The Volkswagen Beetle is an iconic beacon for the VW brand, but over the years, it has increasingly been perceived as feminine. The cute, rounded design – not to mention the flower holder installed in the car – made it a “girl’s car”, and all the purchase data and conversation around it agreed. This was a problem for Volkswagen. Why? Because you might be able to sell a guy’s car to girls, but you can’t sell a girl’s car to guys.
On its quest for unprecedented brand growth, Volkswagen needed men to love the Beetle. The brand had ‘manned up’ the car with a redesign that made the new Beetle faster, stronger, and sleeker. But while the new model may have had the right style for male buyers, the perception about the brand hadn’t changed. For the launch of the new sporty Beetle, Mediacom USA needed to develop a communications platform that would lure men back and convince them that this Beetle was for them.
All guys love to talk about their friends who do cool stuff. These are the guys who always have great stories and experiences. So the agency decided to make the Beetle “your cool friend” – the guy who does cool stuff you can only dream about. Mediacom USA used media to put Beetle in a place every guy wishes they could be (maybe once): swimming with sharks.
The Discovery Channel hosts “Shark Week” – an annual week-long series of television programming devoted entirely to sharks. Shark Week has become a cultural phenomenon and delivers guys to the network in big numbers. With the 25th anniversary of the event falling in 2012, this was expected to be the most compelling Shark Week ever.
Working with Discovery, Volkswagen engineers, and a shark photographer and his team, Mediacom USA created a fully operational underwater Beetle – a “Shark Observation Cage”. This wasn’t just a cage, but a perfect replica of the iconic car. The submersible vehicle had a structure made of tubular aluminium, a set of 19-inch Tornado alloy wheels and the Beetle’s iconic headlights. And it was equipped with a full air system and turbo packs that allowed it to drive underwater.
To drive home the impressive feat, the agency produced a compelling series of mini-episodes that chronicled the process – from design to construction to finally dropping into shark-infested waters. So in other words, the Beetle literally swam with sharks! And seeing the Beetle actually drive on the ocean floor as sharks swirled above was a spectacular sight – your ‘cool friend’ indeed.
The on-air series was created not only to showcase the spectacular footage of the Beetle underwater, but also to fully highlight this incredible engineering accomplishment. The frame and design was unmistakably Beetle, down to the last detail. The cage was only a quarter-inch off in spots from the original Beetle design, and the side-view mirrors even contained the warning that “Sharks in mirror are closer than they appear”.
The three mini-episodes aired during Shark Week programming on both TV and online, and Mediacom created teaser content for VW’s social properties to extend outside of the one week on-air event. But they didn’t stop there: VW had 100% share-of-voice on the Shark Week landing page, with high impact placements throughout Discovery’s online properties. VW also blanketed the Shark Week digital experience with brand messaging around all touch-points.
As engaged viewers watched the Beetle’s journey to the bottom of the ocean unfold, they could check out exclusive bonus Beetle Shark Cage content on a tablet co-viewing app. And to drive viewership and strengthen the connection between VW and Shark Week, Mediacom collaborated on promotional assets that included VW tagged tune-ins, out-of-home executions and print ads.
To build buzz before the programme aired, the Beetle Shark Cage was showcased at a dealer event and the Shark Week premiere party. The PR push was successful; the Beetle Shark Cage became a hotly anticipated pop culture event, with significant coverage ranging fromThe New York TimesandAdvertising Ageto prominent design, entertainment and automobile publications.
In only one world can a beetle take on a shark…and win! Brand recall, likeability and brand opinion scores all SHOT past competitive benchmarks.
Average digital engagement on the Shark Week site was 28.5 minutes, with five million views overall. The VW playlist had 350,000 views with a 65% completion rate, and over 1.8 million Facebook posts were generated about the Beetle Shark Cage!
Most importantly, Volkswagen saw an immediate and significant impact on sales: Beetle sales topped 3,000 units in August – the highest monthly total of the year!
Who was driving this jump? It was all about the guys – the percentage of sales from male buyers DOUBLED, jumping from 20% to an astonishing 40% almost overnight!