Byravee Iyer
Jun 26, 2014

Beyond Van Damme's 'Epic Split': Volvo Trucks' APAC strategy

Even Jean-Claude van Damme's 'Epic Split' can only take a brand so far. Here's a look at how Volvo Trucks, the brand responsible for that Cannes-winning viral video, has been working to build relevance and sales among customers in key Asia-Pacific markets.

After the global viral sensation of the Van Damme video, which took a top award at Cannes, Volvo Trucks wanted to bring Asian relevancy to the brand.  

In Asia-Pacific, Volvo accounts for about a third of the market for premium trucks. Its key markets in the region are Australia, South Korea, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Its goal is to grow demand and sales considerably in the region.

The company had the Asia launch of the new Volvo Trucks range coming up, and wanted to ramp up for the event. The idea was to demonstrate that the truck was capable of tackling an epic route across Asia.

“The global work was already doing a great job at showing off product features, so we wanted this journey to bring out the brand promise of driving progress especially in view of our presence in Asia,” said Elisabeth Larsson, VP, sales and marketing, Volvo Trucks.

Given the B2B nature of the business, Volvo’s traditional approach in Asia has been below-the-line and personal. However, the firm didn’t want to limit itself, especially in a rapidly changing market and media landscape. “After all, we have a great product to sell—and an equally great story to tell,” Larsson said.

In line with that, the company partnered with the National Geographic Channel to create branded-content stories of progress that gave it a broadcast platform for scale on TV channels. The brand also seeded the content on YouTube and YouKu for China.

Larsson concedes that only a few people actually drive trucks, and even fewer actually buy them, yet people all over Asia benefit from what she calls "sustainable transport solutions". As such, Volvo concentrated on creating a larger presence and awareness amongst economically active and influential people all over Asia. As such, targeting had to be more focused than the global work, but the KPIs for the content still revolved around broader scale.

According to Yannick Ott, marketing manager for Volvo Trucks, the campaign might even provide a blueprint globally for how branded content can link from broadcast scale into the purchase funnel through deeper digital experiences.

The one-minute videos feature inspiring individuals like martial arts expert Sherilyn Lim and Greig Craft, the founder of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation. The campaign, done by Iris Worldwide, had support from targeted digital and social-media advertising and a PR push to influencers and media.

A website also supported the campaign with a deeper interactive element to explore the various ‘perspectives of progress’: the videos and 360-degree photographic content. Visitors could virtually enter a truck and discover its features from a driver’s seat perspective—thanks to 360-degree photography.

“When people think about progress in Asia, there are the obvious stories of mega-cities, mega-growth and mega-wealth," Ott said. "So we wanted to find a new perspective of progress in Asia that could share stories and content that people may not have seen before." The stories were specifically about people that demonstrated Volvo Trucks’ values of enabling progress. Volvo rigged up a state-of-the-art 360-degree camera to take “never-seen-before” photographs along its route across Asia. 

The campaign launched in May, in the weeks leading up to the official product-line launch in Seoul, where the brand invited 1500 current and potential customers to view the new truck range.

Larsson and team are happy with the results thus far. To date, the content on National Geographic, Fox Sports and Xing Kong has reached more than 70 million people. The brand claims to have counted 1.2 million digital and social actions related to the content, and PR coverage and interactions jumped 25 per cent—well above the average for the automotive category, said Paul Gage, regional planning director APAC, Iris Worldwide.

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