Earlier this month as part of the new vision, Volvo launched an emotive ad (above) that showed images of people in car crashes as a young girl says it seems as though car brands produce vehicles for racing tracks “instead of city streets”.

And as part of this ongoing strategy, its newer models such as the Volvo XC90 feature run-off road protection technology in their seating and automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car.

Volvo has also extended its safety-focussed product portfolio beyond cars, a move Andersson says will “only accelerate” in 2016. Last year, the Swedish car marque Volvo introduced its own high-visibility innovation for people riding bicycles: a water-based spray-on reflective paint called LifePaint, that shows up on clothing at night to prevent cycling deaths and injuries from cars.

Andersson told Marketing Week: “This 2020 vision is a really strong brand purpose for Volvo and perhaps one that wouldn’t have been possible three years ago when we weren’t as confident in our marketing.

“We want to have a strong social message as if we just went down the same old route as our rivals [with celebrity campaigns] we would just be one of many, we wouldn’t be adding anything new. I believe the public want brands to stand for something important.”

Safety focus improves brand loyalty

Last year, Volvo announced bold changes to re-imagine how children can travel safely in its cars. Its XC90 model enables parents to swivel a child counter-clockwise when seating them and then lock the seat in a rearward facing position.

The changes have already had a huge impact on brand engagement levels despite “little” spend on marketing, according to Andersson.

volvo car seat
Volvo says its safer approach to baby seats is boosting brand engagement

He added: “It’s an excellent concept and means parents don’t have to bend over backwards fitting child seats as a safer one is already built into their car.

“We put very little paid media behind this announcement, just social, and we had three million views and a 14% engagement score. By that I mean that 14% of those who watched the ad about the child seat took action and interacted with the campaign or bought one of our cars. On average the score is only 5% so I think that shows this renewed safety message is making a major impression”.

Joining up PR and marketing

As part of its five-year safety strategy, Volvo has also made big changes to its marketing department.

It named Forsman & Bodenfors as its global strategic creative agency in December while it has also made moves to align its PR and marketing divisions.

Andersson explained: “We now have PR and marketing joined by the hip. We want to maximise the reveal events that historically were driven by PR messaging and make sure we amplify and extend those messages through our marketing team.

“Social plays such an important role when it comes to early adopters. They want to engage with Volvo but if we don’t respond quickly they will lose interest and move on. There’s a huge opportunity for us to engage more quickly and be there when people want to talk to us, and these changes enable that to happen.”

He said Volvo will continue to launch new models in 2016 and support its recently announced flagship V90 sedan in its advertising, which, aside from a focus on safety, has also recently integrated Swedish DJ Avicii.

volvo VR
Volvo has collaborated with Microsoft to experiment with VR technology

Adopting ‘mixed reality’

Earlier this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress that VR will become the “next major platform”. And Andersson says it will play a big part in Volvo’s future.

However, he is more an advocate of mixed reality, which merges VR with the real world, than traditional VR.

He concluded: “We recently launched one of our cars with Microsoft to a select number of journalists through virtual reality and it was a huge success so it’s definitely something we want to explore more as the technology grows.

“The advantage to mixed reality is you can freely move around our dealerships and be accompanied by a sales person to change the shape of the car, get its story and go under the hood. It has more potential for us than traditional VR as that’s more about building entirely new worlds.”