Life after viral success: Can Volvo Trucks trump Epic Split?

Volvo Trucks is once again revving up its marketing strategy. This time the team which created the iconic ‘Epic Split’ launched a TV series titled ‘Reality Road’.

The TV series was launched on Volvo Trucks' YouTube channel on 11 June to demonstrate the strength of Volvo Trucks' service offering and just after two weeks of its launch, the content for the new campaign had been viewed more than two million times in no fewer than 50 countries. With the reality show, the brand wanted to try its hand in content marketing and wear the hat of a publisher. The series, which has eight episodes in total, stars artist Mapei as she rides in a truck through Europe, recording a music video to accompany her new track ‘Million Ways to Live'. She is helped in her journey by director and close friend Liza Minou Morberg and of course ‘Epic Split' driver Jens Karlsson.

While no doubt the campaign is engaging in its own right, Marketing sat down with Per Nilsson, director of public relations at Volvo Trucks to ask if the new reality series could match up to the success of the legendary "Epic Split" video where superstar Jean-Claude Van Damm rode into the sunset with a soothing Enya track playing in the background?

If you need a refresher, watch:

“I think it’s impossible to beat The Epic Split,” says Nilsson. While there was indeed a properly outlined method to the madness, the team on the project did not actually expect the campaign and the video to generate as much attention as it did, explains Nilsson. Even a year after the “Live Test Series” concluded, the campaign still dominates news in the ad world as it just recently took home a Grand Prix in Cannes. The campaign was rewarded for its long-term effectiveness as the six Live Test YouTube videos, which the Epic Split was a part of have had more than 100 million views on YouTube and have been shared more than 8 million times.

“It almost became a popular culture piece,” says Nilsson.

“ Obviously we created a lot of interest in our brand and now have a big fan base. And so when we launched our new reality TV campaign, that audience base was something we could leverage on,” he adds.

Walking Marketing through the process, Nilsson explains that before actually launching the Live Test Series initiatives last year, the brand saw two key challenges.

The first was that the brand had a somewhat scattered target audience and the second was that it had a small marketing budget. Without going into details of the actual spend of the campaign, Per explains that this triggered the marketing team in Volvo Trucks, which includes six members of the PR team, and Volvo Trucks’ main creative agency Forsman Bodenfors to sit down together to actively outline a strategy on how to use PR to gain earned media exposure.

“We didn’t have the money to buy a media space, so we had to create content and work closely to create publicity on earned media,” Nilsson says. He adds that the team also wanted to not only reach truck buyers, but to also the people surrounding the truck buyers influencing the purchasing decision, such as peers, friends, colleagues, and family.

While a small marketing spend might weigh many marketers down in terms of creativity, to Nilsson and his team, the challenge was exactly needed for the brand to constantly think out of the box and keep his team energised and passionate - which is a core part of Nilsson's job.

“I think the more energy we have, the better job we do. The PR team in Volvo Trucks is a strong aspect of the marketing team and takes the role of a planning team. Work is mostly done internally and the perk of this system is that we are close to the business and close to the discussions,” Nilsson says.

“We don’t have the budget to buy a media space for our global campaigns, so we work with our own media channels and social media. We need to outsmart our competition and so we need to stand out. And this works better for us than traditional media,” says Nilsson.

This is a philosophy the brand takes with all its campaigns. Even with the new campaign ‘Reality Road' series, the brand once again wanted to create a viral effect and do so organically rather than invest on hefty global media buys. Adding that creating this reality TV format is quite possibly a first for any brand globally, Nilsson explained that breaking boundaries is not an option for the brand. It is a must.

Nilsson is also a firm believer that with today’s changing media landscape, a big budget and expensive media buys are not integral in creating an impact. A smarter way of working would be to move away from buying exposure on large media spaces and resonate with audiences which aren’t traditionally a part of a brands core target group. What it really takes to be successful in the communications landscape today, is courage and the freedom to take risks, says Nilsson.

“I think the most important quality or the way of working in this new media landscape to garner attention is by being daring and trying to do innovative things. And have the courage - I think that’s key to our success. You can’t be successful in new media landscape if you don’t push the boundaries and simply play safe. You really need to take the risks.”

Nonetheless, keeping to a brand's heritage is also vital. Nilsson adds that today many marketing and communications teams send too many messages out there that do not necessarily execute what the brand stands for creatively.

"At Volvo Trucks we are  extremely mindful of is that all its communication must be filled with passion for quality, functionality and innovation. We share a genuine interest in the humanistic side of technology and progress, which also reflects in our communication,” he adds.