This month's Super Bowl broadcast was notable for showcasing six commercials for electric cars, or almost a tenth of the ads shown during the big game. Volvo took a different tack to promote its electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles with a counterprogramming strategy on Twitter.
The carmaker posted a tweet to its @VolvoCarUSA handle with a call-to-action video that asks app users to hit the "like" button to learn more about EVs. Tapping on the button generated a notification featuring a short video that explains how EVs operate and the biggest benefits of owning one, per information emailed to Marketing Dive.
Twitter users can see all 26 videos — one for each letter of the alphabet — by continuing to tap on the "like" button until they've cycled through them. The videos show young kids describing EVs in a way that's meant to easy to understand for people who are unfamiliar with the technology.
"The big idea behind this campaign and why we moved forward with this is electric vehicles are here to stay," Allison Lane, brand marketing manager for Volvo Car USA, said in a phone interview. "With the unfamiliarity when it comes to EVs, we really wanted to use this platform and this idea to come in with a new way of making sure that not only people who are purchasing Volvos, but everyone has that education around electrification."
Since launching the campaign on Feb. 7, Volvo had racked up 20 million impressions and more than 7,000 minutes of viewing time for the videos after just two weeks, according to early data the company provided to Marketing Dive.
The campaign comes as sales of EVs in the U.S. are growing rapidly, having doubled last year to about 657,000 including pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, according to analytics site EV-Volumes. That number makes up only 4.4% of total passenger vehicles, putting the U.S. behind other countries including Germany, China and the U.K. in EV market penetration.
Guiding online conversations
With its "EVasABC" effort on Twitter, Volvo is eyeing social media as a platform to participate in conversations about EVs. That includes discussions triggered by the significant number of EV commercials that appeared during the Super Bowl for brands including BMW, Chevrolet, Kia, Polestar and Toyota.
"Because Twitter is a real-time platform where a conversation is happening, we wanted the opportunity to get in front of people while they're actively talking about electrification and help guide the conversation," Jonathan Zipper, head of social for Volvo Car USA, said in a phone interview. "The opportunity to educate the audience in a very fun and unique way about electrification and some of the barriers that consumers might be facing in the marketplace was just really exciting."
"For us, the thought was that we wanted to 'intercept' people in the second-screen experience where conversation would be happening around EVs and electrification more directly to really break down those barriers for the consumer."
Head of social, Volvo Car USA
The videos cover everything from the features of Volvo's EVs to the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. For example, the letter "O" in one Twitter video stands for "one-pedal driving," or the ability to speed up or slow down almost entirely with the accelerator pedal, while the letter "Z" in another video stands for "zero emissions."
As part of its EV promotion on Twitter, Volvo embedded Easter eggs in the randomized notifications with information about how video viewers could enter a sweepstakes. The contest asks entrants to nominate a teacher who promotes sustainability for a chance to win a trip to Volvo's headquarters in Sweden. There, the winning teacher and a group of students will learn more about the company's electrification efforts.
"We wanted to make sure that we were continuing the education when driving users to the contest," Lane said, adding that the trip will include a visit to the Volvo Museum and other activities to learn about the future direction of the automotive industry.
Addressing buyer resistance
Amid its broader commitment to becoming a fully electric car company by the end of this decade, Volvo's series of videos on social media also touch upon some of the key concerns that prospective buyers of EVs may have. Those possible objections include worries about the availability of charging stations and how far a car can go without running out of battery power.
"A lot of the questions that we are having our younger generation answer right now is anything around range anxiety that people have, and how far you're actually able to travel on electric," Lane said, adding that a couple of the Twitter videos have information about the charging infrastructure. "A lot of the questions are just around different barriers we're seeing and a lot of the surveys and questionnaires that we're getting when it comes to why people are hesitant about buying EVs."
Volvo's Twitter-centric video campaign follows past efforts that played on the automaker's reputation for making safe cars, such as offering people a chance to win a car if a Super Bowl team scored a safety. This year's campaign recognized the popularity of "second-screening" on mobile devices during live events and cultural moments that draw millions of viewers.
"For us, the thought was that we wanted to 'intercept' people in the second-screen experience where conversation would be happening around EVs and electrification more directly to really break down those barriers for the consumer," Zipper said. "Ultimately with this campaign, the goal was primarily to help educate consumers in that fun way and in an interactive way."