Taking a Digital Road Trip—the Passat One Tank Challenge

Summer means road trips, but for two local Volkswagen dealerships, their latest road trip wasn’t just for pleasure. Its goal was to create and spike customer interest and engagement in the new diesel offering from Volkswagen, the 2012 Passat. They also hoped the trip would serve as an opportunity to shoot extensive video footage which could be optimized and propagated throughout the digital world to drive search returns and conquest for their respective dealerships.


This new project for Auburn Volkswagen (Washington) and Herzog Meier (Portland) was a follow up to the highly successful “Portland to Portland Green Test Drive” from three years ago. At that time, two teams drove a Toyota Prius and Jetta TDI over 7,000 miles from Maine to Oregon while blogging, tweeting, and creating videos. That journey resulted in a host of media interviews, as well as a slew of videos that have generated over 100,000 views on YouTube and other share sites.


This time out the team decided to take it up a notch with two Passat TDIs “challenging” each other to make it from the starting point near Seattle, Washington, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge on one tank of fuel. This would require that the new vehicles to drive about ten miles farther than the factory stated maximum vehicle range. Along the way, the two teams compared and contrasted the new Passat to all the currently available hybrid, EV, and “green” vehicles out there.


The marketing plan contained both traditional elements like press releases and cars wrapped in graphics, as well as a variety of digital elements including social and digital media including extensive video of the vehicles as well as interviews with the drivers who were the owners of the two dealerships.


Dealer principle Matt Welch shared his view “We truly believe the launch of the new Passat is a game changer for Volkswagen. We wanted to do something dramatically different to grab an enduring piece of digital real estate. To this day, when you type the words Jetta and Prius together on Google, the videos we produced from our last drive still show up at the top of the first page search results. We anticipate securing an even great presence with this next set of videos”.


Portland dealer Chris Meier of Herzog Meier VW added, “We were pleasantly surprised to secure news coverage on two major Seattle and one Portland broadcast station, in addition to coverage in a variety of online media. The social media component to date has resulted in over two hundred new facebook fans in just over a week and we expect that number to grow as videos, photos, and additional information on the drive is added to those sites. But the real payoff of this project will be the release of the videos, which are specifically designed to aid search rank as well as conquest all the other EV and hybrid brands on the market today.”


Oh, and in case you’re wondering, both Passats made it to the Golden Gate bridge with fuel to spare. We logged an average of 835 miles on each vehicle with an average MPG of nearly 53 MPG (well over VW stated mileage claim of 43MPG). You can follow the progress of the journey at www.facebook.com/passatchallange where the videos will also be posted.


Ed Steenman is owner of Steenman Associates that provides traditional and digital media services to automotive dealerships and dealer groups nationally. Ed is available to speak to 20 groups or other related events and can be reached at ed@steenmanassociates.com or his website www.steenmanassociates.com.





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