I was a freshman in college nearly 700 miles from home and I desperately wanted a car. I wasn’t happy about the university’s rule that freshman couldn’t have vehicles on campus. School was in the middle of nowhere; so how was I supposed to make my late night runs to Wal-Mart? Or satisfy my cravings for Waffle House? When I came home for the summer, getting a car was the only thing on my mind.
Even though I’m from the Motor City, I had no clue what went into actually getting a car. It took me weeks of researching, several test drives, a few reality checks and tons of questions before I drove off the lot with a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta (that I picked out and negotiated for all by myself). It was a proud moment and my car was the cutest thing ever.
The small black frame with tan seats highlighted by the signature blue and red interior lighting had me riding back to campus as a sophomore in style. I was 18 years old and it wasn’t my mom’s car or my sister’s; it was my VW. For the next seven years, (I got another one in 2006!) I was a proud VW driver.
For the people
With nearly one million Facebook fans across the brand, Volkswagen is well aware of the pride its owners have about the German line of automobiles that range from the iconic Beetle to its new CC. Customer satisfaction has always been embedded in company values. The brand’s name actually means, “people’s car” in German. The first car was designed at the request of Adolf Hitler during an era of “people’s car projects” when luxury automakers including Mercedes were trying to create an affordable car for the average German.
Nearly 75 years later, the automaker, Europe’s largest, is headed toward a record 8 million units delivered globally this year. Ambitious executives are counting on sales in countries like China to help it out-seat Toyota as the world’s largest carmaker and they’ve turned to new media to help.
By the People
In efforts to reach its world-dominance goal and always with the people in mind, VW went back to its roots. It recently launched “The People’s Car Project” in China where nearly 400 million people use the Internet despite censorship by the government. The social CRM campaign takes the cake on implementing a top social media pointer, “make it personal.” It asks everyday people to submit their own ideas and designs on what they want in a future VW. It doesn’t get more personal than that!
The social platform keeps up the savvy strategy by keeping the entire process interactive. It calls on aspiring designers and even clueless car consumers, like I once was, to create conversation around the ideas submitted. Engaging competitions for best idea/design periodically give lucky winners the chance at prizes. The campaign doesn’t stop there. Creators use a comprehensive plan of attack that includes video, location-based mobile applications, full social network integration, and on the ground activities and events.
Giving the People What They Want
This campaign, if executed as promised, is sure to increase awareness, loyalty and ultimately sales for VW. Although introducing a web-based campaign in China may be seen as risky to some, I think it shows the brand’s willingness to step outside the box. I mean, where can’t progressive thinking and digital technology take you? Next up is to take the campaign globally and solicit ideas from other people of other countries. Social media is catching on everywhere and everywhere people have opinions. After they listen, it’ll be a major task for the brand to deliver on what the people have had to say. I do hope they deliver because as they are proving – people aren’t afraid to speak out. As a former owner, I have faith in VW. They’ve focused on the people since day one and with China’s population just over 1.3 billion; I’d say they are pretty smart. They picked a perfect starting ground, didn’t they?