Volkswagen- Das Innovation in Print Media

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4412 , Published on 17 October 2011

A photodiode, a speaker and a chip, sounds like all one needs for a science project in class 7th?

Add innovation and creativity to the mix and what you get is an ad that has won almost all that is there to be won in the Print Media Advertisement category.
It recently won the “Best use of Newspaper & Magazines” at the Abby’s (the Filmfare award of the advertising industry) on the trail of winning in the same category at the Emvies(lets call them the Stardust awards of the same industry).


What we’re talking about is the day the newspaper talked. On September 21, 2010 Volkswagen which prides itself in German engineering and innovation came out with an ad that might put even the innovations in their cars to shame. A simple device that when exposed to light blurts out a Volkswagen ad duly supported by a full page spread. Brilliant!!!


Volkswagen had introduced itself to the Indian market in 2001.But failed to capture a significant market share. This might have been because they primarily concentrated on the High end segments with brands like Audi and Skoda. But when the company entered the medium end segments it realized that it was not as recognizable as the other brands. Owing to this, in 2009 started the brand awareness campaign of which this ad is the latest part of.


The advertisement basically served two marketing purposes –

  • Retention
  • Creating a buzz (Buzz marketing)


There are close to 60 ads in the newspaper everyday according to my research, which involved me picking up today’s newspaper and diligently counting the ads. Now how many does one remember by the time they have finished reading the newspaper, 3 or 4 and by the end of the day ,1 (that too for the scantily clad girl involved, not the brand itself)?

And then you have this Volkswagen ad that children and adults alike are talking about and taking to school or work to show what there newspaper brought in today.

And this did not last just for a day, to this day people remember it and the brand involved.

So in general what Volkswagen achieved was what companies are still trying to achieve – reducing the effective frequency to 1.Effective frequency is the number of times an ad has to be shown so as to get the message across to the customers. That simply means for an extra cost of Rs5 (cost of the device) Volkswagen had achieved a retention period of around one year.


But the main aim of this ad was to create a buzz, it did and how. Buzz marketing is always about surprising and delighting the customers. A good buzz marketing campaign can only have a chance of succeeding if it combines both originality and attractiveness from the consumer’s perspective. The prime motive of Buzz / Viral marketing is to create significant “noise” and therefore interest in the market place for consumers to talk about the product and try it. For days people talked about it and told their friends who had not seen it about it. Even the Newspapers and Business Channels were raving about how the ad had changed the outlook towards print media. And this was promotion that Volkswagen did not have to shell out a buck for. This was followed by interviews with the creator of the ads the DDB -Mudra group and the awards that followed.


The brand campaign Volkswagen started in 2009 was as the company put it “a sort of self introduction to the Indian public”. The group was also aware of the fact that most other companies blissfully ignored – print as the medium of promotion has a longer shelf life than TV or any other and utilized this to the fullest. True to its motto of innovation even in marketing Volkswagen gave India its first print Roadblock. A Roadblock is kind of carpet bombing strategy in which the companies buy out all the ad spaces available. So on November 11, 2009 the country woke up to a Volkswagen edition. Volkswagen had bought all the ad spaces, cover to cover. Marketing strategies of the company remained the same,

  • Retention (by making itself visible on 24 different pages and with equal importance block any other ad that might grab the eyeballs)
  • Buzz Marketing (Volkswagen was the most searched word on Google Hot Trends that day)

Another notable campaign was the day Volkswagen put a hole in the newspaper (something the marketing team working for the mint company POLO should have come up with?). 16 pages of TOI bore a hole in the shape of a car from which shiny red Polo on the last page was clearly visible. The last page was a full page spread with the message: 'We've put a lot into it. You'll get even more out of it', a tongue-in-cheek reference to both the features and the innovation. The strategies again being Retention and Buzz creation.


So for all the innovation and the money that Volkswagen has put in, has it really mdae an impact? Keeping the numbers aside for a while I’d say yes. Simply by understanding that people do not retain until they are interested and Repetition = Retention, in two years Volkswagen, which was not even given a thought in the volume segment is now considered an option. Though it might not be mentioned in the same breath as Maruti or even the other players but this can be considered to be a real good start as the primary objective was brand awareness.


As far as the numbers go Volkswagen had a growth of a meager 1.3% increase in sales in 2009 as compared to 2008 with the number of units sold standing at 19,001 units. But with the brand campaign launched in Nov 2009 its effects kicked in the following year. A whopping growth of 181% saw the company sell a total of 53,341 units and also a 100% increase in the number of employees. During the period of Jan – Jun 2011 Volkswagen has already sold 55,091 units recording a growth of over 217% during the same period that is around 10 times the Maruti growth figures.

As they say numbers don’t lie (even I don’t, but then you would rather believe the numbers) and it’s pretty obvious from the numbers that the Print media campaign has worked wonders for the company. Just some common marketing sense has made Volkswagen realize and make use of the fact that a regular innovation in products, designs and events can only contribute to more buzz and generate the revenues that will enable the company to add other forms of communication to the company's promotional arsenal and help make the product still more attractive.

Volkswagen –Das Auto could as well have been Volkswagen- Das Innovation!!!

This article has been authored by Abhinav Yadav from MIB (Delhi School Of Economics)


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