BMW or Mercedes, I can’t remember which, has successfully pushed ‘engineering’ as a key brand attribute for years. Volvo has wrapped it’s brand around ‘safety’ for decades. Toyota is the king of reliability. Volkswagen is going for fun. Why not? Fun is a great thing to associate your product or brand with. (Unfortunately ‘bankruptcy protection’, ‘restructuring’ and ‘didn’t require bail-out assistance’ are terms that don’t seem to resonate with car buyers.)
Volkswagen’s European ad agency DDB Stockholm have developed a series of viral videos which are getting good traction. The concept is simple – How do you make ordinary things more fun. (Having fun driving a car, ultimately being the end game in all of this.). As viral videos go these are well structured:
1. Video Production. The quality of the video is excellent. It’s not too glossy, has a natural feel to it and doesn’t rely on much more the action in the video – no motion graphics, minimal in style and the audio is subtle. It doesn’t feel over-produced.
2. Focus is on human response. Not all viral videos focus on human interaction/response but the ones that do, and do that well tend to be able to capture genuine emotion associated with the subject matter. In this case it’s easy to put yourself in the place of the people in the video and share the intrigue, excitement… and the fun that they are experiencing.
3. Branding is subtle. There are obvious exceptions (Will it blend?) but for the most part successful branded viral videos downplay the brand in the video – either including a logo at the end or subtly including the brand in the video itself. No branding is pointless unless you can sell tickets to see the video, but there are diminishing returns on how prominent your branding can be. By comparison, paid ads with prominent branding are simply the (disruptive) cost you pay for viewing content. People are more likely to share content that isn’t obviously promoting a product (unless, of course if the ads are exceptional.) Is the branding too subtle? Perhaps.
4. Brand association is direct and the message supports the brand. More than anything Volkswagen is associating it’s brand with fun. This takes a lot of money to do well and to support over time but all things being equal, fun is a great brand attribute to aspire to. This certainly isn’t a stretch for the brand. The Volkswagen Beetle in it’s old an new incarnation have always been associated with fun. By comparison, the benefits to any brand of say… catching a computer with your butt or herding electric sheep might not be as apparent to the viewer.
5. The video is very good. Not just the video production los angeles quality, which is very good, but the concept, the execution and the ‘pass-on-ability’ of the video. This is a video that many people will want to share with friends.
6. A series of videos with ‘teaser’ videos to support the campaign. Creating one viral video is a good start – if that video is successful. But even if it hugely popular it will still have a shelf life measured in weeks. Reach is important for getting noticed, but frequency is what changes behaviors. Volkswagen has developed a series of videos to support this campaign and is even creating teaser ‘coming soon’ videos to let people know that more are in the works. As video slowly begins to replace text (let the impassioned discussions begin over this idea) it will become more important to develop complimentary and overlapping videos that work together to tell a broader story.