When TomTom first came on the scene in the early 1990’s, I suspect being the purveyor of silly voices never featured in their business plan.

20 years later and what was once primarily a consumer electronics company is moving ever closer to becoming a pure-play software and services provider, as the market for navigation systems moves away from its proprietary roots.

With the rapid success of in-car iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) and the move by manufacturers such as Renault, Opel and Mazda to offer semi-integrated systems in their new cars, sales of personal navigation devices have been tumbling – down by almost 25% in the last quarter.

So, what are TomTom to do?

Thankfully, much to the relief of their shareholders, TomTom has recently announced a EUR50 million restructuring program with a move away from devices, which are expected to decline by a further 19% in 2012, and given fresh impetus to their OEM fitments and software apps (the silly voices and suchlike).

Bert & Ernie

So hopefully that should have provided some background to TomTom’s latest foray into the world of Sesame Street.

Far from being a trivial bit of fun, the partnership with Jim Henson’s Muppets is a serious commercial endeavour to increase sales of TomTom’s voice add-ons, which at the price of a music CD (£7.95) can add up to quite a serious amount of income.

Currently there are 93 separate voices including Yoda, SpongeBob Squarepants, Snoop Dogg, The Simpsons, John Cleese and Darth Vader to name but a few.

The latest campaign is all about Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie, and it’s the perfect accessory to deal with bored kids asking, “..are we nearly there yet?”

Following on from the success of the Darth Vader and Yoda campaigns, this latest behind-the-scenes film sees Bert & Ernie clowning around in the recording studio as they progress slowly through the script.

Goodness knows how they managed to complete the whole package, but that’s part of the great appeal of these voice add-ons, they provide a genuinely entertaining addition to any car journey (with or without the kids) and serve to underline TomTom’s unique personality in a crowded marketplace of mainly functional products.

     Here are Three samples of the finished recording

  • [audio:https://transmission-one.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Bert-and-Ernie-Preview_01_tcm131-22103.mp3|titles=Bert and Ernie Preview_03_tcm131-22105]

  • [audio:https://transmission-one.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Bert-and-Ernie-Preview_02_tcm131-22104.mp3|titles=Bert and Ernie Preview_02_tcm131-22104]

  • [audio:https://transmission-one.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Bert-and-Ernie-Preview_03_tcm131-22105.mp3|titles=Bert and Ernie Preview_03_tcm131-22105]

If you like that, then you’ll probably like these..

It can become something of an obsession, collecting more voices for your TomTom navigation system, so to help you decide, here’s some of our other favourites promotions including a new limited edition package for Top Gear fans.

For the marketing statisticians there’s one final question to answer, “Are these campaigns successful?” Without venturing too far into the specific performance of each campaign the Darth Vader viral has been watched 4,224,559 times and received 18,916 likes (since May 2010), Yoda has attracted 2,260,677 views and 9,381 likes, whilst our friends Bert & Eddie have already attracted 338,123 views in the past 10 days.

Ultimately what matters is how many viewers then go on to buy the voices from TomTom, but I suspect you would agree that several million views is not a bad starting point.

The basic principles behind online video consumption still apply – if a brand would like to engage new customers, then it must first produce content that people actually want to watch.

This future form of branded content will cannibalise today’s unwanted display ads, and the chances are the mode of persuasive communication will be just as peripheral as Bert & Ernie’s video – but with sufficient cognitive hints to convert the resulting good vibes into a purchase.

Top Gear Edition

For a limited period, TomTom are offering this special Top Gear Edition package, with unique Top Gear points of interest, car icons, start-up and shut-down screens, the voice of Jeremy Clarkson and a special ‘Stig Mode’ for muting the device.

Darth Vader – behind-the-scenes

Watch Lord Vader during the recording of his GPS voice for TomTom.

Yoda – behind-the-scenes

Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. This one a long time have I watched and now the time for direction to change, it is.

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