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Zlatan Goes Volvo To Create Viral Super Ad

volvo logo 300x285If you’re a Swede like I am, then you probably have an opinion on the new ad by Volvo, featuring famous Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The ad features Zlatan in a classic Swedish landscape with a voice-over by Zlatan quoting the national anthem.

Whether you like the ad or not, Volvo sure got through with the message #madebysweden to the target audience through the massive engagement online.

But from an online marketing perspective, what can we learn from this ad?

Is This A Great Commercial?

The online discussion has mostly been about whether this is a great ad or not. But great ads are ads that sell product and Volvo will soon know.

But everyone seems to agree that the production value is off the charts — at least for a Swedish commercial. Remember, we’re a small market.

And if the initial target was to get people talking and sharing, it’s safe to say that Volvo accomplished that mission.

Some online experts have said that this is content marketing, but I’d say that that is a stretch. It doesn’t contain much of a storyline and it’s not editorial in any way.

All in all, some where expecting more, others were blown away. And in the end — sales will tell.

Building Blocks Of A Viral Ad

I often say that “viral is not a strategy”. But the Volvo ad is one of those rare exceptions:

They have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And it’s basically his first major commercial. That alone merits an online conversation.

They have the Volvo brand. We shouldn’t forget that Volvo is interesting in itself and they’ve consciously built their brand recognition for decades.

They have a premier ad agency. The agency behind the ad is the same agency who in 2013 made the smash hit The Epic Split with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

They have a strong theme. Nationalism is a strong theme in Sweden right now, especially this election year with scary forces lurking in the  shadows.

They have Max Martin. Don’t know who Max Martin is? Check out this quick-paced video below and you’ll get a sense of what type of advantage this is.

In essence, Volvo isn’t leaving anything to chance. With this kind of setup, it would be almost more difficult not to create a widely shared and discussed ad.

So if you want to create a viral message, and you want to take chance out of the equation, THIS is the level of commitment you’re looking at.

3 Learnings From Volvo’s Zlatan Campaign

Build hype. Releasing a series of well-produced trailers. Floating quotes from Zlatan. Building a story based upon how inspired Zlatan was by the earlier Volvo-collaboration with Swedish House Mafia. And surfacing articles about Max Martin.

Target emotions. It’s not a secret: We share when we get an emotional reaction. Very few corporate messages are highly emotional. It’s easy to step over this fine line and become melodramatic, but relevance and authenticity will get you far.

Piggyback. Even smaller brands with smaller budgets can piggyback on the fame of influencers. You might not get Zlatan onboard, but there’s plenty of room for creativity here.

… even if also Enya and Jean-Claude Van Damme is out of your league:

What do YOU think of the Zlatan video? Is it worthy of all the buzz? Have your say in the comments!
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25 comments… add one

  • I agree with most of your thoughts about the ad campaign, but I can’t stop asking myself how believable Zlatan is to vouch for a “dull family car”.

    • I hear you. Another common question is whether Volvo is to be regarded as a Swedish brand. I think on this one, time will tell.
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted The 8 Most Popular Doktor Spinn Posts Of 2013

    • “Dull family car” might be most peoples perception of Volvo. But I think it’s pretty obvious that Volvo within the last couple of years (since the release of the XC60) have been working very actively to get away from that image. This ad is well in line with what you could expect and I think it appeals to a wide range of people in the market. The people, me including, value the “dullness” of Volvo but see the brand as a security to enable us to live the active eventful life that Volvo shows us. So we are dull but buy into the wilderness that we can live outside our Volvos.
      Fredrik Davidsson recently posted Tjernobyl 2012

      • I’m actually getting more and more okay about driving a Volvo. My preference has always been German cars, but … who knows, maybe?

        Then again, I’m 34 now pushing on 35. Maybe I’m precisely their target audience? I could afford a car from Volvo, I’m urban but grew up far away from any city lights. I’m not a big soccer fan, but I do watch games sometimes — if Zlatan plays for Sweden! ;)
        Jerry Silfwer recently posted 25 Reasons I Love Marie Forleo’s Blog

  • Bertil Myhr

    From an artistic point of view, this is certainly not a great commercial. And it does not need to be. I agree with you on the part about nationalism, and the Zlatan brand of Swedish nationalism comes across as somewhat more intelligent than the usual flag-waving stuff. So I can live with that (while international audiences won’t have much of a clue; this is clearly a local Volvo affair). The value of the commercial comes from its viral and PR strengths, which do not rest on creative genius but star quality, together with a virtually unlimited budget. Is there any way Volvo could fail here? Yes, if this is only a one-shot and not part of a plan to restore the brand to its former status as an object of national pride and glory.

    • As always, I love your analysis, B. One could see this Zlatan stunt as a “Phase II” after Swedish House Mafia. If they could do big collaborations like this continuously (like H&M), that would be very interesting.

      To your point, the concept #madebysweden isn’t something a brand can claim through just one campaign — they really do need to own up to it over time.

