By Published on .

The beetle isn't Volkswagen of America's best-selling car. But the reincarnated Bug was nothing less than a marketing and PR coup when reintroduced to the U.S. last year. It was last sold here in 1979.

Liz Vanzura was at ground zero. VW's ad director did lots of homework before the launch of the new Beetle last year. There was an uneasiness inside VW about how well the retro machine with nifty modern features like air bags would sell, says Ms. Vanzura, 35.

But she and her team did their homework, developing a positioning of a youthful and hip car that wasn't just for baby boomers.

Arnold Communciations, Boston, was under pressure to recapture the classic, admired Beetle work of the '60s. The result: an integrated effort that started with a teaser Internet push in December 1997.

A flood of positive press stories started around the time VW unveiled the production Beetle at Detroit's auto show in January 1998, also creating a buzz for the car. VW shuttled stars to and from Oscar-night parties in the Bug. So the car was virtually sold out by the time it went on sale in March. By yearend, nearly 56,000 were sold, with another 25,498 sold since the beginning of this year.

Arnold's ads "spanned demographics" says Ms. Vanzura.

The Bug also sparked VW's first major promotion: It sponsored the Lilith Fair concert tour. The Beetle was displayed at the 50-plus venues to reach the young target audience.

Ms. Vanzura says she is proud that VW has the youngest demographics in the industry-from 18 to 49-although core buyers are 18 to 34.

Ms. Vanzura joined VW in early 1997 after 13 years with General Motors Corp., the last few as assistant brand manager of marketing for Pontiac Sunfire.

"VW was just starting to make a dent when I started," she says. "VW's formula for success is our very clear definition of our brand and creating messages for

Most Popular
In this article: