Volvo signals “more direct and aggressive” marketing strategy

Volvo is planning to be “more direct, aggressive and competitive” in its marketing strategy, after admitting that the brand had been neglected for a number of years.

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The Swedish car marque, bought by Geely Holding Group from Ford last year, hopes to strengthen its perception as a luxury brand and has set out an ambitious growth strategy to increase global sales to 800,000 units by 2020, up from the current 450,000 vehicles sold annually.

Richard Monturo, global CMO and former ad agency planner, was brought on board by new CEO Stefan Jacoby in February last year to “refine” the brand strategy after the business was sold by Ford.

In the years it was owned by and up for sale by Ford, a lack of investment in the brand or marketing rendered Volvo “invisible”, according to Monturo. Now that it is an independent automotive company, it has the freedom and momentum to start investing in marketing and advertising to rebuild the brand and grow sales.

He says: “Its very hard to be one amongst several premium automotive brands, so we couldn’t talk about design and aesthetics as much because that’s where Jaguar sat and we couldn’t talk about robustness because that’s where Land Rover sits, so we ended up being the middle safe sister.”

“We were insecure or a little lacking in confidence so a lot of Volvo advertising was apologetic and started off with the idea ‘you think we’re boring, but we’re not’. We kept apologising for what people previously thought about the brand, but now we’re not going to apologise for going to the market and being competitive and direct with the customer and stating our case for why we think Volvos are great cars.”

“[being sold by Ford] Means that we are a David in the field of Goliaths which can be very intimidating at first but we look it as an opportunity to be faster, more nimble and more opportunistic in emerging markets and customer opportunities that our competitors might have missed. With that we seek to join the premier league if you will at the top of perception in terms of luxury perception.”

In his first year, Monturo has been “laying foundations” for the brand strategy which Volvo is now starting to integrate with the business and product strategy.

The firm has reversed the traditional practice of automotive engineers coming up with product ideas and then taking it to focus groups and consumers to find out how they respond and is instead using insights from consumer behaviour to inform the development of in-car technology and products that fit the demands.

It has also introduced a new brand strapline “Designed Around You” and overhauled its global agency roster making Arnold Worldwide its lead agency responsible for aligning its global marketing.

Monturo claims that in the past year, Volvo’s sales have increased 20% year on year, everywhere except the UK, making it “the fastest growing luxury car brand”. The firm also expects volume sales and profit in the UK to start increasing in 2012.

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