VW – Get A Clue

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto and I still have it in my system, but I’m getting sick and tired of companies that just don’t “Get It”. The example of the week: Volkswagen.

I first heard about this yesterday in a post on Jeff Jarvis’s BuzzMachine. Apparently, some motivated VW fans created their own commercial for the VW Polo. You can see it here for yourself. Go take a look – I’ll wait here.

Is it tasteless? You could say that. Is it offensive? Sure, some people are offended by anything and everything. Is it clever? Absolutely. Is it funny? Heck yeah.

So, after this gets out on the web, VW proceeds to go loony. They’re trying to hunt down the creators of the ad (known only as Lee and Dan) and are threatening them with a lawsuit. Why? Because it will lead to “brand confusion”.

Did you get that? VW has customers that care about their cars so much that they took their own time and own money to make a professional quality commercial, and how do they respond? Panic. Hissy Fits. Threats. Lawsuits. Stop it – You’re “diluting our brand equity”. You’re “confusing our target demographic with messages that will destroy our mindshare”. Whatever (I’ve grown to hate old school marketing in the last year – can you tell?).

In his post on the topic, Jeff Jarvis put it better than I ever could:

You are no longer in control of your message, advertisers. You can fight it or you can embrace it.

Oh, I know your fear: ‘But what these people say will be off message!’ Well, then, maybe your message is off.

This is the Cluetrain economy, guys: Markets are conversations. Join in the conversation, don’t try to muzzle it.

And finally:

If you let them… your customers will tell you how to create your products. If you let them… your customers will market them for you. If you let them… your customers will even be your free customer service department if you let them — yielding more happy customers and no complaints about putting people on hold and pissing them off.

There are companies that embrace their customers. Apple, for the most part, is one of the best at it. In the last several years, there have been several people who created their own Apple ads. They are now suing Think Secret, one of the best Apple rumor sites, for leaking product information, but overall, Apple really embraces their customers. And in return, their customers embrace them. A lot of companies could learn from them.

So VW, get a sense of humor. This commercial is funny and clever – something yours haven’t been for a while. Embrace it. And hire Lee and Dan.