Unfortunately, this turns out to be a marketing strategy rather than a reflection of a core value. Indeed, it is a direct mail campaign, created by Proximity London. The agency doesn’t actually have a functioning UK website at this time, and its global site is irritatingly over-designed and includes typos (see: breaktrough behaviour change)
Anyway, the campaign targets “130,000 prospect and current customers and takes a no-nonsense approach to communication.” Surely, prospect is marketing speak for potential customers?
It positions the Passat to appeal to “40 to 50 year-old males, an audience that is increasingly frustrated by today’s celebrity-obsessed and spin-fueled culture.” The logic goes that this group will see the car as “a brand of substance in a world of fluff and nonsense.” Isn’t that yet more marketing-speak?
The Plain English Campaign is cited as having awarded VW a Crystal Mark for the clarity of its communications – although I can only find Volkswagen Financial Services (UK) Limited listed – so it is unclear whether this actual marketing campaign has been accredited.
I think it is a great idea for all companies to adopt effective communications as a core value and think clarity of thought is an important aspect. But, the quote from James Hough, account manager at Proximity London, fails on this front:
Passat customers know a good thing when they see it and don’t need to be insulted with nonsense marketing. We worked with The Plain English Campaign to demonstrate that Volkswagen Passat is a car that thinks like the audience.
Being pedantic (as one should be if you care about use of language), a car is unable to think as defined here. I also find irony in the quote from Ian Johnston, Volkswagen’s communications manager large cars, that:
The Passat is quite simply the best vehicle in its class. We have no need for bamboozling consumers with flowery ‘ modern-speak’. This latest campaign demonstrates that gimmicks or fluff are not needed for communicating with our customers.
It appears that clear communications are being used as a gimmick in this case. I would have preferred to see a focus on communicating information about the Passat in a clear way.
Instead, the “strategy” is a distraction from providing information about the car in preference for
mimicking the verbose language used in modern society, such as a ‘ double-choc cinnamon mochaccino with cream’ which is described in plain English as ‘ a cup of coffee’.
The press release regarding this campaign seems to originate from Proximity (although of course, I cannot see it on its website) rather than from the in-house team at VW. This again isn’t helpful if such a message isn’t integrated across the organisation. To me, it seems a wasted opportunity to take something as important as clear communications and ensure it is apparent in everything the company does rather than just to promote a particular car on a short-term basis.
[Thanks to Judy Gombita for link to the VW story]