Fear has long been a successful marketing tactic. Example: If you want consumers to buy sunscreen, show them a picture of a leathery sun worshipper at 65.
However, a new campaign from Volkswagen takes shock-value to another level. The TV ads show a family riding in their Jetta carrying on as usual when – WHAM! – they’re t-boned in a horrific-looking crash.
The ads are extremely effective in their mission to jar viewers and get attention quickly. (And in today’s overcrowded marketing environment, that’s a feat in and of itself.)
But my concern is the timing.
We live in a world where movies about 9/11 are on the marquee, soldiers are dying abroad, and pedophiles live right next door. If I want to be afraid, I’ll pick up a newspaper.
Volkswagen should know better. Consumers are tired of feeling anxious - and skyrocketing sales of “new luxury” goods is proof that we’re all trying to drown out the fear by spoiling ourselves a little. (This is why I’ll buy a $7 sandwich from Panera Bread everyday for lunch, but protest bitterly when gas hits $3 per gallon.)
Only time will tell if Volkswagen’s fear campaign sells cars. If it does, well, that just might be the most shocking thing of all.