Big Ideas Don’t Win

Big ideas don’t win.  The right idea with the right brand expression to the right individual wins.

The new Volvo Trucks campaign illustrates this well.  The video below shows Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks, living out one of the new marketing campaign’s “live tests.”  He says, “I’ve learned that when you want to make a YouTube hit, you need a hook at the beginning of the film.”  Mr. Nilsson is quite correct — a successful meme needs a good hook.  Unfortunately, a good hook (aka a good idea) is rarely enough to win a marketing battle for the consumer.

If you consider the success of the 6th campaign video (The Epic Split feat. Jean Claude Van Damme), it has 7x the views of the 1st, 9x the 2nd, 28x the 3rd … you get the picture.  An overwhelming hit for a viral video.  But why?  Why did it break through the clutter?  Become viral?  Get picked up by news outlets?  Become the center of discussion among friends at a random Mexican restaurant the day of its release (yes, over tacos a friend told me, “you have to see this video!”)?

Yes, Mr. Nilsson … it has a great hook: a known actor, doing a signature move, between two moving Volvo trucks.  It has the wow factor.  It is the right idea.

But if you dig a little deeper, it is also the most authentic expression of Volvo’s brand of the six videos.  The Ballerina Stunt, The Chase, The Hamster Stunt … those are intense, they are chaotic, they are exhilarating.  Perhaps better aligned with a brand like Red Bull.

Volvo Trucks is likely trying to communicate their core brand values and functional benefits (maneuverability, precision, control, stability), and to even bring a dash of elegance to the rough and rugged trucking industry.  Therefore, displaying body control, the symmetry of two trucks, the serenity of Enya, the color saturation of a sunset … that is the right expression of this idea.

The question remains if Volvo’s latest viral video with Jean Claude Van Damme is relevant to the right individual.  We don’t know the objective of the campaign along the consumer’s path to purchase — perception, awareness, interest, persuasion.  But we know at the end of the day if the video has 56MM views in the first two weeks and none of those people are writing checks for the truck, then we have a good idea (and maybe even an award-winning advertisement), but not a win.  But we’ll assume for now that if Mr. Nilsson knows how to create a good YouTube viral video, he likely knows how to reach those that will ensure the breakthrough sales.

by: Sarah Melnyk

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