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Volkswagen centers Golf R campaign around iPad app

Volkswagen has launched a campaign and an iPad app to drive sales for its 2012 Golf R model, said Charlie Taylor, the car company’s general manager of digital marketing, on Jan. 19. Volkswagen worked with digital agency AKQA to create the app.

The “Golf R Drivers Forever” app features video content including a mini-documentary on Volkswagen, fan testimonials, an interactive timeline of the Golf’s 30-year history, a photo gallery, a vehicle customization tool and a brochure detailing the car’s technical specifications. For the app’s video content, Jefferson Liu, associate creative director at AKQA, said the team captured footage from VW events, a trip to Volkswagen’s factory in Germany and a shoot in Huntington Beach, Calif., with car designer and former star of TLC’s reality series Overhaulin’ Chip Foose.

Liu said that AKQA and VW started working on the app last May and that the agency dedicated more than 20 employees to the initiative. Volkswagen community site VWVortex.com played an advisory role during the app’s development and contributed articles featured in the app.

Charlie Taylor, general manager of digital marketing at Volkswagen, outlined three goals for the app: drive sales, “boost the prestige of the larger Volkswagen brand” and reinforce the car’s community of enthusiasts.

“This is not an awareness campaign,” he said, pointing to a “great deal of awareness” generated via PR and noting that the target consumer is an enthusiast familiar with the product.

Not that Volkswagen is averse to increasing awareness through the Golf R’s enthusiast community, though. Based on research Volkswagen conducted, the company found that there exist 1.6 million Golf R enthusiasts and determined that if Volkswagen presents them with compelling content that is then shared, VW could reach an additional 3.1 million consumers, Taylor said. “By sharing to those fans, we have the potential of reaching 1.7 million [of] what we call ‘conquest customers,’ customers that are looking at the competition to the Golf R,” he said.

In addition to making sure that the app’s content would be easily shareable, “when it comes to lower funnel or shopping activity, we also want to make sure that when someone is engaging in any of this content, one click away is that ability to find the dealer and schedule a test drive,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Golf R enthusiasts “indexed heavily” as tablet owners. Of those enthusiasts who own a tablet, 80% own an Apple iPad and the other 20% own an Android-powered tablet, he said, adding that Volkswagen is considering developing an Android version of the app.

Taylor said the decision to invest the campaign so heavily in an iPad app was inspired by a 2010 campaign for the Golf GTI that was executed exclusively in mobile and anchored around a partnership with mobile developer Firemint‘s Real Racing game. As with the Golf R, the target audience for that campaign overly indexed on mobile, he said.

Volkswagen is splitting the campaign into two phases, Taylor said. The first phase is centered around the iPad app and is supported on VW.com, the company’s mobile and VWVortex, as well as through Volkswagen’s social platforms and experiential marketing.

“There’s no paid media in this first phase, other than some search engine marketing,” he said.

Phase two will roll out in May and feature online media and print. The latter phase will incorporate the Jetta GLI and Golf GTI models as well as the Golf R — Volkswagen’s “halo product for performance and style,” said Taylor — to promote VW as a performance-minded automaker.

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