When it comes to using the iPhone to promote a product or brand, there are now literally thousands of examples of how to do it, and how not to do it. Either way, most follow the exact same approach - create a free iPhone app, throw in a host of features and functionality, deliver at least one USP that will give you first mover advantage, and away you go. The kids will love it, you'll get hundreds of thousands of downloads and everything will be good in the world.
What if you approached it from a whole new line of thinking. Consider that you're a car manufacturer in a marketplace of falling print readership, a marketplace where audiences are moving their TV viewing to the Web, and a marketplace that has been severely effected by the current economic climate. Volkswagen are such a car manufacturer but instead of going with the flow and doing what everyone else has tried doing, Volkswagen have decided to do things a little differently.
So in preperation of the launch of their 2010 GTI Golf, Volkswagen have done a bit of research. According to their findings there are 4 million 21-34 year old male iPhone gamers. This is the core GTI target market, and Volkswagen believe that while they may want this car, they simply don't know it yet. So they have decided to go after that audience in a very targeted, using the iPhone, but not as we know it.
Volkswagen have become the first car manufacturer to launch a car solely on the iPhone. Not as an app, but instead as an exclusive, playable element of the iPhone racing game Firemint Real Racing. This is a game that already has 70 million downloads since its launch in June. Available at the iTunes App Store for free, the 'Real Racing GTI' level lets you choose from six different 2010 GTIs and race them on a track laden with VW logos.
On top of being able to drive the car and experience its performance through the game, Volkswagen are also offering an added bonus. Players can compete to win one of six limited-edition black GTI Mach 6 Golfs; featuring special edition stitching on the floor mats and head rests, carbon-fiber finishes on the doors and mirrors, red calipers on the wheels, and special logos on the front and on the steering wheel. In addition, the 2010 GTI's sound system has been upgraded to include full iPod integration. Over six weeks (from last Thursday), players can race as often as they want and scores are automatically uploaded to an online leaderboard. The best score for each week wins the car for that week.
The game also lets you send Twitter messages straight from the game and upload videos of your best races to YouTube so you’ll be able to show everyone the race that got you a brand new 2010 VW GTI.
In itself this would be a fundamentally revolutionary way to drive awareness of a new car, but this is the only marketing and advertising that Volkswagen is doing for the car. By concentrating on a young and tech savvy, car loving audience, Volkswagen estimate that they will only have to spend a quarter of a typical print and television campaign budget.
This is the Volkswagen promo video for the campaign:
This is a video uploaded to YouTube by a gamer his actual Volkswagen GTI race: