How a bad April Fool’s joke by Volkswagen turned into a boomerang
Attracting attention at any price – that was apparently VW’s concern on the occasion of the annually recurring 1st of April. The company-wide e-mobility offensive was also to be reflected in a PR campaign on 1 April. Volkswagen USA had decided to announce the renaming of Volkswagen to “Voltswagen”.
Unfortunately, this planned PR stunt was leaked before 1 April. The alleged April Fool’s joke triggered discussions in the social media as to whether a brand that had been successful for decades like Volkswagen should be unceremoniously renamed Voltswagen. Volkswagen recognised the unfortunate action and immediately – even before 1 April – sought to limit the damage. The automobile manufacturer, which is struggling with its already tarnished reputation after the diesel scandal, tried to row back. With bumpy phrases such as “We regret that some people perceive us to have overshot the campaign target”, it became clear that Volkswagen had recognised that an established brand should not be led down the wrong communicative path.
Successfully established brand values should not be damaged by giving the impression – even if only in jest – that a strategic shift towards e-mobility would also lead to a change of the world-famous name. Instead, Volkswagen should return to its old brand strength by developing mature products without software problems and delivery bottlenecks.
As managing director of innomark GmbH, Thomas H. Schiefer comments on brand issues currently under discussion at irregular intervals.