Volvo’s Marketing Director Per Carleö came to the company ten years ago. In 2013, he became marketing communications manager for Volvo Cars in Sweden. The company was then in a position where the strategy for production was in place, but knew which cars were in the pipeline. However, communication needed a new project.
When the V40 Cross Country was to be launched, it was with the help of music by Mando Diao. When Swedish House Mafia, the house collective that had just announced its sortie, launched the Volvo XC60, “Made by Sweden” had not yet taken shape as a concept.
– The campaigns with Mando Diao and Swedish House Mafia became a starting point, and platform to stand on. We noticed that Swedishness was something that Volvo as a brand belonged in and we received good responses from consumers. We also notice how we can use music in the right way where the songs add an extra dimension and become basic instead of something that is only added at the end, says Per Carleö and continues:
– It is easy to say in retrospect that everything was part of an imaginary and detailed strategy, and we definitely had a strategy. But it was a very adaptable strategy where we looked for it to work. When the campaigns received a good reception, we realized that this was the right way to go and charge to the next building block. I had the back of my head all the time and still have the realization that many are tired of advertising. Some consumers have even abandoned television and many have acquired new media habits. Then you have to create added value to influence, offer something that is more than just advertising.
The journey towards “Made by Sweden” had already begun in 2012. At that time, Volvo Cars was marketed with a campaign that showed what Volvo meant to Sweden and vice versa with the message “There is a car that makes Sweden roll”.
– Volvo has always had a continuity in its communication. In recent years, we have received more attention for what we do and it is about communication not just advertising. I think a key factor has been that we have focused on raising the emotional values. Previously, Volvo’s advertising was largely based on appealing to consumers’ rational decision-making. But choosing a car is also about making emotional choices. Therefore, they must like stories about the brand and what it stands for.
What do you mean by more than just advertising?
– on the other hand, advertising fatigue is increasing and consumers are in other channels than before, we have to think in a different way. In connection with the campaign with Swedish House Mafia, we assumed that you buy a car to escape everyday life and do something adventurous, to leave the world behind. Swedish House Mafia had just announced that they would stop, to find their way back to their roots. We saw an interesting connection. So we made a new version of their breakthrough single “Leave the World Behind” which took off the charts and a music video to accompany it all. When we then added advertising, consumers were more receptive to it, we got a greater acceptance.
You have clearly connected to Swedishness. How come it so clearly wants to position is so?
– We have gone back to ourselves, who we are, what we do and stand for. We saw a car brand that did things in its own Swedish way, based on Swedish conditions. Our cars are manufactured to drive on Swedish roads. This is a much tougher challenge than for our German competitors. That is what created the Swedish power of innovation. Swedish engineering has not always had so much self-confidence within. We thought it was time to raise it in communication. That was how “Made by Sweden” was born, not “Made in Sweden” or “Made for Sweden”.
Volvo has, especially in connection with the Zlatan campaign, been criticized for misleading consumers. But you can not talk on the Swedish accelerator while I have a Chinese owner?
– We have never been more Swedish than we are today. We have previously had an American owner in Ford and previously owned by a listed multinational company. Now we happen to have Geely as owner and ever since they bought us, they have determined that the brand is Swedish. They have constantly emphasized that it is an important part of the identity. We are headquartered in Sweden and have several factories here. The number of jobs in Sweden has increased since we got a new owner.
Many were initially skeptical about whether “Made by Sweden” could speed up Volvo’s sales figures. But when the sales figures came in February 2014, the Zlatan film for the Volvo XC70 had boosted sales. During the launch weekend, Volvo sold five times more cars in an average weekend. In 2015, the campaign “Vintersaga” was launched. According to Per Carleö, it has had a greater effect and the Zlatan campaign if you look at the broad sales. When the journey with “Made by Sweden” began, Volvo Car’s market share was just under 20 percent today, it has stabilized and in 2015 Per Carleö estimates that over 20 percent of the 345,000 cars (BilSweden’s forecast) that will sell in the country are Volvo -work.
Today you get a lot of media attention for your advertising campaigns. What does this mean for the brand?
– People talk about us to a greater extent and the funny thing here is that I can make measurements that we did also raise the articles advertising memory. People who read articles about us think that they place the advertisement even though they have not read it. Attention helps us to be top of mind, when consumers begin to make their choice. We see that increased buzz leads to more people applying to our channels to, for example, build their own Volvo car. We are also seeing increased activity at our retailers, everything that in the long run leads to purchases is increasing.
Zlatan, Robyn, Avicii have all written their chapters in “Made By Sweden”. When the V60 Cross Country was to be launched at the end of August, it became the Swedish fishing profile Claes “Svartzonker” Claesson somewhat unexpected protagonist. The chef who saw a man fishing for trout on his way home through Stockholm and decided to change his life is not well known to the general public, but a big name in fishing circles. From having started fishing and tying his own flies, he has now gone all-in on fishing and developed his own brand together with Abu Garcia.
– V60 Cross Country is about standing out in nature and we want to find a person who represents the feeling. We discovered Claes because he was friends with Zlatan. Ibrahimovic and felt extremely strongly about his personality and the journey he made.
How long will the concept “Made by Sweden” survive?
– For me, there is no end date. I think it is to get brands in Sweden that invest in long-term concepts. There is too much short-sightedness in the Swedish communications industry. I was educated at Hall & Cederqvist where we worked with Gevalia and “When you get an unexpected visit”. There we constantly found new ways to extend the story. I have taken this with me in my work at Volvo.