Volvo may not boast the marketing budgets of larger auto manufacturers, but that hasn’t stopped the company from pushing into emerging ad segments, including mobile.
That effort dovetails with the Swedish carmaker’s more recent focus to challenge luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes with its rollout of the S60 sports sedan and XC60 crossover. Acquired by China-based automaker Geely from Ford in 2010, Volvo’s North American sales were up 24% in 2011.
Online Media Daily spoke to Linda Gangeri, who heads national advertising for Volvo Cars of North America, about how mobile fits into its broader marketing strategy in the region.
OMD: Can you describe Volvo’s overall advertising and marketing focus in 2012?
Gangeri: We’re at an interesting point in our marketing approach. There’s been a lot of change at Volvo with detachment from Ford, new owners and new management. In the fourth quarter of last year, we launched our new brand expression, which positions us more as a luxury brand because that’s what our vehicles now reflect.
We have the S60, which came out in 2010, and XC60 -- which are our two leading products -- and using those products to get people’s perception about Volvo to change. We are still entrenched in safety, but this is what I call “safety plus.”
OMD: How is Volvo using mobile media as part of that decision to go upmarket?
Gangeri: Because we are a small brand, we can’t look at all these channels as OEMs look at them. We don’t believe mobile requires a distinct channel strategy. It's an integral part of our overall holistic digital market efforts, and that’s the way we position it. When any new channel starts to gain momentum -- like social, like mobile, like video -- we tend to do the one-offs that test the channel and get you attention in the industry.
OMD: Things like Volvo’s sponsorship of free streaming on MLB.com’s At Bat app and the augmented reality ad campaign on YouTube last year?
Gangeri: Yes. As we’ve learned how valuable these efforts are both to our audience and overall marketing mix, we’ve taken a more integrated approach. We believe mobile is what we’re calling the new center -- a personal touchpoint that allows for customized experiences.
OMD: With opening day around the corner, is Volvo renewing the MLB.com At Bat sponsorship this year?
Gangeri: No. When you get a first-mover opportunity, and the prices are fabulous, and then you go back -- MLB realizes we delivered quadruple [the response] we said we would. It got a little pricey. It was out of the ballpark, no pun intended. We proved an ad opportunity that didn’t exist before. But we like to do a lot of first-movers if it makes sense.
OMD: Do you have any particular mobile initiatives in the works now?
Gangeri: We have a nine-city experiential tour [for the S60 and XC60] starting in May, where we’ll definitely use mobile capabilities and rich media units to not only garner registration, which we feel is a huge opportunity in mobile, but also to continue the engagement through mobile and social together.
OMD: With tablets gaining wider uptake, how do you view that device as a marketing platform compared to mobile phones?
Gangeri: When you look at smartphones, it’s more of the lean-forward experience. You’re in that lower part of the funnel, and that’s where we’re using location-based capabilities via Foursquare or QR codes that allow customers to go on a dealer’s lot and start learning more about vehicles or click-to-call.
When you get into other devices like tablets, that’s where it tends to be that lean-back mode, where you get into more of the initial research and upper-funnel activity. Most of the apps we have put out are lean-back types. Depending on the device, we’re using unique ways to gain engagement with consumers at each part of the funnel.