Volkswagen decided to capitalise on the new legislation, not least because Volkswagen make more in revenue terms from Diesel than they do from petrol and because Volkswagen had just introduced 2 more highly powered and highly priced diesel engines.
The objective was to increase the diesel share of total Volkswagen sales. The main job for communications would be to overcome the negative perceptions of diesel cars in consumers minds. Diesel cars were thought to be sluggish and dirty. They were thought to be unstylish cars driven by unstylish people.
DDB developed a campaign that single mindedly set out to persuade people that Volkswagen diesels were just as good as petrol. The creative challenge was to convince potential diesel drivers that they’d be able to forget they were driving a diesel. The campaign was carefully integrated to ensure that the message felt ubiquitous. TV and poster were used to drive awareness and were supported with advertising on petrol pump nozzles, a DM pack with a ‘Don’t forget it’s a diesel’ self-inking rubber stamp was sent to fleet managers and packs of forget-me-not seeds were altered to feature a diesel message and tipped on in motoring titles.
While sales of petrol cars have traditionally dominated the UK car market, during 2001 it became clear that the near future would provide a window of opportunity for dramatic and sustained growth in the diesel sector. Legislative changes due to come into effect in April 2002 meant that company car drivers were now to be taxed on the CO² emissions of their engines rather than the miles driven per annum. This would clearly favour diesel cars – they generally have lower CO² emissions than petrol cars.
The campaign produced impressive results. Volkswagen achieved everything it set out to. Diesel sales became a larger percentage of Volkswagen sales, sales of higher-powered diesels increased, people paid more for Volkswagen diesels, diesel sales revenues increased, and while Volkswagen became market leader in diesel, overtaking long-time rival Peugeot, the Golf became the UK’s best-selling Diesel car. Econometric modelling of UK performance suggests an incremental revenue return for Volkswagen during the period 2002-2003 £180.2m against a communications investment of £12.3m