VW’s Electrifying New Marketing Push

Jul 9, 2019

Most brands would never consider marketing campaigns focused on their past failures. Yet just four short years after Volkswagen’s reputation-altering emissions scandal, the automaker is debuting an ambitious new brand strategy designed to put a positive spin on its “Dieselgate” past.

The advertisement, first shown during the NBA Finals, opens with a montage of Dieselgate news clips. It then cuts to a design engineer, clearly frustrated with the reports on the scandal, hard at work sketching ideas for a brand-new electric car. The commercial ends by showing a new concept vehicle and text — “In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electric driving.”

Not About An Apology

The advertisement shows how VW has re-evaluated itself following the crisis. VW’s new CEO Scott Keogh told the New York Times, “We’ve offered thousands of apologies…For us, this wasn’t about the apology — we’ve been doing that. This is the reassessment of the brand, of the company, and how we want to move forward.”

Volkswagen hopes to facilitate this reconnection by reminding older generations of the company’s cultural prominence in the 1960s with iconic cars like the Beetle and Microbus. The new ad uses Simon and Garfunkel’s song “The Sounds of Silence,” released in 1966, playing on the power of nostalgia to recapture the brand loyalty once held by many baby boomers.

The electric car push is also referencing VW’s past iconic print ads in its brand revamp.

This is not the first time Volkswagen has turned to its past triumphs to revitalize its brand. In the early 1990s, company sales were struggling until it released a fresh and modernized version of the classic Beetle. Time will tell if its most recent addition to the nostalgia train is enough to convince customers it has truly changed.

Long Story Short: Sometimes acknowledging where your brand has come up short in the past is the most effective way to build excitement and support for the changes you’re driving in the future. 

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Callaghan Hanson.

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