“Tell a good story and tell it well“. There’s probably no better advice to help communicate a message and engage people.
This is exactly what the clever marketing people at VW in the States are doing right now. In their Why VW campaign they’re asking people to share their stories, talk about their road trips and be part of VW’s own evolving story.
It’s a perfect way to build customer loyalty and awareness, exploiting the heritage of VW cars and vans over the last 60 years. “Year after year, we receive countless stories from VW owners that sum up the unique passion people have for the brand, but we haven’t had a great way to curate or share them until now,” said Kevin Mayer, VP Marketing, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “The Why VW campaign provides a new creative outlet for our owners and fans to share their individual Volkswagen stories with the world, and allows us to engage with them in a more meaningful way.”
The campaign is designed to seamlessly operate on multiple social media platforms including the dedicated Why VW microsite and VW’s Facebook site, supported by the VW Smiles TV advert – It’s not the miles, it’s how you live them. VW also collaborated with Poptent to crowdsource five short videos by amateur film makers featuring VW owners and their vehicles. Even CNN is cashing in on the resurgence of interest, particularly given that the Kombi van will cease production in Brazil at the end of 2013.
And it seems to be working. The campaign is generating a real buzz and builds on VW’s 37% rise in sales in the States in the year to August 2012, the best year-to-date sales since 1973. And in spite of this, VW still seem to think that there’s insufficient interest to sell the VW California camper van in the US …
This is all a far cry from VW’s feeble efforts to mount any such campaign in the UK. I contacted them to ask if they had any plans to do something similar. While I received a telephone call to acknowledge my enquiry, which was passed to their marketing people, they didn’t even bother to follow up. “Why not build on the current interest in The Bus Movie“, I asked. “What’s that ?” came the reply.
It’s a shame since there’s a huge VW community in this country, with VW clubs, shows and events happening most weekends. But VW seem to be completely disengaged from it.
Apart from marketing teams who haven’t yet grasped the power of social media and customer service staff who are not really on the ball, a major issue in the UK is the fact that VW cars and vans are sold through different companies. If you want to buy the California or Beach here then you need to go to VW Commercial Vehicles. If you walk into a VW Commercial dealership you will have to look hard to find a camper van. Only some sales staff have any knowledge at all; most are geared to dealing with workmen in overalls and their Caddy or Transporter panel vans. Search hard on the VW Commercial Vehicles website and you will find just two brief profiles of California owners.
The approach is all wrong.
VW in the UK have structured their business around the vehicles, not the customers. The California isn’t a commercial vehicle: its owners are couples and families who want to experience adventure and travel ! Now consider the customer experience in a van showroom … scruffy waiting areas, adverts for the latest commercial vehicles and blokes in overalls waiting to collect their works vans. Now how many more California and Beaches could be sold in the UK if VW actually marketed and sold them in the right way ? That’s what I call a HUGE missed opportunity.
[Thanks to Zero to Sixty … Eventually for highlighting this].