Featuring The “70 Guardians of Winter” Campaign

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The Challenge:

The Škoda car brand is part of the Volkswagen Group. It originated in the Czech Republic and it is not a very popular brand on the Spanish market. It offers high-quality, durable cars at affordable prices. The brand generates rational purchasing decisions but is not outstanding from a design standpoint.

Campaign Objective:

Fighting lagging sales following an economic recession, Škoda and Proximity Barcelona decided to develop a plan to turn around the brand situation and redefine the strategy for the coming year. As a starting point, they used quantitative ad-hoc research to discover the brand’s real image and the extent to which the brand’s differential attributes were being understood. Compared to other brands in the market, Škoda did second-worst in key attributes such as “it’s a brand for me” and “it’s a brand I would like to be seen in”. The Spanish public saw the cars as “badly finished”, “unreliable” and “more problematic than normal”.

The main objective set for the campaign was to improve the affinity of the Spanish public towards Škoda with a campaign to improve brand recognition and generate increased market share. Quantitatively, the change should be capable of generating a 10% increase in sales during the campaign period (September-March) versus the same period of the previous year, which would mean 6,570 units sold. Škoda also makes scant investment in media: approximately half the investment of competitors like Dacia and Hyundai. With the objective of generating brand recognition on the table, the campaign needed to get the biggest ROI through organic viral marketing and earn media.

The Execution:
The essential points of the strategy were:

  • Build a campaign capable of mobilising the desired target (families with children) towards the brand, creating an emotional link that did not previously exist.
  • Reject the typical codes in the car world, focusing entirely on the consumer rather than on the car and its technology and design.
  • Pick a cause to “sponsor”, a cause for which we could fight together: brand and consumer, a local cause with strong roots in the Spanish market’s imagination.

There are more than 4,000 deserted towns in Spain. A further 100 are abandoned every year. Valdelinares is at risk of going the same way. Eighty years ago it had a population of 1,470. Before the campaign, there were just 70 people left. They put up with below-zero temperatures all year round. There isn’t a chemist, or a supermarket or a health centre.

The mobility problems in this town and this social, notorious, indigenous problem in which the product could take a starring role was a perfect fit.The campaign focused n rescuing the town and on the model from the brand that would be able to do this: The Scout 4X4. That was how “The 70 Guardians of Winter” was born.

The stars of the creative idea were the few inhabitants who have remained in Valdelinares and who do not want to abandon their town. If the school were to close the following year, five whole families would have to leave the town, leaving the other inhabitants vulnerable. The campaign gave Valdelinares a Skoda Scout 4×4 and to create a new job as the town’s official driver, which would sort out the town’s mobility problems by taking people to the chemist’s, to the doctor, to the supermarket, rescuing mountain guides, etc.

An extensive digital content campaign advertised this new job position and also offered free housing in Valdelinares for a family with children wanting to join the other 70 guardians of the winter. With a website for getting to know the inhabitants, a national press conference to alert the media and, of course, all the auto dealers to tell visitors about the campaign, the campaign was a deep storytelling plan across multiple channels.

The Stats:

The 70 Guardians of Winter was a campaign designed to improve the positioning and perception of Skoda in the target market and this it did with great success, outperforming objectives and expectations:

  • Three months after the campaign, brand affinity and recognition attributes saw a spectacular improvement.
  • “It’s the brand for me”, shot up from a miserly 2.5% before the campaign to 27.5%, which was a spectacular 25% improvement.
  • The “family brand” idea improved by 14.5% and the perception that it is “a good brand” went from 2.8% to 36%.
  • Other attributes such as “it’s a national brand” and “it’s a brand designed for the local market” increased by 20 points from scores below 5%.

The Results:

The campaign set a target of 10% growth and achieved 20.8% in the campaign period versus the same period of the previous year, achieving 7,200 units sold, 1,245 more than in the baseline period.

Instead of sponsoring sports or music festivals and waiting for heavy investment in the media to mobilize their position in the market, the “save Valdelinares” initiative was an absolutely innovative proposal for the car market in Spain and was perfectly aligned with the essence of Škoda’s product: mobility. The results show that steering clear of excessive tactical maneuvering in this sector, particularly during the crisis period, and launching a simple, close campaign, simply worked.

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