Car fanatics were eager to hear that the German automaker officially changed its American name to « Voltswagen ”… or at least that’s what a lot of people thought when the company disclosed a press release and posted a tweet claiming that he changed his name to Voltswagen of America. The tweet read:
Before long, the tweet was on its way to half a million views and VW’s new all-electric vehicle started to follow the trend.
Between press articles, social media buzz and Twitter memes, Volkswagen has garnered serious attention online around its new electric vehicles. NBC News, USA Today, AP News, and other news agencies began to run stories indicating that Volkswagen had indeed changed its name to Voltswagen of America.
This oddly entertaining news even got some members of the Freshwater team talking, but we had our doubts. 1) because it was so close to April Fool’s Day and 2) because VW hadn’t changed its name anywhere on its website.
Even with popular and reliable news agencies confirming the name change, the question remained: Volkswagen really change its name to Voltswagen?
A few days later, on Wednesday March 31, the company posted this tweet:
The truth was finally revealed, Volkswagen did not change his name to Voltswagen. Indeed, it was a classic April Fool’s joke that had leaked early. Almost like when IHOP, the classic pancake restaurant chain, launched its “IHOb” campaign to promote a new line of burgers.
Would we say it was an april fools effort « gone bad » as many news outlets have called it? Maybe for the reporters who wrote articles confirming the name change, but from a marketing and PR standpoint, it was smart enough. As someone who has a working relationship with journalists, it’s worth noting that this may have sparked some controversy over whether or not this was a deceptive marketing gesture.
A social media marketing ploy?
So what was the reasoning behind all of this? News organizations had been punk and their credibility in question. From a social media marketing perspective, this was a pretty smart way to generate buzz around a new product. Car fanatics were talking about their all-electric vehicles, and we think that’s what VW wanted.
When we searched for the keyword « Volkswagen id4 » in google trends, the peak of popularity was the week of September 20. It was at this point that the all-electric vehicle was initially revealed. We are still awaiting the results for the week of March 28. Considering that VW announced its name change in a press release on March 29, we can expect searches related to Volkswagen electric cars to increase significantly from the previous week.
We can laugh at the fact that the company played a prank on the public by making them believe that their American name was becoming. Voltswagen, but the real value of this stunt was getting people to talk about the new line of electric vehicles and increasing their website traffic. Today, keywords and trends are more important than ever in the world of social media. It’s important for small businesses to understand that social media is the fastest tool to get your audience to communicate about your service or product.
From a digital marketing perspective, we think VW’s stunt was light and smart. One question to consider is whether it was ethical or not. Deceiving journalists tends to be frowned upon, and can seriously damage your organization’s level of trust and credibility. Businesses need to be careful not to damage their reputation by doing a stunt like this.
That said, there’s no denying that VW conveniently performed this pre-April Fools Day stunt at the perfect time to keep online users engaged with the Volkswagen brand. This whole ordeal led a few of our team to the VW Concept Electric Vehicle website. We can only assume that others have done the same. In addition, we found out that the famous VW bus was coming back. This time all electric, and we think it’s really cool.