By: Jeanne Ngo
[Note: the following post was written in September of 2011]
A few months ago, I read an article about Volkswagon’s mention of wanting to re-align their product and alter their marketing campaign of their famous Beetle so that it would appeal to men. This is the same Beetle that, in the last few years, has been infamous for its bright yellow or green or red color, its holder that comes with a flower when the car is bought, and its overall image of being a popular choice of car for women. Although the article I read was from a credible source, I disregarded this idea as absurd.
Today, though, I came across a new article, which expresses the exact same ideas. The article mentions the desire to fight the conventional rules and to take the car back to its retro days. “It’s conventional wisdom that, in the U.S. market, a car will founder if it gets an image as a ‘girls’ car,” said a James R. Healey of USA Today. “conventional auto industry wisdom, like it or not, is that – at least in America – you can sell girls a boys’ car, but you can’t sell boys a girls’ car.”
What amazes me is that, in the last few years, Volkswagon has spent an incredible sum of advertising budget to align their VW Bug as a women’s car. The company had advertised with “The Big Idea” method, tying their brand and benefit linkage to touch on all the important traits that were important to women. The company had defined its user! The company had defined its brand image. As far as even the common person is concerned, VW had made sure to profile the user of the VW Bug as a woman who valued such features as the bright colors, flower feature, spacious inside, and “prissy girl” feel of driving the car.
Any now VW is looking to market to men, which leaves me with two questions.
1) Will men accept the change in brand-benefit linkage?
2) Is it worth neglecting their current target market, which VW has mastered, in pursuit of an entirely different market?
My thought is that VW should stick with what they know. My thought is that this new VW Bug brand-benefit linkage will just create confusion among both their previous and new desired target markets, which will cause consumers to look down on the brand altogether. Advertising and brand development is all about creating a distinct brand-benefit-image linkage, and VW is certainly fighting all the conventional rules of human behavior here. I’m really not so sure confusion is the best route to take in marketing.
“VW Hopes Men Will Catch the Bug” (Source)