Volvo expands brand image to next generation

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Volvo Cars North America continues expanding its brand image with the ad launch of the next generation V70 wagon.

The V70 is billed as "The next generation family car" in TV and print ads from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, in a move to lure younger owners with children, said Bob Austin, director of marketing communications.

"We have to add excitement and emotionality to our brand, but we can't risk losing the core values of safety and quality," he said.

The first 30-second spot for the new front-wheel-drive V70 wagon ran once April 1. The real push starts today on network TV and continues for six weeks.

The first spot, dubbed "Saturday," shows a harried dad zipping back and forth in his V70 between his son's swim meet and daughter's soccer game. Longtime Volvo pitchman Donald Sutherland does limited voice-over. The brand's tag, "Volvo for life" remains.

$20 MIL MEDIA BUY

The V70 media buy cost more than $20 million, including print, which runs through the second quarter, in Martha Stewart Living, Vanity Fair, Time and its new Offspring.

Ford Motor Media, the Detroit unit of J. Walter Thompson USA, buys all media for Ford Motor Co. and its family of brands, which has included Volvo since 1999.

The target buyer for the V70 has a median age of 40. About 90% are married; more than 80% of the marrieds have children age 12 or younger. The target's annual household income is roughly $100,000.

Volvo executives announced in early 1997 that they wanted to attract younger buyers with more fun advertising and new products that were less boxy in appearance.

"Volvo is doing a very good job of making this brand evolve," said Wes Brown, an analyst with marketing researcher Nextrend.

The next-generation V70 XC arrives in the third quarter, and a sedan, sized between the S40 and S70, is due in the last quarter. "The products you'll see cover a broader segment of the marketplace," Mr. Austin said. That includes family cars, vehicles for younger buyers without families and more sophisticated buyers.

Volvo expects to sell 200,000 vehicles annually in North America by 2004. Last year, it sold 125,218 in the U.S. and Canada, according to Automotive News.

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