other tagline “Reverse-engineered from UFOs” appealed to younger drivers, specifically Generation X consumers who where more sensitive to science fiction trends (Stanfel, 2007). Additionally, they used trendy music among college students in their spots or more technological futurist themes such as “Beetle 2.0.” (Stanfel, 2007). They amazing thing is that they found a way to approach both generations which it doesn’t sound so crazy particularly knowing that there where retro-crazed Generation Xers and baby boomers towards being more modern.