Nisha Qureshi

Volkswagen India shifts gears; appeals to the right brain of a car owner over the left

Ashish Gupta and Abbey Thomas of Volkswagen India talk about the brand’s new communication strategy and approach.

Volkswagen, a prominent player in the Indian automotive market for over a decade, has undertaken strategic moves to solidify its standing. In the last few years, the brand, which originally positioned itself in India as a high-end aspirational brand, has been focusing on fulfilling the demands of the vast Indian market while steadfastly upholding its aspirational brand identity.

In the past, the brand focused on expanding its product portfolio by launching compact SUVs and Sedan models, thereby appealing to the young and aspirational Indian consumer base. In a bid to further strengthen its positioning now, the brand rolled out its latest communication initiative titled ‘You’re in a Volkswagen’. This campaign is aimed at highlighting the essence of the ‘Volkswagen experience.’

Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India asserts that the new campaign is a reaffirmation of Volkswagen’s brand identity. Gupta states, “We want to communicate the emotions of the people who own a Volkswagen with the people who don’t.”

The campaign has been conceptualised by the DDB Mudra Group while Omnicom India manages the media aspect. This marks a departure from the prevalent trend of product-centric advertising often seen within the automobile category.

Speaking about the campaign, Mehak Jaini, National Strategy Head, 22feet Tribal Worldwide, DDB Mudra Group, offers insights into the campaign's rationale and says, “Volkswagen has been in the market for a while and we have the best cars in our portfolio. The idea was how do we make it bigger. Our ambitions for the year were high so we worked towards understanding what influences the purchase decisions of the audiences. We found that the decisions are very emotion-driven. What you feel about the brand, drives intent. Therefore, for Volkswagen to come into that consideration is really important and that is what we wanted to do with this campaign.”

Jaini adds, “The industry has done enough model advertising but we wanted to do something new. For Volkswagen, there is definitely a shift to go a lot more younger and appeal to younger families. With this campaign, we want to further double down on that.”

As per Abbey Thomas, head of marketing and PR, Volkswagen India, Volkswagen India has over the years established itself successfully in the Indian market on the back of its various marketing campaigns and phases.

Speaking about the brand’s journey in India Thomas says that they started by investing heavily in print media with a disruptive ‘Talking newspaper campaign’. Between 2015 and 2019 they focused on strengthening the brand’s ‘German engineered’ positioning and also introduced its flagship models like the Volkswagen Polo and Vento.

However, in 2020, Volkswagen introduced its India 2.0 plan to fulfil the demands of Indian consumers by ushering in midsize SUVs and Sedans. They elevated their designs and the communication also shifted to be more vibrant and youthful. This time around, the brand aims to initiate a paradigm shift, focusing on cultivating emotional equity and appealing to a wider audience.

Volkswagen’s ‘Bharat-centric’ media plan

The multifaceted campaign adopts a comprehensive 360-degree approach as more and more of its aspects are rolled out over the next few months. The focal areas of the strategy include substantial investments in television and print advertising, followed by OOH. Gupta explains, “We have a cinema plan as well as event activations and dealership activations. We also have extensive partnerships with influencers.”

Gupta extends insights into their strategic direction, emphasising their intent to target the 'Bharat' audience. He notes their success in redefining the brand's identity through the India 2.0 initiative.

“We all know that the real growth and aspiration in India is coming from ‘Bharat’. The big change that has happened in the last few years is that the people now have the means to meet those aspirations. This is where a brand like us has the opportunity to bring world-class products and German engineering through our products. We are going into the growth centres of India, by growing our communication, connecting and appealing to them,” he explains.

In a bid to resonate more profoundly with the Indian masses, Volkswagen plans to incorporate relatable human imagery that seamlessly integrates with the everyday life of Indians into its campaign. The campaign will further be rolled out in eight diverse Indian languages to ensure broad accessibility and relevance. Gupta also outlines the brand’s future intentions, indicating that more model-specific campaigns with similar appeals are in the pipeline and will be unveiled soon.

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