Today, Volkswagen of America launched a new brand campaign and social media platform. The Why VW campaign will feature user-generated content on both a website and Facebook, along with brand content in a new voice.
The campaign began today with a new commercial called "Smiles," produced by Deutsch LA, that shows diverse people laughing out loud. The tagline: "It's not the miles. It's how you live them. Discover more at WhyVW.com." Volkswagen is airing the commercial during the presidential debates, Comedy Central's Indecision, and the season premieres of a variety of network sitcoms.
Visitors to the site see a split homepage, one side focusing on company values, the other offering "Stories. From Us. From You." The Values section contains information about Volkswagen products along with five short films featuring real Volkswagen owners. Volkswagen produced the two-minute films to educate visitors about the company's core values, including quality, safety, value, environment and performance.
"We didn't want to say, 'We build great cars' in a boring corporate way. We wanted you to learn about it through the lens of our owners. We are a challenger brand being reawakened; not everyone knows what we're about," said Justin Osborne, general manager, marketing communications at VW America. "The site mixed the emotional and rational in one nice box."
The Stories section is housed both on the website and Volkswagen of America's Facebook page. Volkswagen will review each content submission prior to posting and select the stories that it thinks best represent the brand and provide the most compelling content.
Edelman Digital has been working on the project since April 2011 when it became VW's social media agency of record, according to Nathan Jacroux, a vice president at the agency. "What we noticed early on in the social media audit was the types of content people were sharing and how people were interacting with brand."
Edelman found that Volkswagen owners shared 14 percent more photos than any of the car company's competitors. The team also noticed that, while owners of other cars usually shared photos of the car, with VWs, the pictures tended to be photos of people doing things with their cars.
"The challenge," Jacroux said, "was these stories were mostly posted on Facebook. This was before Timeline rolled out. So these great stories and awesome random moments were falling off the page. We didn't have a place people could store them and interact with them. That led to the creation of the Why VW platform."
The launch of Facebook Timeline did not obviate the need for the website, he said. "Our consumer content used to show up on the main wall; since they changed Timeline, it's buried; you have to click to see stories coming from people other than the brand."
VW America is migrating its blogs and other content to both the Facebook page and the WhyVW.com site; the latter is deeply integrated with Facebook tech, and new functionality will continue to be rolled out for several weeks. For example, the website will let visitors follow other people; when someone a user follows posts, he will get an alert via Facebook.
Edelman used Facebook's Share function to handle comments on the website. When someone shares something, it automatically also shows up as a comment on the site.
"We're building a layer of utility on top of the Facebook API and solving a problem unique to our brand using Facebook technology. Facebook has made our site possible," Jacroux said.
Facebook also will allow VW to incentivize fans to create good content. Periodically, Volkswagen will reward consumer participation and story sharing with special perks, such as event tickets or Volkswagen gear.
"Because we know lot more information about a customer - extra context - we can give people specific rewards based on how popular their story is," Jacroux explained. If VW has tickets to a concert in Chicago to give away, for example, it can filter out everyone who submitted stories from Chicago and find the two most popular stories, awarding their authors the tickets.
WhyVW.com uses Omniture for site analysis and optimization. Edelman Digital will measure traffic, overall engagement and how many times people on the new platform are viewing and sharing content compared to the old website and Facebook page.
Next week will see a big media push, with the 30-second video pushed out through social media, display ads and social media channels including Facebook ads to get traffic to the site and Facebook page.
VW staff has also begun writing in the first person, in an additional effort to personalize the brand. Said Osborne, "The brand itself is pretty human. We always try to be conversational and relaxed. We wanted that to come through in the new execution."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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