Volvo Ads Inspired By ... Valets

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Volvo owners the world over are friendly and social. The inside of their cars look lived-in. No matter where they live, Volvo owners are good tippers and rarely travel alone; owners of competitive models, meanwhile, seem to treat their cars as trophies next to which they could pose.
Volvo relied on emotional data gleaned from valets for its first global campaign with Havas' Arnold Worldwide and Nitro, London.
Volvo relied on emotional data gleaned from valets for its first global campaign with Havas' Arnold Worldwide and Nitro, London.

To glean all this information, Volvo went to the experts: valets.

For its first global campaign with its new agencies, Havas' Arnold Worldwide and independent Nitro, London, Sweden's Volvo Car Corp. sought to connect more emotionally with prospects to reach beyond the brand's rock-solid safety image on the estimated $150 million account.

"Safety is important but it has to ladder up to something more important," said Don Lane, senior VP-group account director at Arnold, Boston. And while the agency knew Ford Motor Co.-owned Volvo is perceived as a family brand, "we felt being a family car was limiting the brand's appeal."

The source
So the agency venture decided to seek the opinions of people who got in and out of Volvos daily. It began by interviewing dozens of valet drivers on camera in Boston and car attendants in Europe and Asia.

The findings were similar around the world. Armed with those first insights, Arnold and Nitro conducted two waves of quantitative studies to try to validate them. It also looked at syndicated studies and then interviewed Volvo and non-Volvo owners in the U.S., U.K., China, France and Italy. Arnold spent several hours with American Volvo drivers in their vehicle and in their homes.

A few personality differentiators about Volvo owners broke through, matching the first round of research. "We found they are doers, and it's not about their possessions but what they do with their possessions," Mr. Lane said. "They are users not havers; they use what they have." The findings reveal 89% of Volvo drivers put a premium on togetherness and sharing, while competitive model owners see their cars as an extension of themselves and more likely to pursue individual interests.

The results were enough to build a campaign showing Volvo drivers as "we" people as opposed to "me" people.

Putting data to work
The insights fed Arnold-Nitro's six TV spots that will be used globally and just began running in the U.S., tagged "Life is better lived together."

Tim Ellis, Volvo's director-global advertising, said the brand's heritage has always been human-centric, with its pillars of safety and environmental care. "It's always been a part of our DNA. We just never focused on it." He added that safety can be a cold and rational thing. "Volvo is not a cold, rational brand. Safety is about enhancing the quality of life for people inside and outside the car."
Volvo's 'we' people
The brand's owners are:
  • Likable
  • Friendly
  • Social
  • Good tippers
  • Define themselves by how they use what they have
  • Happiest when sharing time and experiences with others


Volvo's U.S. sales slid 9% through August to 72,476 vehicles vs. the same period a year ago. The brand spent $48 million in U.S. measured media in the first half of 2007, compared with just $12 million for the comparable 2006 time, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

"Volvo has been struggling over the years to move that brand forward," mostly due to not having the right products, and what Dan Gorrell, founder of consultant AutoStratagem, called "appropriate messaging." Still, he said, the brand has a lot of good equity. He called the togetherness positioning "right on" for Volvo. But he's not impressed with the first few commercials he's seen, saying they don't deliver enough emotion.
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