Do people who need people need Volvo?


Remaining fresh and relevant is a challenge that every marketer faces at some point during a brand’s life cycle. Companies and organizations re-brand for a host of strategic and not-so-strategic reasons. There can be new leadership (and therefore new priorities), new competition (e.g. Samsung takes on Apple), new consumer behaviors and new platforms on which to engage them (like mobile). Sometimes, it’s as simple as message fatigue. The marketing team and their agency are simply tired of the same old creative (even if it’s still effective) and decide it’s time to change up the look, feel and tone.

Perhaps that was the thinking behind Volvo’s makeover of their long-time safety campaign, which in its new incarnation takes pretentiousness to a whole new level. “We design around people,” claims the Swedish-inflected spokeswoman in charmingly idiosyncratic English. “To live life less complicated.” Okay, we get the form-function-ergonomics argument and the tight close ups of the technology are great, but then the spots devolve into the automotive-typical scenes of winding roads, babies and beautiful women gazing soulfully out the window.

When it comes to safety, Volvo has always had a clear competitive advantage. Rather than resorting to soft focus, however, the carmaker might have done better had it taken a page from the more impressive story Subaru tells in its excellent “They lived.” After all,  what’s more important? The technology that goes into a car or the “people” who come out alive?

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