Let's begin with cake. When you do purely purpose-based marketing it is kind of fake, that’s like it's all just about the icing on the cake. Instead the cake itself has to be about purpose and only then marketing can be the icing on that cake. So there must be underpinnings, something tangible to build upon.
You know, every company can tell you anything about how great the company is, in fact that's what they do all the time - obviously. And why not, wouldn't you? This is totally normal and by no means a bad thing, as long as you keep it authentic!
For Volvo, marketing must reflect what is actually happening inside the company which Bjorn Annwall, Volvo's Vice President of Strategy puts this way: “I think one of the major things is marketing cannot be about making stories. It has to be genuine and real. So you need to actually, do change, not say you are changing".
In short: "authenticity" - something that's too easily forgotten but at the same time has to be, at least for me, the very basis of every good corporate communication.
Volvo has partnered with the UN for the clean seas initiative.
Take the Volvo Ocean Race for example, a huge event that takes several months and stretches across the globe. It would be a perfect opportunity to showcase the Volvo name everywhere and then call it a day, but that's not what they do. Instead they have used the race to focus in on the problem with plastic and micro plastics in the ocean. Which is great you know, it's important to raise attention for a problem that affects us all and a nice way to get your company some left wing customers (like myself).
Most manufactures would be grateful by now and move on with their normal business, but Volvo started to think about how they can affect this massive issue. So without further ado they decided, well let's aim for 25 percent recycled plastics in Volvo cars by 2025 - which is, given the development time of a car, the next generation of their lineup. Just imagine the fiery negotiations they have with their suppliers right now!
To demonstrate the viability of this ambition, Volvo has unveiled a specially-built version of its XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV that looks identical to the existing model, but has had several of its plastic components replaced with equivalents containing recycled materials.
“Volvo Cars is committed to minimising its global environmental footprint,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. “Environmental care is one of Volvo’s core values and we will continue to find new ways to bring this into our business. This car and our recycled plastics ambition are further examples of that commitment.”
The special XC60’s interior has a tunnel console made from renewable fibres and plastics from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes. On the floor, the carpet contains fibres made from PET plastic bottles and a recycled cotton mix from clothing manufacturers’ offcuts. The seats also use PET fibres from plastic bottles. Used car seats from old Volvo cars were used to create the sound-absorbing material under the car bonnet.
So is this all just about selling as much cars as you can? Of course!...eventually. But why not do something truly useful and meaningful on the way? Volvo's positioning as a liberal, progressive brand gets stronger and stronger. This suits them very well, is quite unique on the market which makes them stand out...as good positioning should do; and it's very appealing, at least to me.
Altogether Volvo are currently shifting more of their marketing spend away from TV and towards digital/direct communication and focuses on PR. “You talk to journalists, you talk to the society around you and what you do and you get the message to the consumer through that way, which you don’t have to pay anything for,” says Bjorn Annwall.
Moving away from big car events, such as the Geneva Motor Show, to find new ways of communicating with consumers is another method Annwall endorses. “Why stand in a crammed hall together with all the competitors shouting when you can have a more intimate relationship and discussion with the relevant journalist at home?”