Q&A with Volkswagen: #SharkWeek, TV x Twitter and how to plan for the moment

Thursday, 19 September 2013

What do a Beetle and a shark have in common? This summer, both sparked quite a frenzy on Twitter.

In August, Discovery’s Shark Week snapped up record ratings, triggering a tidal wave of Tweets. As a sponsor of #SharkWeek, Volkswagen USA dove into those live in-the-moment conversations with bite-sized Vine videos and even a charitable tie-in.

We asked Raashee Erry from the Media, Digital & Connections Planning team at Volkswagen of America to tell us how VW connects to what customers care about most and plans for the moment on Twitter.

Twitter Advertising (TA): We loved all the ways that you participated in the #SharkWeek conversation. Give us the background.

Raashee Erry (RE): Last year was our first foray into partnering with Discovery for Shark Week. We created a special Beetle shark cage that incorporated the product into the content. This year, we took things to the next level and added a fresh twist. We built the Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Shark Cruiser and invited viewers to experience the world’s first Subaquatic Road Trip, which gave people a 360-degree view of the “Shark Superhighway.”

TA: Why use Twitter to promote your TV sponsorship?

RE: We wanted to leverage all that organic chatter on Twitter about #SharkWeek and increase visibility. We knew connecting with that massive audience and real-time conversation was the ideal way to expand the reach of our marketing messaging farther than we could with just TV alone.

TA: How did you use Vine throughout the week?

RE: We created hand-drawn animations featuring the shark and the Beetle convertible. The Vine videos told the story of our sponsorship in a quick, catchy way that built excitement.

It was our first experience with Vine and we’re very intrigued about the opportunity it brings to the table. Our videos had this very authentic flavor that resonated with consumers and resulted in high social sharing and engagement.

TA: Why did you incorporate a charitable component into your #SharkWeek strategy on Twitter?

RE: One of the best things about Twitter is that we can keep the conversation going and keep the message fresh with unique content in Tweets. Vine is just an extension of that, and so was the Surfrider Foundation part of the campaign.

It made our message more interesting and added buzz to the program. It also ties naturally with the very nature of Twitter and is exactly the type of thing that is simple for people to share. Plus, people feel good about sharing the message. 

TA: Beyond #SharkWeek, how does Volkswagen approach real-time marketing?

RE: Our approach to real-time marketing is two-fold. First, we have created an infrastructure and culture that allow us to react quickly to relevant moments that we can’t prepare for and anticipate.

We have a team who is watching for those unplanned opportunities all the time. They always have their eyes and ears open. We’re now prepared to develop creative quickly and have streamlined approvals. So during moments like the Super Bowl blackout, we can jump on it quickly.

Then there are the expected moments like the birth of a royal baby. Our community management team was watching the conversations and very early on identified it as a moment that our audience was very interested in.

We knew timing would be important. Internally, our team made all the potential creative available to key teams like legal and generally had everything lined up so we could act really quickly when the birth and gender announcement was made. Timing and relevance were critical. We ultimately decided to direct our message at parents and relevantly weaved in Passat IIHS Safety pick messaging.

Whether it’s a planned moment or unplanned, we always want to tap into the excitement in a way that brings the brand forward. We don’t just want to pile on. We want to put a fun Volkswagen spin on it.

TA: How do you get your brand’s personality to shine through on Twitter?

RE: The kudos really goes to our agency Edelman’s copywriting team. They tightly align the creative tone across platforms. We always focus on being approachable on Twitter. We invite consumers to interact with the brand.

For us, it’s all about engagement and getting people talking. We give Twitter users the opportunity to chime in, share and comment. That’s why we pretty regularly release our commercials on Twitter before they air on TV.

TA: What’s a successful example of that TV x Twitter approach?

RE: Our Promoted Trend #GetHappy leading up the Super Bowl. It created genuine dialogue that kept growing over time.

We built excitement and buzz leading up to the day of the game, then kept the momentum going during and after the game.

We were able to seamlessly combine a paid element with natural, organic conversations. Twitter helps us extend the conversation beyond a television spot and a specific moment. That’s invaluable.

TA: How else does VW measure success on Twitter?

RE: Right now, we primarily judge the success of Twitter campaigns by the engagement they create. Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends have also become a key way to drive traffic to our dot com experiences.

It also goes beyond marketing. Twitter drives the customer care side of the business. We listen to our customers and communicate directly with them to answer questions or resolve issues in real time. That’s vital.

In today’s world, real-time marketing means so many things. It’s about using a unique platform like Twitter to get a pulse on consumers and also gauge sentiment. When you know what people are talking about, what trends they care about, that can help inform all the decisions you make and keep your brand relevant and engaging.