Volvo is unique. It is the automobile brand that persistently pursues safety technology and innovates. It is also the trustworthy brand that offers premium value to consumers. In United States, Volvo is known as “Mom’s car” because of the maximized protection it gives to families. Important as tradition is, transformation is inevitable and irresistible. Volvo faces fierce competition while it still has potential to grow and expand. In this proposal, I have analyzed Volvo and designed a package of social media marketing strategies for Volvo. Here are my final proposal slides and text descriptions.

Slide 1 – Transformation happens

This is the Title Page.

Slide 2 – “Tradition” vs. “Transformation”

To begin our analysis, I made a contrast in the first content slide, whose theme is “tradition vs. transformation”.

Safety is Volvo’s tradition. From R&D to marketing, Volvo is consistent in maximizing vehicle safety. As a premium automobile brand, Volvo perfectly matched the family value in the mainstream society. Volvo is seen as a reliable, durable and decent “family car”. The wise differentiation strategy helped Volvo cultivate a group of customers and cut a piece of cake in the market. However, the distinctive brand image also pushes young and high-end consumers away.

To strive for a bigger “cake piece”, Volvo needs change. Actually, transformation is happening in this brand. Volvo’s C30 model emphasizes dynamic and fashionable design, hoping to appeal younger customers. Volvo’s classic S60 stays classic, but also shows a little “naughty” (See Volvo S60’s Naughty Test). If we think about it, we will find that this is the REAL Volvo: It’s always classic and elegant, but deep down, it has power; it shows your taste and your attitude toward life. Volvo does have the charisma to attract young and successful customers, and all we need is to embrace the transformation.

Slide 3 Brands Perceptual Map for Volvo

I made a brands perceptual map to analyze Volvo’s market position and competition. The two metrics I chose are “prestige” and “performance”, which are two key consideration factors for consumers in this level (premium cars or above).

Volvo is in the middle among the premium automobile brands. It lies in a group with Lexus, Cadillac, Infiniti, etc. Its safety features, however, can compete with that of luxury cars like Mercedes or BMW. Volvo always has an ambition to jump into the high-end market. Actually, I found out that Volvo is so unique that it doesn’t have a real DIRECT competitor. The battlefield it wants to fight in is up to Volvo, and that makes a difference.

In short, Volvo has the capability to compete as a luxury car, but it hasn’t build an image in consumers’ mind that it is a low-key luxury and can win over Mercedes in some ways. Hence, for Volvo, the communication objectives are:

  • To increase brand awareness and brand preference while reposition the Volvo brand;
  • To showcase Volvo’s other sparkling features while retain the tradition of safety;
  • To quickly facilitate purchase actions (like trial, word of mouth) through social media

Slide 4 Volvo on Social Media: Where Are We?

I conducted some research on Volvo’s social media performance and gave out my evaluations in the fourth slide. Generally, Volvo did a good job in building a comprehensive platform which includes various social media channels. However, Volvo still has great potential to improve in web presence, engaging strategy, creative strategy, etc. Here are my detailed evaluations for Volvo:

  • Facebook Page: Volvo needs to listen more. The discussion board has several complaints but there was not Volvo’s replies. Compared to other auto brands, Volvo has a smaller fan base and less activities.
  • Twitter Account: Volvo did a great job in sharing information about its brand, however, the frequency of tweeting needs improvement
  • YouTube Channel: Volvo’s YouTube Channel is interesting but not creative enough.
  • Flickr Account: Volvo’s Flickr account is not professional enough. Most of the pictures lacks a satisfying quality.
  • Official Blog: Volvo did a great job in maintaining its official blog, but it might be better if the appearance design is improved
  • Online Community: Volvo has an excellent, comprehensive and content-rich online community. It is the highlight of Volvo’s social media performance.

With these achieved accomplishments, Volvo’s 2011 social media marketing plan will start on a higher level. It’s time for Volvo to go further so that it can leverage the magic of social media to make the transformation come true.

Slide 5 “A Way of Life”

Based on the above analysis, I chose a theme for Volvo’s 2011 social media marketing campaign: “A Way of Life”. Volvo is more than safety and durability. Volvo is your way of showing your taste, your power, and your unique lifestyle. The following activities will be designed to target key audiences and emphasize this theme.

