How Audi Uses Viral Marketing

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by Rae Hoffman-Dolan on November 7, 2008 in Viral Marketing

Seeing as how we are currently in a serious economic recession, more and more major companies are relying on  what is known as “word of mouth” advertising to generate buzz for their products. These techniques are a cheap and effective way to gain consumer exposure and interest. Audi is just the latest big name to use these non-traditional marketing methods to increase their sales and draw in more potential customers.

The latest Audi word of mouth campaign has been met with mixed reactions. The IPhone has become the phone of choice for wealthy, tech savvy consumers, and Audi took advantage of this by launching a free IPhone game, the A4 Driving Challenge 2.0. Using the phone’s motion sensors, players use their phone to steer a mini A4 through a series of courses.

Reviews praise the game’s graphics, but say that the playability is difficult and the game is just not all that fun. But, even though not all reviews are glowing, it has still had an overall positive affect on the Audi brand. It has increased it’s exposure to an elite audience (it is estimated that 370,000 IPhone users downloaded an earlier version of the game). Also, Audi is the first car manufacturer to take advantage of the IPhone applications, creating credibility with technologically inclined consumers. While there are still glitches to be worked out, Audi is pioneering new ways of attracting customers that have remained previously untouched in the industry.

Meet the Beckers

Another viral campaign recently launched by Audi is Meet the Beckers, a web series about an affluent family of Audi owners.  The series, which currently has 2 released episode, is extremely tongue-in-cheek and boldly pokes fun at Audi’s competitors.The first episode shows the Beckers driving to the train station, poking fun at the stereotypical owners of BMW’s, Lexus’, and some other of Audi’s competition. The second episode is spent making fun of a guy for driving a purple Beemer. While it has yet to be seen how this viral campaign will affect Audi’s sales, it definitely has people talking – and, more importantly, laughing.

Audi’s Art of the Heist Campaign

The first of these campaigns was used to launch the A3 in 2005. The campaign began with a staged theft at a Manhattan Audi dealership. Audi pulled out all the stops to make the theft look realisitIc – breaking the windows to the dealership, taping the “scene” off with police tape, and stationing guards around the perimeter.  WildPostings were put up in major cities seeking information about the stolen vehicle.

Then, the campaign hit the web, using “Alternate Reality Gaming“, or ARG, as an advertising model. ARG combines actual reality with virtual reality to create a unique online gaming experience, almost like a movie that it’s users can participate in. Audi, using the staged theft as a jumping post, created an ARG called the “Art of the Heist“, encouraging users to help find the stolen Audi. The “Art of the Heist” had the actors playing the detectives in the ARG show up at events to generate further buzz for the ARG. Bloggers began posting sites for users to follow all the action, and eventually, traditional print and television ads were released to coincide with the viral campaign. This was brilliant for a number of reasons. The first was that the campaign utilized a array of advertising mediums – internet, television, print, etc. – to maximize exposure for their product. They also created an experience that engaged the customer – users became emotionally invested in the game, and consequently, emotionally invested in the product. And, probably the campaign’s biggest success, was that it didn’t feel like an advertisement. Users got sucked into an experience without realizing that it was a marketing scheme to get them to want to buy a product. And it proved successful for Audi. After the launch of “Art of the Heist”, online discussion of the A3 increased by 4 times. Users who clicked on campaign-related ads made up 34% of page views on the Audi homesite in areas the car manufacturer considers “buying indicator” pages, resulting in 79% more site visitors being considered “qualified buyers” compared to previous Audi launch campaigns.

Audi TT Goes For a Swim

Cover of Intersection Magazine

Many consider the next campaign launched by Audi to be a publicity stunt, but no one can deny the fact that it DEFINITELY got people talking. In late 2007, Audi paired up with Intersection magazine, a magazine that blends the world of cars and fashion, for a controversial photo shoot in England. They submerged an Audi TT in a pool, and shot the car for a cover shoot and spread in the magazine.

Once they were done with the shoot, the car was trashed. Bloggers and car enthusiasts alike started a heated discussion about how the shoot was the waste of a beautiful car. This brought Audi back into the public eye, and refreshed in the consumer’s eyes what a luxury line of cars they carried.

If you think about it, there is no form of marketing that makes more sense than word of mouth. If someone I know told me “hey, i tried this great cup of coffee, you should go grab a cup”, I am much more likely to go to the coffee shop than if I see a commercial for that same cup of coffee on television. Audi realized the same thing, and began utilizing marketing strategies that engaged the consumer and generated buzz around their products, resulting in increase exposure and positive results. If Audi’s comptetitors want to keep up, they’d better start following Audi’s example and thinking outside of the box.

About the Author

Rae Hoffman-Dolan

Rae Hoffman-Dolan aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate and Internet marketing veteran and an (extremely) occasional Houston SEO consultant. In addition to being the SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation, she is also the Co-Owner and CCO of Viral Conversations. You can connect with Rae via Twitter and Facebook or meet her in person at the Affiliate Summit East 2011 SEO Training (seating is limited). Read more posts from .


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