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We don’t think it’s a sweeping generalisation to say that car companies, selling small hatchbacks in the UK market, have it nailed… they target women aged 25-40 years old…  and, so long as it’s small enough to park, economic to run, not too expensive and, most importantly, looks nice, they’re sorted…  We’ll snap it up.  There is no shortage of choice: the Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio, the Mini, and of course, the iconic Fiat 500… the car that we all wanted but many didn’t buy because it was too small.  Ok, it quickly became the car of choice for the cool 20-something creative-type… zipping about in a splash of bright, colourful coolness… leaving in its wake a whole pile of 30-something, frustrated creative-types, longing for a share of this coolness.

Earlier this year, Fiat decided it was time to sort this out, launching their Fiat 500L (a whole 42% larger than the original icon).  So how did they do it?  They recognised that there was a target demographic somewhere between the ‘young and energetic’ and the ‘settled down with a family’… the ‘cool new mums’.  These people were in their early thirties and weren’t quite ready to let go of their stylish side.  They lived in towns and needed compact but they also needed something large enough for their first-born bundle of joy (and accompanying detritus).  And so the campaign, launching the Fiat 500L, specifically focused on extending that market.

They started out on familiar ground, with a characteristically simple landing page and a TV advert that focused on the simple ‘size’ selling point.  This was, after all, a chance to get something bigger, without sacrificing style… or female emancipation… not since the iconic ‘fur-coat-dropped-in-the-mews’ advert from Golf, had we had that to offer the car market.

So, thus far, we’re on pretty safe ground but, dare we say it… not really targeting that small niche… and then came The Motherhood.  Quickly followed up (on request) by downloadable ringtones and The Fatherhood.  Tied together by some of the best YouTube channel design we’ve seen in a long time, linking these epically viral videos to the characteristic Fiat ‘customise’, ‘order brochure’ and ‘get in touch’ etc, etc, options.  Whether these witty pastiches of the realities of parenthood were intended or a happy accident, it’s fair to say that amongst the 30s-something urban ‘mums and dads’ these videos have become iconic.  They satirise the stage we’re all going through and make you feel that Fiat really, really ‘gets’ who you are… and that really, to keep in touch with who you are?  Well… you need to buy a Fiat 500L.

So, what’s left for the rest of the car market then?  With manufacturers focusing so heavily on the female market, Volvo believed they had spotted an opportunity to use their experience of marketing to males and launched the V40 R-Design with a heavy marketing push in late February.  They took a totally different approach, with a car that isn’t such a different size to the Fiat 500L and comes in similarly cool colours…

The agency responsible for the campaign, Arnold KLP, hoped the ‘I want sometimes gets’ theme would “resonate with an audience forced to sacrifice many personal ‘wants’ in favour of their growing responsibilities”.  It’s a change of tact from Volvo, focusing more on “want” rather than “should”.  What?  You mean Volvo focused on something that wasn’t out and out safety and ‘built-like-a-tank’ messaging?

The Volvo team have made the most of the marketing tools available to them, supporting a print campaign with a clever interactive outdoor promotion and the Volvo Commuter Hijack initiative, where 5 competition winners met comedian, Danny Wallace and were given £5,000 to spend on ‘experiences’ with the videos uploaded to a dedicated YouTube channel.  Getting the tone of voice (you wouldn’t use words such as hijack to target the female market!) and media buying spot-on has really helped the campaign to become a hit with its target market and allowed Volvo to push some new ‘benefits’ in terms of environmental compatibility, without sacrificing speed and design.

So what have we learnt?

Find a niche.

You can’t be everything to everyone.  Targeting a specific group of consumers will help you to stand out from the crowd, just as the Volvo V40 R-Design has become the small hatchback of choice for men aged 30-40 and the Fiat 500L the only option for cool, urban, new mums.

Resonate with your customers.

Develop a strong campaign idea that means something to your target market and use it consistently across all of your marketing to drive home the message.  ‘Touch’ the topics that are close to their heart.

Be specific with your media spend.

Ask yourself which media your target market is most likely to digest. Being specific with your spend reduces waste as you are communicating with people already more receptive to buying your product or service.

Don’t take the easy option.

It’s easy to stick with what you know and to worry that you’re going to fail if  you target too narrowly.  Be brave and ensure you’re talking to one person in a language that they really understand.

Get your consumers to do the hard work.  

The bonus of social media is that the consumers can spread the word for you.  In both these campaigns they structured initiatives that used (ultimately free of charge channels like Facebook and YouTube) and created schemes that would get people sharing and participating.  Genius.

Photos courtesy of:”>adg82</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>