September 17, 2007

Smelly Volvo Families

I was at the movies last Saturday night and saw a remarkably ill-conceived theatrical spot for Volvo. It was a faux James Bond thing with yachts and helicopters and jet planes and very expensive looking people doing idiotic superhero things.

The gag, you see, was that it was a couple trying to get somewhere for their anniversary. It ended with some inanity about life being better together. A beautiful example of a spot written to justify a tag line. It had absolutely nothing to do with Volvo and had the tortured logic of account planning written all over it.

The theater was in Berkeley where there are more Volvos per capita than Stockholm. If Volvo had intentionally set out to alienate their customer base they couldn't have done a better job.

My daughter used to call them "smelly Volvo families." They drive beat-up 10-year old Volvo station wagons with Goldfish crumbs lodged in the folds of the upholstery, plastic milk crates in the back filled with old sneakers, and "John Edwards for President" bumper stickers. The men all have some form of facial hair, the women have an unfortunate tendency to wear Peruvian ponchos. At least one of them is a therapist. Very few of them hang out on yachts.

They drive a Volvo for the following reasons:

1. To show they are smarter than us.
2. To show they are immune to imagery and marketing.
3. To show they are more concerned with safety than style.
4. Oh, and did I mention they are smarter than us?

They will be appalled by this "new" Volvo.

Volvo is making a classic marketing mistake. They are trying to be someone else. Instead of positioning themselves as a new, safer, more stylish Volvo they are aiming to be the second best BMW.

I'm sure there's some marketing genius/account planner telling them that safety isn't enough and they have to make an "emotional bond" with consumers. In fact, safety is an emotional bond to their customer base and TAC predicts that they will learn this the hard way. They have relinquished their unique reason for being.

I haven't seen any other work from this campaign, but if it's like this thing, these people are in trouble.


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