Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bland Loyalty

Ad Chick had a post that got me thinking. The idea, "Let's Level with the Consumer" was spot on, but that's not what stood out. It was something in the clip from Crazy People that struck a chord.

In the face of blatantly factual copy, the boss is incredulous. "Volvo, boxy, but good. Are you crazy? Are you out of your fucking mind?" Well, not really. While it makes for a funny moment in the movie, on a larger level it fails.

Okay, I get it....the whole crazy adman angle was just a setup to get you to the Dudley Moore/Daryl Hannah romantic comedy, but they really should have done a little homework. "Be safe instead of sexy" really wasn't crazy at all. It was pretty much the Volvo brand for years. This ad came out the year before Crazy People.

Way back in the early 1960s, when it seems every other car commercial was about looks and power, Volvo was selling durability and value.

For years, Volvo kept pressing the same three things: Safety. Durability. Value.

Even when it does get a bit immodest, as in the ad for the 164, it's a soft sell. Almost lost in the copy points on gas mileage, orthopedically designed seats, braking system and ease of parking are the modest claims of "fast enough for any civilized man," and "it looks good." For years, that "it looks good" is about as far as Volvo would go. They never really ran from their boxy image, and in some ways embraced it. So did consumers. Numerous Volvo owner forums have names like the Brick Board, Swedish Bricks and Turbo Bricks. Long before the Honda Element or Scion xB, the ubiquitous Volvo 240 pioneered boxy chic.

The Volvo demographic was perhaps best summed up in a post on one of the owners forums:
"I'm a plain person, and I like plain things."
That's actually a pretty bold statement. It says you know who you are, and you're comfortable with it. Can the guy stuck in traffic beside you in his Porsche 911 say that? What about the suburbanite who paid $65,000 for a Hummer H2 that will never be taken off road? There is image, and then there is reality. Image is easier to sell, but these days it's getting to be a luxury fewer and fewer can afford. If you have any doubt of that, check out where Jeremy Clarkson ranks the boxy, boring and decidedly unsexy Volvo V70 on Top Gear's Cool Wall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool....I wanna buy a Volvo now. But do I have to wear my hair like the wife?! Nice look back on an excellent product.