Innovation or Gimmick?

12 Sep,2012


By Tuhina Anand


When one picked up a copy of yesterday’s newspaper, the paper started vibrating on being unfolded. Now this happened to be the latest innovation by Volkswagen which has in the few years since its launch been trying various innovations in the print medium. It launched with a roadblock in newspaper following with a ‘talking newspaper’ campaign in 2010 and ‘silver newspaper’ in 2011.


Would these count as innovations or as some observers (and practitioners say) gimmicks because while the ad does catch ones eye but how far it helps the brand is a matter of debate.


As an official communique explained the innovation, Volkswagen, the German automotive manufacturer launched its campaign for the Polo and Vento with an innovation in The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Hindu.  As readers opened the newspaper, a light-sensitive chip attached to the paper began to vibrate. Thus, quite literally, communicating to readers the shiver of excitement they’ll experience when they see the exciting new features in the Polo and Vento. Two whole pages of the four page jacket were devoted to bringing alive the many innovations and unique processes that go into making each and every Volkswagen. The fourth page of the jacket also communicated the great value that the Polo and Vento offer.


Speaking on this innovation, Lutz Kothe, Head of Marketing & PR, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India, said, “Like our carlines, innovation has always been the core of our communication. Through this innovation we have not only communicated the unique processes that go into making a Volkswagen but also the new features added to Polo and Vento. I am confident that like our other campaigns, this initiative will excite our customers to walk into our showrooms for a test drive.”


Rajiv Sabnis, President, DDB Mudra Group, Mumbai, said, “Volkswagen operates its business globally on three fundamental value pillars- Innovative, Responsible and Valuable. The “shivering” newspaper idea and the content in the four page pull-out advertisement demonstrates all three value pillars of Volkswagen- it is led by the innovative idea of a shivering newspaper, supported by the responsibility with which Volkswagen manufactures their cars and the value that the Vento and Polo offer with their exciting new features. Volkswagen and DDB Mudra have raised the bar again in creating innovative communication and demonstrated social creativity that is getting talked about on social networks.”


R Sridhar

Sources estimate the spend figure on the innovation at Rs 12 crore. Now the question is whether this campaign would lead people to test-drive the product? Expressing his doubt, R Sridhar, Founder-CEO, brand-comm, said, “Innovation unless it leads to trials is a wasted effort. Often, one talks of impact of such innovations but impact is such a vague term which one can’t use as a yardstick to measure the success of such campaigns.”


In fact, he goes on to add that the earlier effort of VW’s talking newspaper too was a complete waste of time considering that Vento is a higher priced car and definitely not for masses which a newspaper like TOI and Hindu cater to hence doesn’t explain their choice of media. In this case too he says it looks more like a desperate attempt to get noticed. Sridhar said, “What beats me is that this innovation is for existing products in the market and not even for new models! The justification here to use TOI and Hindu could be that the ad is also for Polo which has probably a wider reach than Vento. Still I think it will be very difficult to get returns compared to the monies being spent on such an innovation.”


Innovation it may be but the industry has not really lapped it up. KV Sridhar aka Pops, National Creative Director at Leo Burnett calls the innovation irritating. He said, “It is just noise but doesn’t have any relevance. I didn’t really understand what was the connect of the innovation with the product features they were talking about.”


He added, “If one does a gimmick for a first time that has no relevance to the product whatsoever it can still be forgiven for the nuisance but to think that the reader is a jackass and such bizarre innovations continue, I think they should be slapped.”


Bharat Kapadia

Those are some strong words coming from Pops. Bharat Kapadia has been looking at innovations in communication. Recently his company, did a print innovation for HUL’s Bru Gold where the morning newspaper smelt like coffee and it was not one of those scratch and smell exercise but a new spray that could be sprayed on the paper to bring out long lasting coffee smell. The campaign worked and even won an Emvie recently. Mr Kapadia says that an innovation is a clutter-breaker but it has to be in sync with the brand else it will only be a disaster. He said, “The innovation should not appear that it could be used for the entire category and be generic in nature but should have a connect with the specific product else such innovations will only fox the consumers without having any connect.”


While the adpersons we spoke to have panned the VW’s innovation, Harish Bijoor, brand-expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. has a different take. He said, “Ever since its launch, Volkswagen has been known for adding a new dimension to a static medium like print be it its talking newspaper or now the vibrating effect. The ads bring a certain degree of excitement and I think one has been able to associate the word innovation to the brand VW. These are certainly gimmicks but they do create attention for the brand and as I have always maintained the first one to try any innovation are able to get away with it and VW has definitely has that first mover advantage.”


Harish Bijoor

Meanwhile even as the ad did generate a fair bit of discussion on social networks, a #Fail hashtag too developed fairly early in the day, indicating disappointment in Twitterverse. Guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we will know soon enough if the ad created the right vibration in the sales figures. Anyone shivering?


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