Q: For decades, Volvo has been associated with boxy, safe cars. How do you change that perception and broaden the brand's appeal in luxury and performance segments?
A: Just by looking at the cars, you see a major shift in design and look of the cars on the new platform. There's no way you look at it and see the Volvo of 10 years ago. The design of cars evolved so rapidly after the purchase by Geely. So we had to shift our communication but kept our voice. Volvo had such a strong voice in marketing, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. One of my favorite marketing lines is "Drive it like you hate it." The voice hasn't changed, but the things you talk about do.
The "Wedding" and "Song of the Open Road" spots are different from your average car ad. How did you come up with those campaigns?
We call it nonlinear storytelling. Part of it is about necessity. We can't be carpet-bombing the world with our message. We need to be smarter with our media. The new consumer mindset accepts that communications can come from anywhere. People are binge-watching stuff on Netflix, not on one central place. We're using that as our foundation. Instead of telling the whole story in 30 seconds and making you watch that same story over and over again for months, we cut each story into pieces. As you collect them, you understand more.
As soon as people figured out that was happening, it drove more curiosity. As the "Wedding" campaign came out, we saw just how much people leaned in and wanted to learn more. It's a very American thing to just tell you what to think — we invented the laugh track. Swedes take a culturally different path; they'll wait to hear what you think about something before telling you about it.
With "nonlinear" ads, how do you communicate unique features of the vehicle without interrupting the storyline?
Television is the thing to pull you in, but we don't have all the answers there.
The time to talk about technology comes a little lower in the funnel. We show it in the ads. Pilot Assist is in "Song of the Open Road," Apple CarPlay is in "Wedding." Once you draw them in and make them want to know more, then you use other communications. We use online videos to go into a deeper dive around technology. We use harder-working assets where people are more captive to get into technology. We never do it in a vacuum about ourselves. We focus on what it will mean for the consumer using it. The thing that's so great about this category is how emotionally attached people are to the things that we sell. Cars are inherently at the center of people's lives. It's a backdrop where a lot of your life happens, and a backdrop for us.
Should we expect more of these ads in the future?
We have a new campaign hitting in a couple weeks that is still using the nonlinear storytelling format. I'm really excited about it. As a creative, I wouldn't commit to continuing that format or going down a different path yet. We have to think about what's the best thing for the brand or the car. I want to keep that creative canvas as blank as possible. To bring an ad format that wasn't as smart and interesting as the car itself would be a mistake.