      Love you comments by the way, keep ‘em coming. You always ad depth with your POVs — kudos!
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted How I Optimise My Mac For Getting Work Done

  • Well, interesting thoughts that has come with the comments and as far as I have heard from Volvo they are getting buzz and people into the dealerships…

    But this is a possibility for Volvo to get more international attention, being a car brand is not a simple thing… Kia is going for luxury in the superbowl film, Hyundai for laughs, BMW and Mercedes are out of Volvos league yet… they are pretty much in a vacuum with their premium strategy that has not really fallen that well into the consumers minds yet…

    Zlatans is a well known person and a personality… maybe Volvo just wishes that some of it just might stick with them too…

    • Hey Hans. Yeah, the biggest surprise I thought was that he was reciting the national anthem, making the commercial quite difficult to understand and appreciate for international Zlatan and Volvo fans. I’m guessing they made some type of international versions, too? Besides from that, I’m hoping that “the Swedish thing” works well abroad.
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted The 8 Most Popular Doktor Spinn Posts Of 2013

  • Jerry,

    As a member of the Zlatan tribe this works for me, and I definitely think Volvo is doing a great job of swaying their brand image. I am really excited to see what’s next. They have definitely set the bar high for themselves.

    I am also impressed by the way they ramped up interest for the ad, and I would agree that this is not content marketing.
    Elia Mörling recently posted The Tribal Marketing playbook (+5 infographics)

    • Lots of people have made the point that this is Zlatan selling out, but I honestly don’t think so. My theory is that he saw the Swedish House Mafia ad and thought it was super cool. Which it was. And maybe he’s been contemplating stepping outside of the sportswear ad game for some time. If nothing else to elevate his own status. I mean, being the face for a car brand is pretty cool.
      So I agree, hat tip to Zlatan, the King of Sweden! :)
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted How To Write A Blogger Outreach Email

  • Great post! And I can’t wait to see a study of the long-term and short-term effects of this ad. ATM I think I’m even more impressed of the hype Volvo manage to create than the actual ad.
    Patrik Lundberg recently posted En kampanj jag önskar att jag har gjort #2

  • Well put that Volvo didn´t want chance to play a role in the virility of this add ;). Myself love what Vovlo have done with their commercials but I probably never gonna by their car…ever. Pushing 39 I have to many memories of Volvo being a dull car and I still see it behind their new make up.

    But this ad puzzles me in many ways – one for instance is that I believe, if Zlatan now is the hunter he claims to be, and especially with his winner head he would never put down that rifle without firing it. Also the stereotypic portrait of a swedish man that in a way does fit Zlatan even though he for sure is very macho.

    • Ha, that brings me back. I had a Volvo once. A 740 with a matte black paint job. People told me it looked like a drug dealer’s car. At the time I also lived in kicker territory, the rough part of town. The car stereo was worth more than the actual car, but no-one ever broke in and stole it.

      Yeah, the not shooting the deer stuff was pretty melodramatic. Imagine if he in fact had pulled the trigger! It would really have changed the whole thing.

      Zlatan — Deer Hunter.
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted 3 Steps To Fix A Broken Facebook Page (With A Little Help From Your Wallet)

  • How come we haven’t seen the international version? Or is it just me?

  • Antar att ni sett den här (Dylan i st f Zlatan):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlSn8Isv-3M

    • Läskig, tycker jag. Jag brukar inte vara särskilt PK av mig (raka motsatsen faktiskt), men jag tycker undertonerna i den där är läskig. Får mig att fundera över hur andra länder ser på Zlatan som kutar omkring med gevär i skogen …

      Bra fynd, Mats – tack!
      Jerry Silfwer recently posted How To Write A Blogger Outreach Email

  • Är det så att Dylan-filmen är nationalistisk, medan Zlatan-filmen bara är patriotisk? Som Coke-filmen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8uSVUiniWQ

  • Hello there guys,

    I am doing a research on this commercial where I need to investigate different opinions and comments about it. Because is seems that the commercial have created controversy and raised questions such as ”Is this smart marketing, since volvo is no longer Swedish? What was the angle then? How can this add be connected to Swedish anthem when Volvo is Chinese? etc. What do you guys think?
    p.s. If you know some other sources of discussions or comments concerning these theme, please share the link. (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube..)

    Tnx ;)

    • Oh, that might be a challenging task. Most of the buzz I’ve seen has been on Facebook, on people’s personal profiles. And pulling that type of data fro Facebook tends to be a bit difficult. I’ve also seen lots of discussions on the topic in closed groups on Facebook — same dilemma there.

  • Great writing Jerry and interesting comments. My 5 cents to this discusson – it’s very hard for a brand to shift nationality, a company can be bought but the brand, or more correct perhaps the image of the brand, is not owned by the company even if it’s an asset in the balance sheet. So why this remark? Brand and nationality, of course Volvo is a Swedish brand, still, the nationality of those who ownes the company is not relevant in our global economy . Volvo is not Chinise, as little as it was an American brand when owned by Ford. Is Chrysler Italian? Opel American or MINI German? And to high lite this fact that Volvo is “Made by Sweden” is the best way to differ the brand, I think. Last point – Even Robert DiNero lowered his rifle in The Deer Hunter, Zlatan is in good company.
    Cheers!

  • Heya we are for the principal time in this article. I found this kind of panel i believe it is definitely helpful & them forced me to be out there lots. I am hoping to supply a thing yet again along with enable some others such as you made it easier for my family.

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