My greatest hero growing up was not some GI: Joe or Power Ranger, it was a little VW Beetle by the name of Herbie. Herbie was a car that had a mind of his own, and along with his driver Jim Douglas was one of the world’s greatest race cars. The first movie The Love Bug debuted in 1968 and was such a worldwide success that it spawned a whole series of sequels. The movie featured everything a 5 year old boy could ever want – humor, racing, daring action stunts, with just a bit of romance thrown in. Herbie is the reason that I love cars, the reason I dream of being a race car driver, and why 53 is my lucky number.
I was suddenly brought back to my love for Volkswagens when I saw a current marketing campaign for Volkswagen. The campaign, done by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, is called “I know what the people want,” and it’s actually pretty funny. It features a cute classic VW Beetle with a german accent. In the TV commercials he’s seen interviewing various people.
There’s also a viral website which is pretty funny. The idea is that it lets you vote and then displays what “The people want” while suggesting that “The people want German engineering.”
Overall I think the campaign is offbeat, it has personality, and it espouses the same positioning that has always worked for German cars – pay a premium for quality engineering and performance. I was reading another marketing blog that suggested that this is a terrible campaign because it doesn’t appeal to the cutesy flower-power hippie-loving women who buy Beetles. This is true: german guy, old car, and old college basketball coach – this is a terrible campaign if it’s intended to get my mom or sister to buy a VW. However it isn’t. This is trying to reposition the broader Volkswagen brand as a high-performance German-engineering company similar to Audi & BMW. And it’s not trying to get my sister to buy a Beetle. It’s really going after me to buy a Jetta, GTI, or even that pretty Eos convertible. They’re simply leveraging the image of their iconic original Beetle to do it. So I’d say they will get good mileage out of it.