Judging by their latest ad campaign, it’s safe to say that Volvo is not very big on the idea of simplicity. First, there’s news of the Volvo Ocean Race, then we hear of something called the Volvo X-Sea Challenge, then of course there’s the Volvo Ocean Race Edition cars. And now, we’re supposed to learn more about all of it on their website, which, by the way, requires 3-D glasses to view. Geez… It’s enough to make a fella want to buy a Volkswagen.
Let’s try to untangle this mess of intertwined knots Volvo has handed us. The Volvo Ocean Race is a grueling race that covers nearly the entire world and four different oceans. That’s for the experts. The Volvo X-Sea Challenge is a fun, four-day competition featuring ocean side events like jet-skiing, sailing, lobster fishing, and kayaking. That’s for you, as long as you test-drive a Volvo, apply, are accepted, pack your bags, and fly to one of four destinations: Capetown, Melbourne, Baltimore/Annapolis, or Gothenburg. The point that Volvo’s confusing campaign tries to make is that while their activities range from the life harrowing to the sun bathing, the Ocean Racers and X-Sea Challengers have one thing in common: they can both cruise the coast in specially-packaged Volvo Ocean Race Edition cars. No, they can’t drive on top of water or submerge beneath the ocean like Speed Racer’s Mach 5, but they look pretty cool and you can probably fit a small kayak in the back.
Alright, we kind of get all of that, but what’s this about 3-D glasses? In an attempt to make their website more extreme, more action-packed, and more in-your-face (literally), Volvo sent out thousands of old-fashioned blue and red 3-D glasses to interested customers around the world and directed them to a site with an unusually long URL: http://www.volvocars.com/_campaigns/XSeaChallenge. Go there, pick your language, wait unusually long load times, and…
Voila. If you can manage to jump over all of these hurdles, the website itself is where Volvo’s campaign really does shine. The juxtaposition of the expert Ocean Race and the novice X-Sea Challenge finally makes sense when you see them in side-by-side videos. The breathtaking coastal photographs are exquisite through the 3-D lenses, but they retain their aesthetic beauty even if you don’t have them. Learn more about the events, the places they’re held, the cars, and how to apply—all with a very simple navigation system.
It’s as if Volvo purposefully confused its customers with a barrage of perplexing language in the hopes that they would be driven to the one place where it all makes sense. A riddle waiting to be unlocked. As far as I know, this is a completely ineffective marketing technique. If the customer doesn’t immediately understand, they generally don’t care. To add a silly gimmick like 3-D glasses at the last minute in order to generate internet hype only goes to show how poorly the campaign was planned and executed in the first place.