Volvo Brand in One Word: Safety

“If you want to build a brand, you must focus your efforts on owning a word in the prospects’ mind.  A word nobody else owns”     – Al Ries

I went to see Al Ries speak a few years ago and he challenged all marketers to get your brand down to one word.  It sounded great, until I went back to my desk and started trying it out on my brands.  At best I was able to get it down to a few words or a quick catch phrase.  As I sat there frustrated, I realized that the effort to try to get it down to one word is a great catalyst that gets you down to a few words.  That’s a hell of a lot better than the excessively long-winded 5-page briefs or the long list of RTB’s (Reason to Believe) people want to jam in a TV ad.

For a long time, we’ve thought that brands just exist to convey a degree of consistency in the consumers mind.  Yes, that helps to own a position in the marketplace.  But more and more, we are also starting to realize that consistency of message acts as an internal beacon for everyone in the organization to follow.

I am always pushing everyone to focus:  focus on a tight target,  own one main benefit area that no one else can own and then shout it from the mountain top.  The challenge here of getting what your brand stands down to one word would be the ultimate.  I’d encourage you to take this on a test run and see where you get.  But the bigger point is to, learn from how obsessed Volvo is around safety.

When you ask consumers one word to describe Volvo, without hesitation they say “Safety”.  

I am yet to see any other brand that is so focused against one word like Volvo is with safety.   For Volvo safety is not just a claim or demo in their TV ads, but is everything they do.   But the real beauty for Volvo is their obsession with safety.

  • Volvo was long ahead of the marketplace.  Volvo first started the safety angle in the 1940s and became completely obsessed in through the 1960s long before consumers cared about safety when no one was even wearing seat belts.  But the market place has since caught up.  This year, Car and Driver reports safety as the #1 benefit that consumers are looking for in a new car.
  • Volvo’s purpose in making safety a priority.  In 1958, Volvo came up with the 3-point seat belt.  Even with a patent they could have enforced and made millions, Volvo decided to share the technology with all the other car manufacturers because they believed so strongly in it.   That really speaks to Volvo’s conviction and authenticity.
  • Volvo has always been way ahead of car safety regulations.  In fact, as safety became a priority with consumers, regulators looked at what Volvo was doing as the standard and then made Volvo’s advancements mandatory across other companies.  In the 1990s, Volvo was ahead of the curve on the introduction of air bags and side-air bags.  In TV ads, we got so used to seeing the crash test dummy ads re-enforcing Volvo’s ownership over safety.
  • Volvo continues to set the standard for safety today.  The 2012 IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) had 3 Volvo models in the 10 Top Safety Picks, the most of any car brand.  The Euro NCAP collision test has recognize 2012 Volvo V40 as the best car they’ve ever tested, giving it the top rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP collision test.

Most impressive to me that highlights Volvo’s obsession with safety is to look internally at the long list of R&D advancements over the past 70 years.

  • 1944 Safety cage
  • 1944 Laminated windscreen
  • 1957 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts front
  • 1958 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts rear
  • 1959 3–point front safety belts standard
  • 1964 First rearward–facing child safety seat prototype tested
  • 1966 Crumple zones front and rear
  • 1966 Safety door–locks
  • 1969 Inertia reel safety belts
  • 1971 Reminder safety belt
  • 1972 3–point safety belts – rear
  • 1972 Rearward–facing child safety seat
  • 1974 Multi-stage impact absorbing steering column
  • 1974 Bulb integrity sensor
  • 1975 Braking system with stepped bore master cylinder
  • 1978 Child safety booster cushion
  • 1982 “Anti–submarining” protection
  • 1986 Three–point safety belt centre rear seat
  • 1990 Integrated child safety cushion in centre rear seat
  • 1991 Side Impact Protection System
  • 1991 Automatic height adjusting safety belt
  • 1992 Reinforced rear seats in estate models
  • 1995 Integrated child safety cushion outer rear seats
  • 1997 Roll Over Protection System
  • 1998 Whiplash Protection System
  • 1998 Inflatable Curtain
  • 2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car
  • 2002 Roll Stability Control
  • 2003 New Front Structure called Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture
  • 2003 Rear seat belt reminders
  • 2003 Intelligent Driver Information System
  • 2003 Inauguration of Volvo’s Traffic Accident Research Team in Bangkok
  • 2004 Blind Spot Information System
  • 2005 Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain
  • 2006 Personal Car Communicator
  • 2006 Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • 2007 Power Park Brake
  • 2007 Driver Alert Control
  • 2009 City Safety – Automatically stop car at speeds below 19 mph (31 km/h) if obstruction is detected in front of car
  • 2010 Pedestrian Detection with auto brake
  • 2012 Pedestrian airbag

True leader push themselves by attacking the brand even before competitors have a chance. Volvo is continuing to push themselves with a very visionary challenge for the year 2020 that’s squarely directed internally within Volvo. 

Nobody should die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.  

That speaks volumes to the obsession they’ve had for the past 70 years and to the obsessive focus for the future of Volvo!

What can you learn from this for your brand?

 

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc.  and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

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