If you’ve taken a look recently at some of Volkswagen’s videos on SkiddPlayer then you may already be familiar with the term ‘PunchDub’, but chances are you’re not sure what it means or why there are now 8 videos available to view.

First thing to be aware of is that this is all part of a huge marketing campaign by Volkswagen of America, but don’t let that put you off, it’s not in the least bit self-promotional or corporate, in fact it’s rather silly and all the better for it.

The first rule of any good social media campaign is to make the audience your focal point and Volkswagen have a track-record of doing this better than most. We (in our Drivers Republic guise) had a great time working with VW and other agencies in launching the MK6 Golf GTI using a driving competition that whilst not on a par with Nissan/Playstation’s GT Academy was nevertheless engaging and addictive for millions of enthusiasts. VW’s TankWars site challenges VW TDI drivers to produce a world record mileage score and has been an excellent tool for raising awareness as VW introduces more diesel-powered cars to the American marketplace.

PunchDub however is perhaps their most ambitious project to date. It began with a $6 million TV spot during the 2010 Super Bowl weekend, part of an integrated campaign to introduce a new game called ‘PunchDub’. This is a reworking of the classic kids travel game Punch Buggy (or Slug Bug), which is essentially a play-fight version of ‘Eye-Spy’ that entitles anyone who spots a VW Beetle to call out ‘punch buggy’ before dealing their unsuspecting fellow passenger a punch in the arm…

Volkswagen’s new ‘PunchDub’ game extends the rules to all models in the range, with each model having its own special style of punch to qualify for a subsequent points score.

You can read all the intricacies of the rule-book in a 23-page electronic guide on Volkswagen’s website, which explains how to deal virtual punches to your friends via Facebook Connect and the prizes available for the most successful players of the game.

The Machine Gun: continue punching rapidly until your pal moves away. Goes best with the Golf GTI

Another technique used by Volkswagen to foster engagement is the leaderboard on the PunchDub site, this shows the total number of punches recorded (273,303 as of 30-03-2010), most punches by a user and top vehicles which in case you’re interested ranks as follows;

  1. Passat CC (42,823)
  2. Golf GTI (36,510)
  3. New Beetle Convertible (29,589)
  4. Eos (25,068)
  5. New Beetle (25,010)
  6. Tiguan (23,706)
  7. Touareg (23,464)
  8. Jetta (23,372)
  9. Routan Minivan (19,996)
  10. Golf (16,702)

Now, getting back to those 8 videos that are currently available in the PunchDub series. The series kicks off with a short mockumentary starring a character called ‘Sluggy Patterson’ who allegedly started the PunchDub pastime 50 years ago.

There are even some similarities between this make-believe character and the likeable ‘Aleksandr Orlov’ from those Compare the Meerkat adverts on UK television, with a Blog and Twitter feed capturing the activities of Sluggy and his surly outlook on life.

Comedian Tracy Morgan and soul legend Stevie Wonder star in VW

Volkswagen are hoping to create a genuine phenomenon that will outlast the campaign and introduce many new customers to the brand. So has it worked? Well let’s introduce you to the current series of videos and then let you decide…

  1. Meet Sluggy Patterson the creator of PunchDub – this is our introduction to the surly ex-Boxer who is claimed to have started the pastime [Unique views: 90,741] *
  2. Sluggy Patterson talks about his blog – VW have asked Sluggy to write down all his punch stories on a blog [Unique views: 11,395]
  3. Sluggy Patterson talks about his Twitter – Sluggy answers questions posted on his Twitter feed (or Tweeter as Sluggy calls it) [Unique views: 8,607]
  4. Sluggy Patterson talks about the rules of PunchDub – For example “No more than 76 shots for each car”, Why? Because Sluggy says so [Unique views: 8,630]
  5. VW PunchDub Commercial – TV commercial featuring soul singer Stevie Wonder and comedian Tracy Morgan [Unique views: 933,626]
  6. How did he play PunchDub? – So how did Stevie Wonder play PunchDub when a red VW Jetta drove by? [Unique views: 15,499]
  7. NEW: CC Reveal – VW’s Passat CC catches out an unwary car park attendant in this ad [Unique views: 610]
  8. NEW: Tiguan Vroom – The Tiguan is the only compact SUV with a turbocharged engine as standard, cue another round of PunchDub [Unique views: 525]

User views are just one measure of a campaign’s success, another relevant outcome would be evidence of user-generated videos of which there are few – although several VW dealers have created a few.

Nearly 3,400 people are following Sluggy Patterson’s twitter feed which is being updated regularly and there are daily retweets and conversations on both Twitter and Facebook, so in terms of awareness and user engagement we’d judge this campaign as a success, although perhaps the high-volume of videos and fictional theme may have confused a few people.

Take a look for yourself at Volkswagen’s Channel on SkiddPlayer, they’re well executed, humorous and a good example of the type of social media campaign you can expect to see more of in future.

*Source: YouTube/SkiddPlayer as of 30th March 2010

Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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