How Volkswagen Is Using Its Digital Campaign to Fuel Offline Events

By Mitra Sorrells October 8, 2012, 2:22 PM EDT

Content for the "Why VW" campaign is divided into two sections online. "Values" includes content produced by Volkswagen to educate consumers on its core values. "Stories" consists primarily of text, photos, and videos uploaded by Volkswagen owners and fans. At upcoming auto shows, Volkswagen will display some of the videos and also have iPads available for consumers to access the online site.

Photo: Courtesy of Volkswagen

Volkswagen of America is in the midst of a new marketing campaign built around an online hub that houses stories submitted by Volkswagen owners and fans, along with brand content produced by the company. Volkswagen will also incorporate content shared online through the “Why VW” campaign into its display at auto shows in the coming months, an example of how a brand can use online marketing programs to fuel traditional face-to-face events.
“The two are obviously very symbiotic. The idea behind it was sparked from all of the events we go to. People would be coming up to us and telling us these great stories, and we’d say, 'That’s awesome. I wish we could tell some other people,'” said Justin Osborne, Volkswagen’s general manager for product marketing. “Obviously, with the advent of digital becoming more sophisticated and easier to use, we can now take that idea of capturing those stories and putting it in the digital space to give it scale. The digital helps the experiential, and, obviously, the experiential helps the digital.”
The “Why VW” campaign launched in mid-September and exists both on its own Web site and also on VW’s Facebook page. Content is divided into two sections—values and stories. The values section uses five two-minute films produced by the company to educate visitors about its values of quality, safety, environment, and performance. The stories section is built on user-generated stories, photos, and videos. Volkswagen reviews each submission prior to posting and will reward some participants with prizes related to VW-sponsored events, such as concerts, sporting events, and ride-and-drives.
This summer, Volkswagen invited members of Poptent, a community of videographers and producers, to submit videos of people telling their VW stories. The company selected some of the best ones, and those became the first stories on the site. “When we launched the campaign, we had to have some content up there already as an example of what we like to see,” said Osborne.
The digital campaign will be incorporated into Volkswagen’s exhibits at auto shows around the United States. The company is creating an interactive display where consumers can explore the “Why VW” content; the value videos will be shown on a continuous loop; and iPads will be available for show attendees to access and learn how to upload their own content.
In addition to promoting the campaign through its social networks and fan groups, Volkswagen created a new commercial to drive viewers to the digital platform. “Smiles” is the name of the 30-second commercial that shows people of all ages and nationalities laughing to represent “the joy that comes with driving a Volkswagen,” said Osborne. A company news release said the TV ads are airing primarily during political programming this fall “to deliver a lighthearted break from the serious tone of the election cycle.”

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