When an estimated 40.6 million people piled in to theaters to watch Iron Man II last summer, they filed back out knowing what kind of wheels a kick-ass tech billionaire like Tony Stark drives. Lamborghini? Nope. Lotus? Get with it, dude. Tony lays rubber in an Audi R8 Spyder.
This coup of product placement was just part of an all-fronts marketing assault led by Scott Keogh, the man behind everything from Audi’s 2010 Winter Olympic sponsorship to this year’s Super Bowl ad—notable for being the first ever to use a Twitter hashtag. Keogh’s had a marketing plan for most every platform, but he’s got just one aim: Keeping Audi in the passing lane until BMW and Mercedes are in the rear-view mirror. “We’re moving a lot closer to that,” he says.
Keogh believes that a successful brand takes it own road, and he’s willing to gamble to prove it. When Audi adopted “clean diesel” engines, Keogh turned down the obvious approach of touting m.p.g. ratings. “For us,” he says, “it was about emotions.” The resulting TV spots announced that if a third of us drove Audi diesels, America could send 1.5 million barrels of oil a day straight back to the Middle East.
But Keogh’s revved his creative engines highest in the digital realm, too—introducing iPads in showrooms and incorporating the inventories of all 277 Audi dealers onto the brand’s mobile platform to allow for real-time virtual comparison shopping. He’s also overseen the development of racing-simulator apps with a real-world finish line: “Asphalt Audi RS3” gave virtual drivers across the world a chance win a real Audi. (Executions like this have given Audi, according to a recent survey by Visibli, a more engaged Facebook fan base than Justin Bieber.)
Keogh pledges he won’t quit until Audi takes the No. 1 spot in the luxury market, and it just might. Audi of America sold 101,629 cars in 2010—a 23% increase over the prior year—and its market share has doubled in the past five years. “Audi is no longer following,” Keogh says. “It’s the brand that’s taking the lead.
Editor's Note: This is just one of ten Brand Genius winners being introduced by Adweek this week. Check back Tuesday through Thursday of this week for more!