Volkswagen has embarked on a new bid to capture an even larger piece of the pie in the American auto marketplace, and Internet marketing techniques are playing a big role in that campaign.

Let's face it, if your company was founded by Hitler, you start off with a public relations deficit that to most of us might seem insurmountable. But Volkswagen (German, "people's car") did a spectacular job of erasing that deficit with the Beetle in the 50s and 60s. The company dealt with a threatened slump in the 70s with new models such as the Passat, the Golf, and the Jetta.


Volkswagen's current bid to maintain and even enhance its dominant position follows a different strategy. It is not based on new models, even though they occasionally appear, as do new generations of the tried and true models like Golf, Passat, and Scirocco.

New models do not drive the current marketing strategies of Volkswagen. Instead, the thrust of the campaign is based on using up to date online marketing tools, like search engine optimization, and social networking sites. These are turning out to be a bonanza. They've even used some clever SEO tricks to create special effects on Google Images.

Volkswagen And Proper SEO - A Lovely Marriage

A look at the site "Why VW" (a site that was recently commended by a writer on Forbes) will show how their campaign strategy works. The introductory text uses phrases like "our philosophy," "celebration of ... people," and "everyone deserves a better car" (a concept also dear to the hearts of Henry Ford and Der Führer, whose leadership is a seldom emphasized part of the company's prehistory). The meta-name of this page, embedded in the source code, reads as follows:

"Why VW? Our reasons are built on years of experience making cars. For our drivers, their reasons are as diverse as they are. Start exploring now."

Keywords, Social Tools

Keywords for what follows are listed under "Values," a buzz word designed to give the shopper a sense of high purpose; they include "Performance," "Design," "Quality," "Environment," and "Safety." Of course the first three of those one might find in any pitch aimed at consumers interested in buying an auto. "Environment" shows sensitivity to a more current issue, one that gives the buyer the feeling that he or she is acting in good conscience with a Volkswagen purchase.

And of course "Safety" has assumed tremendous importance for today's auto buying public. The second section of the Why VW page may be the more crucial one, however. It is entitled "Stories," and it really functions as a social networking site for VW owners. The meta name reads as follows: "This is a place for stories about where we've been and where we're headed. Every ride in a Volkswagen is an adventure, and we want to hear your story too."

Addressing the user with an invitation to share is a brilliant sales ploy, as is the use of the word "adventure." Another keyword and heading that shows up is "Enthusiast," which is quite telling, as the whole idea here is to create a group of enthusiasts for this vehicle, much in the same way that ads for the Beetle in the 50s and 60s created enthusiasts for their "bugs."

When discussing the social networking quadrant it would be wise to remember that these sites and their supporting technologies are not ignored either. The site includes links to a Facebook site, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram, as well as a local blog.

Volkswagen has definitely entered the SEO era in its marketing strategies, and is sensitively using social networking tools as part of an up to date sales strategy. They've unquestionably "made it cool again," and their marketing campaign will be worth watching.

May 16, 2013

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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