Volkswagen Launches 'Oops Marketing Plan'

Volkswagen of America Inc. last week launched an online test campaign to sell 4,000 limited edition New Beetles through 500 Volkswagen auto dealers that have Web pages on

To avoid as many problems as possible for online tire kickers, Volkswagen has drawn up what it calls its “oops marketing plan,” including a help line with a dedicated staff and other customer service backup.

“We learned that this consumer is very tech-savvy, and this is the way to make them feel very special and sort of on the inside of a collectible car because it will only be marketed online,” said Liz Vanzura, marketing director at Volkswagen of America, Auburn Hills, MI. “You cannot go to a dealership and see this car, so you've got to be Web savvy.”

Consumers at the Volkswagen site can configure a car, check its availability in the automaker's distribution system, create a personalized 'MyVW' page and choose a dealer through ZIP code or personal preference.

Then, the site visitors can pick the financing options, negotiate purchasing terms with the dealer, pay online or offline and schedule a delivery date.

“The MyVW page is actually pretty cool because since we have all information about the customer, we're using it for one-to-one marketing,” said Tesa Aragones, interactive marketing manager at Volkswagen. “So we give them information about other Beetle events in their area, maybe some books or music to read or listen to.”

Available in the vapor blue and reflex yellow colors and priced from $18,875 to $21,025, the limited edition cars are expected to comprise roughly 5 percent of the 85,000 New Beetles projected to sell this year nationwide. Volkswagen sold 83,000 New Beetles last year.

Cars will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the public response can’t be predicted, Volkswagen's multimedia marketing campaign will initially run for two months.

Based on the response, Volkswagen may start selling other models online, Vanzura said.

Created by Arnold Communications, Boston, the campaign is intended to push consumer traffic to the Volkswagen site. It will highlight the unique colors specific to Internet purchases and the new way of buying the limited edition New Beetle model.

The media plan includes two spots on cable and network television and advertisements in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Business 2.0, Wired, Yahoo! Internet Life, Fast Company, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly. USA Today is the newspaper buy.

The company will send e-mails to Volkswagen users who are coming off lease, in addition to prospects and owners.

“We have a database of over 200,000 people that receive our regular newsletter,” Vanzura said.

Volkswagen also will issue collectible trading cards based on the limited edition New Beetles. In sealed packs of 10, these cards are meant for online purchasers and early prospects.

While the primary goal is to sell cars, Volkswagen also views the campaign as a learning experience for future online efforts.

“The second goal for our company,” Vanzura said, “is to learn about what it takes to provide our dealers and enhance their digital capabilities, as well as enhance our own infrastructure to be able to provide Internet experiences and e-commerce in the future.”

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