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March 31, 2015

Why Volkswagen’s Old Wives Tale Video Campaign Works so Well

Diesel engines have a spotty history. While they’re popular choices for trucks and ships, diesel cars have long been known as dirty, inefficient, and difficult to refuel in some areas. Modern diesel engines are leaps ahead of their transport-truck counterparts, and to promote the new Passat, Volkswagen turned the camera on three sassy ladies to bust some Old Wives Tales about the Diesel Passat.

Here’s Diesel Old Wives Tales 1-5:

Checking All the Video Marketing Boxes

There’s no question that this campaign is popular – the 5 videos have a combined 1.5 million views on YouTube, and that number continues to grow. What makes this campaign so successful is that it takes into consideration every winning strategy for video marketing:

  1. Build an audience with episodic content. With two videos released in February, two more in early March, and another just last week, followers of Volkswagen’s YouTube channel are treated to another hilarious video on a regular basis. It’s not a surprise – it’s expected, and it builds anticipation. Old Spice is another fantastic example of a company that builds an audience, and releases great content on a regular basis.
  2. It makes people feel something. Every video that generates conversation does so because it taps into an emotional response. From GoPro tapping into our desire to live vicariously through incredible athletes, to Budweiser making us cry with puppies, emotion is the key to making people click like, and more importantly, click share. VW makes us laugh every step of the way.
  3. They’re short, sweet, and informative. Top of funnel videos are meant to educate your audience without being pushy. All of these videos are under 40 seconds long. Volkswagen focused on just one ‘Old Wives Tale’ in each video and focused on answering it in a tongue-and-cheek way. For consumers concerned about any of these diesel misconceptions, it’s easy enough to watch just that video and learn the facts, but taken together the series is so funny that you can’t help but watch all five.
  4. Capitalize on trends to build virality. While view counts normally aren’t the objective for marketing content, top of funnel videos are designed for a wide audience. Adding in a celebrity cameo is an easy way to boost your potential viewing pool, and Video 4 features an unexpected cameo from a celebrity pooch. Tuna, the chi-weenie (chihuahua/daschund mix) has built a loyal following of 1.2 million on Instagram, and promotes dog rescues and charities all over North America. The joke works because, as AdWeek points out, it shifts away from the trend of putting nothing but adorable puppies in videos – Tuna is a unique pooch, and being named after a fish, is a perfect addition to a video fighting the misconception of smelly diesel engines.
  5. Volkswagen knows how to laugh at itself. The beauty of these videos is in the tiny details. These three ladies poke fun at everything, from the young male driver to poor Tuna. But my favorite line is in video 2, when they make fun of the Passat name. It’s not an easy one to pronounce, and VW poking fun at its own flagship car is the perfect addition to a video where the three stars make fun of pretty much everything else. Lesson learned? Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself – people will notice, and they’ll appreciate it.

Making the Most of Online Video

Volkswagen is no stranger to creating epic video content. Their 2011 Star Wars commercial for the Passat aired during the Superbowl, but was a viral hit on YouTube. Currently sitting at 61 million views, Volkswagen’s mini Darth Vader made people smile, and did wonders for modernizing the look and feel of a car model that has been around since the 1970s.

Sure, Volkswagen is a B2C brand, but B2B brands can still check these same boxes and benefit. Volvo famously brought a recognizable celebrity on board for an outrageous stunt to promote their largely unknown model of transport truck, and turned it into an internet sensation with over 75 million views:

While not every company can afford Jean Claude Van Damme, you can still draw inspiration from pop culture to create amazing videos. Look at your audience, understand what makes them laugh, and see where creativity strikes!

Jon Spenceley

Jon Spenceley

Jon is the former Content and Social Media Manager at Vidyard, and is passionate about helping companies get the most out of their video. In his spare time, Jon's an amateur longboarder, distiller-in-training, and is a sucker for breakfast foods.

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