It would be fair to say that Volvo’s new S60 needs to be a game-changer for the brand. When you look through the press material and speak to Volvo’s marketing team you regularly hear statements such as “..the all-new S60 will deliver a sporty drive like no Volvo before” and “The customers in this segment want emotional appeal, sporty design and dynamic driving properties. The S60 has it all.”

That’s a bold statement in a sector which includes BMW’s 3-series, Audi’s A4 and Mercedes-Benz’s C-class, cars which attract the most aspirational young execs looking for a set of wheels that convey the kind of confident swagger that will see them elevated towards top management. A car in this sector is as significant a style accessory as a Boss suit or TW Steel watch – ambitious, daring and adventurous – a world away from the underlying foundation of Volvo which is firmly grounded upon the brand’s safety record.

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]The customers in this segment want emotional appeal, sporty design and dynamic driving properties. The S60 has it all.[/blockquote]

Safety is… well, SAFE! It’s also boring, unadventurous and a bit… sensible. So when Volvo set out to market their new sporty S60 (a car that drives like no other Volvo before it) they looked for a way to convey just how different the S60 really was.

Volvo have pursued a ‘sporty’ image before with its turbocharged ‘T’ models and involvement in high-profile motorsport campaigns such as the BTCC, they’ve connected with younger audiences through their association with the ever-popular Twighlight movies, but the mid-executive sector long dominated by BMW’s 3-series is perhaps a tougher nut to crack.

So, how have Volvo tried to achieve this leap in perception?

Volvo chose the agencies Arnold Worldwide, EuroRSCG 4D and SapientNitro to help develop the campaign aiming to build upon the brand’s responsible reputation by showing it has a fun and adventurous side.

They enlisted the help of Scott Weintrob – a Director of the BBC’s Top Gear, along with the Stig (race driver Ben Collins) and together they trekked off to the Volvo Proving Grounds in the remote forests of Hällered, Sweden to shoot the Naughty Volvo in action.

The campaign was structured into 4 ‘Levels’ – the first 3 Levels were pre-filmed and aired on YouTube and on the Naughty Volvo microsite, the 4th Level filmed in May 2010 was then created by crowd-sourcing a few hundred suggestions from Volvo’s Facebook page and the comments made on several websites.

The team were proud to have achieved the campaign’s early response without resorting to traditional paid media, however whilst word-of-mouth marketing is a useful tool it works best with brands where an initial curiousity already exists.

Volvo are one of the first automotive brands to employ crowd-sourcing techniques to enlist the participation of internet audiences in their video ads.

It was a bold concept but as is often the case with these types of campaign, the implementation has been too complex for audiences to actually follow – it’s taken us many hours of analysis and tracking just to navigate our way through the campaign – and that’s only because of our wish to explain it to you. The average internet user is just not going to spend that kind of time figuring out a brand’s message, which is a shame since Volvo and their agencies have cleared invested a great deal of time and effort in creating the campaign.

Let me ‘outline’ just what there is to discover, should you be interested in finding out for yourself..

Viewing and Response Data [Marketing nerds please click here]

We took a close look at the response data for the Naughty Volvo campaign, however the numbers were so low that just a slight variance in data collected could lead to potentially inaccurate conclusions. There are many ways to quantify social media ROI, but in this case the long-tail effect will be crucial – to what extent are people talking about the Volvo S60 in conversations about sporting saloons and as a credible choice in the user-chooser enthusiast communities?

From the most readily available data we were able to see that there were very few direct shares from the videos themselves, the most notable exception being the ‘Social Experiment’ which registered 163 shares (157 of those on Facebook), whereas the main Naughty Level videos tended to elicit far less social activity.

For some of the most viral videos on the internet we see a share/view ratio in excess of 5% – i.e. 50 people out of 1000 viewers share their experience socially, bearing in mind that a good viral video will be viewed many times by the ‘same’ person – so a 5% measured figure may actually equate to a 25% ratio when factored against unique viewers.

The limited evidence of social sharing thus far is hardly surprising – firstly the S60 has yet to go on sale and user sentiment depends heavily on ‘actual experience’ of a brand – secondly the starting point for the Volvo brand is low in terms of the number of blogs, forums and communities already talking about the brand – there are nearly 5 times as many mentions of BMW or Audi on Twitter and considerably more enthusiast forums dedicated to these main German brands.

From the viewing figures (below) we see the typical pattern of early curiosity petering away when the actual videos are released (well, they were never likely to be as naughty as audiences would have wanted), then interest increases again where participation is sought (the crowd-sourcing bit), rising further for the more broadly relevant Social Experiment before dropping away again slightly, although we suspect the final numbers will show the crowd-sourced Level 4 videos to remain most popular.

Campaign Stage Views on YouTube
Prologue 107,322
Naughty Volvo – Level 1 11,948
Naughty Volvo – Level 2 7,726
Naughty Volvo – Level 3 15,264
Crowd-sourcing Promotions 16,723
The Social Experiment 32,926
Naughty Volvo – Level 4 29,488
Behind-the-Scenes Review 925
Naughty Track Days 759


What happens next?

The Naughty Volvo campaign is a perfect example of one where initial response should not be used as the only measure of success, the first stage has been focused on communicating Volvo’s intent to compete in this sector – the recent Volvo V60 video (the estate version of this new S60) has already achieved more than 130,000 views on YouTube which arguably would not have been possible without the earlier stages of the Naughty Volvo campaign.

However the campaign still has a ‘corporate’ feel to it (amplifying the brand more so than the intended audience), we’ve already mentioned how the average internet user is likely to be confused by the sheer breadth of video content and the target user seems to be the non-enthusiast, rather than the more naturally outspoken opinion maker.

Any social media campaign can be looked at in three phases; priming (building awareness and creating a more receptive audience), facilitating conversation (usually pinpointing potential advocates and feeding the debate within social hubs), and finally demonstrating reward (amplifying the feedback and experiences of audiences who’ve been engaged by the campaign) which then invites further interest.

What Volvo really needs is for more people to drive the S60 and share their first-hand experiences with others and this is where you come in. We’ve managed to secure a place for a SkiddMark reader at a forthcoming Naughty Volvo Track Day, where you can learn how to perform a scandanavian flick, get chased by a Police Car (complete with blues-and-twos) and drive at the well-known Dunsfold test track in Surrey?

If this is the kind of event that floats your boat, then get your entry in at our competition page..