The recent Super Bowl gave us an extraordinary chance to see how vastly different the perceptions that automobile brands have of the relationships they wish to establish with their customers are. There were eight of them this year, including, for the first time, all the 3 luxury German brands (Mercedes - BMW - Audi). There were as many different brands as there were approaches in communication! But which brand had the most impact on the public? I propose a review of 5 of the 8 commercials in question - and a quick analysis:
Mercedes - which was participating for the first time - played the history and the "heritage" card: "ours is a brand that goes back a long time, one that has produced many wonderful cars" - all this was played out in a "magical" ambiance to showcase the latest additions of the company. Quite poignant, but the climax was rather uninspiring.
BMW chose to feature the Crossover X3, (which they present as the first production-line car "built to order") - but there is only one thing that strikes us in this film: that it is manufactured in the United States. This message is perplexing: a German luxury brand, with its roots in German technology and engineering - and certain publicity campaigns in the U.S. that have become legendary ("The Ultimate Driving Machine" or the cult series "The Hire", which I spoke of on BrandWatch) - extols the virtues of American industry. We shall see in a moment why this message rings hollow and lacks credibility.
Audi portrays itself as a challenger, free to use comparative advertising in the U.S.: the brand presents itself as an offspring of the "new luxury" that breaks away from the siren song of "old luxury", represented here by Mercedes. An ad that is caustic, amusing, and which will be remembered - but will it be ascribed to Audi?
Against these three luxury brands I would like to compare two mid-range brands whose achievements have been astounding.
Chrysler invented a new concept - which was immediately resonated all over the U.S. (the film was viewed more than ten million times on You Tube!): "Imported from Detroit". With the inspired help of Eminem - who grew up in Detroit - giving back its soul to this city (and measuring it against New York), the brand delves deep into its roots and creates a film that is intensely emotional (in a counterpoint to luxury). The words "made in ..." take on their full significance here ... and shows up what the BMW film really is: an artificial creation.
In the end, it was Volkswagen that created the event (Nielsen cited it as the winner among the 8 commercials for cars - it was viewed 35 million times on YouTube), giving us an intense emotional moment where a father - using a simple car remote - delights his son who, dressed as Darth Vader, is trying very hard to demonstrate his magic powers. Giving prominence to the family (one of the values of the brand), the mystique of triumphant childhood, and the reference to a contemporary mythical American hero, the German brand creates emotion.
We thus see that Chrysler and Volkswagen, far from the "fabricated" and rather intellectualized concepts of the three German luxury brands, have succeeded in creating strong emotion (very different in the two cases but always consistent with the values of the brand) shared by all of us - and which make these brands so appealing.