For young and affluent achiever, Volvo is brand of automobile that offers elegant design, premium technology, and a way of showing lifestyles as well as expressing oneself.

Slide 6 “Engage or Die”

To implement Volvo’s new strategy, the first activity on social media is to engage. Volvo has a nice presence everywhere, but the brand needs to engage more or it won’t benefit from the time-consuming social media efforts. I designed a four-step plan for Volvo.

  1. Listening: Start the first step by listening to what people are saying about Volvo
  2. Monitoring: choosing key topics and key words and pick effective tools to monitor the online environment for Volvo.
  3. Participation: Participate into the online conversations. i.e. leaving comments, join discussions, etc.
  4. Build thought leadership: through blogs, forums, and other social media channels, to show Volvo’s expertise in auto industry and help consumers solve their problems and confusions.

The ultimate goal is to build thought leadership among Volvo’s audiences because it prepares for the following actions like messaging and viral marketing.

Slide 7 Media Relations 2.0

As a niche brand, Volvo didn’t enjoy as much attention and media coverage as other major brands. Thanks to social media, Volvo has a second chance to remedy this defect. The key for success is to build and maintain a healthy and beneficial relationship with bloggers.

There are thousands of blogs talking about cars. Also, it is important to pay attention to some other blogs like traveling, lifestyle, fashion, etc. The reason is that cars are more than cars. They can be involved in many occasions and hold different societal functions.

Bloggers are the crucial part of media relations 2.0. My suggestion is to categorize bloggers and develop different strategies. Car bloggers can be divided into experts, enthusiasts and regular fans. Volvo should coordinate with expert bloggers as they are serious journalists. Furthermore, for major blogs, we need to understand their different styles and perspectives. For example, Autoblog is more journalistic, while Jalopnik often has a clear standpoint with some bitter irony.

“What Volvo will enjoy in the blogosphere once we build a mutually beneficial relationship with bloggers?”
“About what?”

Slide 8 Flavor it

For auto brands, video and photo sharing websites are indispensible social media channels. Volvo already has a YouTube channel and Flickr account, which can be found on Volvo’s official online community. However, my proposal is Volvo needs to add a little flavor.

I designed some series for Volvo’s YouTube Channel and Flickr account. The aim is to make the brand more personalized and charismatic. For example, Volvo can upload exquisite photos with its latest XC60 traveling around the world. Volvo can also post some great videos in metropolitans where C30 attracts young professionals’ attention. The other approach for video/photo sharing sites is to encourage Volvo’s fans to participate and share their pictures and videos. Themes for this kind of campaign can be “come together”, “express yourself”, etc.

In short, Volvo can leverage YouTube and Flickr to show its brand personalities as well as facilitate fans interaction.

Slide 9 it’s Time to Go Viral

After a long time of build-ups, I believe Volvo has already enjoyed a higher brand awareness and online participation. However, one viral campaign is able to propel our social media performance to the summit.

I recommended a two-month tour in U.S during summer 2011, with Volvo’s featured models experiencing diversified natural scenes and cultures. The offline tour will be posted and updated with a highly intense frequency on Volvo’s various social media channel. The goal is to generate a buzz and use this extreme approach to make people rethink about Volvo.

Slide 10 Evaluation & Measurement

With so many plans undergoing, I prepared several tools and methods to measure Volvo’s success. The measurements include online tools like YouTube Insights or Trendpedia, which are quick and inexpensive. However, I also recommend conducting some pre and post offline survey (in questionnaires or interviews) to evaluate our communication effectiveness.

Slide 11 Timeline & Budgeting

I outlined the activities Volvo should focus in the four quarters of 2011 and also allocate the budget. Some activities like monitoring and blogger relations will go through the whole year, but they may get more budget and attention in certain seasons.

Slide 12 Ready to Go?

This is an extra slide I created to say “Thank you”, but instead, I want to touch my client in a more emotional way. I’m confident that Volvo will benefit from this social media marketing plan and achieve its transformation in the upcoming 2011.

Transformation happens. Ready to go?

New Media Drivers License Seminars Logo

* This post is originally published as an assignment on New Media Drivers License Seminars as the final project. It is listed as one of the ten top presentations, “Example Work” and “MSU’s finest” .


  1. Qing Liu says:

    Excellent! I really like this proposal, especially the analysis of its social media performance! Did you make the PPT? Can you sent me one if possible?

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