Volvo Effort Seeks Higher Perch For S60 Sedan

Volvo S60

Volvo has a top-to-bottom new S60 sedan coming to the U.S. this year -- the car was just unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show -- and the company is going all out to get it on the list with vehicles like the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class sport sedan.

Volvo -- which has done pure-Internet launches in the past -- is getting close to doing that again with a campaign for the car that, for this year, is going to take place mostly online. The program, via Arnold Worldwide and EuroRSCG 4D, makes the car into "The Naughty Volvo" with an initial salvo of Web films culminating in a consumer-directed finale. The first three "Naughty Volvo Films," at Naughty., are essentially test-track performance and handling demos of the S60, wherein one can use a virtual dial to go from films of traditional slalom track tests to more extreme demos.



The first level of the slalom finishes with the line: "Want it Naughty?" which brings up a second level, featuring a fire-engine red S60 completing the same course, except things like china teacups, goldfish bowls of Koi fish and gumball containers are balanced on top of the pylons. The clip finishes with "Want it even naughtier?" The third level shows the car driving backwards along the same course. "Not naughty enough? You tell us" is the super for that level, which directs visitors to submit ideas for a fourth level of naughtiness. The winning ideas will be produced by Arnold and EuroRSCG 4D and released prior to the S60's on-sale date later this year.

John Maloney, VP marketing communications for Volvo, tells Marketing Daily that the company teased the effort with short videos this week and will follow with a second wave during the summer and an experiential tour. "Last year for XC60 we took cars to VIP events at key dealers several months before they were on sale. We will reprise that again in July, August and September." He says a second phase of the experiential campaign comprising a series of closed-course driving events in key markets will follow.

Maloney says the focus on driving dynamics and fun is critical in the competitive field in which S60 runs. "It's the biggest segment in the luxury car business, and the players are incredible," he says, adding that the company is leading with the turbocharged version of the S60 in 2010, with the standard-engine to come next year. "The performance version of this car is the first one we get, so it is very important to establish its credentials as fun."

Marketing of the S60 will, per Maloney, stand on three pillars:

Design, "which has to speak for itself, though we can help with the car's image in ads."

Fun-to-drive element, "which isn't only about 0-to-60, but how it handles, how responsive it is, which are all attributes that are critically important to this segment."

Advanced technology, which includes safety technology: the car will come standard with City Safety, a technology introduced last year with the XC60 crossover that stops the vehicle at low speeds if it senses an impending rear-ender. The sedan will also have an option called Pedestrian Protection, which recognizes when human shapes are in the car's path and causes the vehicle to brake accordingly.

Grabbing market share for the S60 will be a challenge because the car hasn't gotten a major redesign in several years -- meaning it hasn't been a top-of-mind car for luxury performance-sedan buyers -- and it is unlikely to lure droves of people from cars like BMW's 3-Series.

"I don't think anyone is saying we are going to take lots of 3-series owners and put them into an S60," says Maloney, "but you have to get onto the shopping list of people who haven't made that decision yet. And you have to make sure you keep your own customers."

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