Volkswagen Leans on iPhone App to Drive Gamers into Dealerships

Volkswagen is using an iPhone app to create awareness and lead generation for its new GTI car. And that’s about all it is doing — for now.

The carmaker yesterday announced the free game app, dubbed “Real Racing GTI,” which also involves allowing registered players to enter a giveaway contest consisting of six limited editions of the vehicle. According to Charlie Taylor, general manager of digital marketing for Volkswagen of America, the marketing effort behind the car launch will essentially lean on the app, while being supported by PR efforts, some paid search, and in-dealership print materials that have call-to-action for the video game app and the giveaway.

Taylor said that the app-based launch made sense while targeting a key VW demographic of younger, tech-savvy adults. “With the personalization of media and the challenges inherent with reaching constantly connected consumers, we challenged ourselves to rethink the way we launch vehicles in order to engage our consumers in a meaningful way,” he said.

The video game is a spinoff of the gaming studio Firemint’s “Real Racing” brand, which normally costs $6.99 to download at Apple’s app store. VW’s version of the game includes the GTI in action being driven by the player. It also lets players post times and game scores to Twitter and Facebook, as well seed videos of their races at YouTube. An online leader board is another social feature associated with the game app.

To accent the giveaway contest, the app allows users to see pictures of the special edition car. Its sole lead-generation mechanism involves a VW showroom locator. The carmaker had previously released similar games to market its Polo and Scirocco R cars in Europe, but those efforts were accompanied by traditional media.

Analyst Greg Sterling, of Sterling Marketing Intelligence, suggested the standalone nature of the app campaign will allow VW to test and measure the channel’s effectiveness in a clearer way than if the mix also incorporated TV, radio, and print and ads immediately at launch.

“What’s interesting about this is they are testing [the app] out as an awareness tool and a lead generator,” he said. “It gives the opportunity to see how much buzz and value they can get out of it at a [fraction] of the cost of a TV commercial… And it’s essentially product placement. It puts the car in the context of a racy and sporty performance environment.”

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