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Volvo: All-new XC90 Virtual Launch

Agency: DigitasLBi (Denmark and Sweden)    •    Client: Volvo Cars    •    Category: Automotive    •    Award: Gold Award

The Volvo XC90 is the most intuitive and luxurious Volvo yet. It's a mid-size luxury SUV that sets a new luxurious standard for the brand, and for future Volvo models. It is however important to notice that the car had not been produced at the time of the campaign launch.

Campaign Objective

People are used to buying things online, from books to clothes, but very few, if any, buy luxury goods, such as cars or homes, online. If they can’t physically experience these luxury items, for example, by test-driving a car, this purchase becomes even more difficult. We sought to radically redefine how people experience and buy cars by selling a car that didn’t exist yet, exclusively online. Arguably the only brand that can make people feel safe buying a car they couldn’t actually physically experience is Volvo. With its all-new XC90, Volvo wanted to reset the brand, position itself in the premium segment, and sell its most luxurious and expensive car to date, the all-new XC90 First Edition, exclusively online. Volvo is a small Swedish car brand in a big pond. We needed to help the world’s safest car brand take a risk to beat Goliath.

More precisely, the objectives were the followings:

  • Make people feel confident buying cars they couldn’t physically experience o Redefine how people experience and buy Volvo cars
  • Sell 1,927 all-new XC90 First Edition cars exclusively online
  • Reposition Volvo in the premium brand segment.

Target Audience:

The target audience was the global B2C premium segment. The campaign sought out people who share Volvo’s pioneering spirit and help reposition Volvo as a premium brand. People like the founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek and Google Glass designer, Isabelle Olsson.

The Execution

Volvo needed to both challenge and confirm its identity to attract a new audience and ‘desired drivers’ whilst driving loyalty amongst existing VIP Volvo customers. We were tasked with bringing Volvo’s brand philosophy – “designed around you” – to life in a meaningful and relevant way to its target audience. Volvo’s target audience value innovation, simplicity and ‘Swedish luxury’, and want to be associated with a brand that shares their pioneering spirit and values. The marketing communications was anchored in our core strategy: to reposition Volvo in the premium car segment, attract desired drivers and launch and sell the all-new XC90 First Edition – a car that hadn’t been produced yet – exclusively online.
The creative strategy was essentially two-fold:

  1. Connect the brand and product with desired drivers – influential people who reflect Volvo’s Swedish values, and engage existing VIP customers around the world.
  2. Create unique digital experiences; from an online showroom and web shop to a virtual test-drive using Oculus Rift, to allow people to experience a car that didn’t yet exist.

We created the first digital campaign that didn’t wait for the right customers – but actively found them. Because a luxury brand doesn’t ask, it tells, and Volvo knows its owners – existing and prospective. People who share Volvo’s pioneering spirit like the founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek, Google Glass designer, Isabelle Olsson, and film director, John Wu. Each limited edition was numbered.

And every number told a story. For example, we reserved #14 for Daniel Ek, since he was just 14 years old when he started his first company. We crafted bespoke public and private invitations connecting the number and the all-new XC90 to each customer. We invited them and other influential industry leaders to take a virtual test-drive using Oculus Rift at an exclusive art venue in Sweden and at the Paris Motor Show. Using the same narrative framework and messaging, we also invited existing VIP customers to claim their uniquely numbered cars through personalized, direct invitations. We created an ecosystem of experiences, from personalized stories and outreach, to a virtual test drive to e-commerce – designed to create desire for a product that couldn’t be physically experienced. The communication campaign started many months before the actual launch, leveraging owned and earned channels to spread awareness (April). The first phase of the campaign saw the creation of an editorial site that introduced the interior of the all-new XC90 to the world. Volvo harnessed PR and social media channels to generate excitement and anticipation for the full reveal, and continued unveiling the all-new XC90 from the inside out on volvocars.com (April) until the car was fully launched online (August) and at trade & exclusive events. In parallel, the campaign site introduced the ‘new Volvo’ to the world (April-ongoing) and the web shop opened for business (September). Social media supported sales and amplified pioneer stories and car features across Facebook and Twitter, igniting conversations and driving further interest.

The Stats

Celebrating Volvo’s year of birth, 1,927 individually numbered cars were available for sale exclusively via digital commerce. The all-new XC90 First Edition cars were sold exclusively on the campaign website and even on Facebook. The web shop opened September 3rd 2014, with the last car sold 47 hours later. Most of the cars were reserved within one hour from sales start. At its peak, we sold 7 cars a minute. o Total Sales Value of 1,927 Volvo XC90: 1.2 billion SEK o Total Campaign Budget: 10 million SEK o Car Sales per Market: – US 27% – China 15% – Rest of the world 58% The campaign also generated a 400% increase in Facebook shares, 86,000 clicks to the campaign site, 3.5 million earned Facebook impressions, and 40.1 million total Facebook impressions. Posts promoting the release and sale of the first edition were among the most successful organic content during the campaign, outperforming average content by 638%.

The Results

We radically redefined how people experience and buy cars, and proved that we could sell a car that couldn’t be physically experienced. By having an original targeting strategy, and by literally designing a car around its customer through Virtual Reality, we sold 1,927 luxury cars online in only 47 hours. In the words of the client: “This is one of the most important days in our history. We are not just launching a car, but re-launching our brand. This marks a new era for our company.” – H?kan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group.


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