Volvo’s New Campaign and App Promote a Radical Concept: Subscribing to a Car

Owning a vehicle is something you 'used to' do

The campaign promotes the new XC40 model. Volvo
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Remember the halcyon days of 2012, when iTunes was the only place to go for new music? As in songs and albums you had to purchase, download and “own?”

That market already seems like a quaint memory in the days of a publicly traded Spotify. And now that the iPod is all but gone, younger consumers will never remember what it was like to pay directly for music—much less to buy a physical book.

Volvo wants to get ahead of the curve. At last November’s L.A. Auto Show, the brand introduced reporters to both its new XC40 model and to Care by Volvo, an app that allows one to quite literally subscribe to a car.

The brand’s newest campaign by agency of record Grey New York aims to position this as a behavioral sea change, predicting that owning a car will one day be seen as just another thing people “used to” do.

“It is a revolutionary way to look at car ownership,” said Kristina Vasandani, Volvo’s manager of campaigns and digital marketing, who added that the Care by Volvo setup “includes everything from maintenance to insurance [with] no negotiations and no down payment. It’s as simple as acquiring a new phone.”

The company looked to kill two marketing birds with one stone: introducing the new model while also helping to “make life less complicated” for consumers.

Leigh Moynihan, director of marketing for the Americas, said the arrangement is similar to a traditional lease but with some key differences designed to “remove friction.” “Consumers are overwhelmed with options, and we chose two well-specified cars. All you have to do is pick the interior and exterior color.”

The two-year deal includes an insurance policy underwritten by Liberty Mutual and an option to switch vehicles after one year in order to cover for standard wear and tear. Consumers simply use the app to sign up and a concierge will arrange delivery of the car to a local dealer. It’s a bit like an Amazon order in that sense.

It’s well-established that millennials buy fewer cars, but Vasandani said that is only part of the inspiration behind the new Volvo campaign.

“It’s certainly a response to that, but we’re looking toward the future of ownership and mobility,” she told Adweek, noting that the effort and the choice to focus on the app “targets the pre-family audience but [sees] equal value in post-family consumers. There’s a bigger opportunity for us to lean into the future in terms of where ownership and access is going.”

Matt O’Rourke, vp, executive creative director at Grey, who led the campaign, said that the agency chose to focus on common “subscription behaviors,” adding, “You used to have to go to Blockbuster to rent a movie, then Netflix mailed it to you, and now there’s streaming.”

“Consumers understand the benefit of subscribing versus buying,” he said, noting that the campaign looks to get that point across as simply as possible while sticking with the “quiet” theme embodied by recent spots. “For a long time, the auto category has been 30 seconds of car brands shouting features at you.”

Jim Nichols, Volvo product and technology communications manager, said Care by Volvo is part of the brand’s larger strategy moving forward, as the company hopes this simplified process attracts new customers—some of whom may have thought they would never own a car.

“It’s one of those things where even people within our industry are still trying to figure out how we did it,” he said. “And it’s not rental. It’s ownership.”

CREDITS

Agency: Grey New York
Client: Volvo
Campaign: “Used To”

Executive Creative Director: Matt O’Rourke
Director of Creative Technology: Mauricio Ruiz
Art Director: Chelsea Anderson
Copywriter: Sarah Turner

Executive Director, Digital Operations: Stephanie Lee Pang
Associate Technology Director: Mike Nicosia
Digital Producer: Libby Carespodi
Manager/Data Strategy: Kevin Knox
EVP/Account Director: Janique Helson
VP/Account Director: Dario Cosmelli
Account Executive: Colleen Mangan

Digital Production Company: MediaMonks


@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
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