Here's an ad with oomph. A television and print campaign from Volkswagen and Apple promised an Apple iPod with every purchase of a New Beetle sedan through September 30. The ads, which debuted on July 15 with Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, are winningly stylish. But their appeal also depends on a shrewd mutual understanding of brand and audience: They're the right pitch to the right market.
Who could love a car that looks like this? Plenty of buyers, it turned out. The New Beetle broke ground in automotive design by incorporating both advanced technology — it offers four engines, including one tuned for mileage and another for 180 horsepower — and supreme usability. An intelligent fashion statement about simplicity, performance, and fun. Sales: 300,000 since its debut in 1998.
You know you want one. With the iPod, Apple turned a music player into a design icon. It combined advanced technology — the devices hold any kind of data file and their hard drives hold up to 40 gigabytes — with supreme usability (a single, round "no moving parts" navigation wheel controls most of the iPod's functions). An intelligent fashion statement about simplicity, performance, and fun. Sales: 300,000 since the debut of its third-generation model in April.
A psychographic match made in heaven. VW and Apple both appeal to young, high-income, adventure-seeking customers. VW has a long-standing relationship with music: It offers its own Web-based radio channel, and its previous ads launched a resurgence in the popularity of such artists as Nick Drake. The special iPod comes engraved with VW's "Drivers Wanted" slogan.
White space. Clean and elegant. It looks good, doesn't it? That's part of the point.
A marriage of two classic "underdog brands," which is both an opportunity and a challenge. VW holds just 4% of the U.S. auto market, and Apple sells just 3% of personal computers. So, can a great ad campaign move the needle?
A version of this article appeared in the October 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.