The Volkswagen Group is one of the world’s largest car makers. Specifically, the group is ranked third in the entire world in the automotive industry.
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The group has several branches across the world and their marketing communication strategies in these regions are influenced by a unique consumer behaviour culture of each market region.
Besides, the group has proactively rolled successful marketing strategies that classify the targeted market segments and creation of relevant advertisement messages that directly and positively improve their sales.
Several marketing communication tools and different media have been employed by the group across its branches which operate independently of the mother company.
The treatise will attempt to explicitly review different marketing communication policies that the Group has adopted in China and the United Kingdom branches through consumer behaviour and marketing communication theoretical perspectives for the Volkswagen Polo product.
The paper concludes by offering recommendations to make the current marketing communication strategies for the Volkswagen Polo product more effective.
International Marketing Strategies of Volkswagen Polo Product in China
Volkswagen China Group
Market Segmentation strategy
In the product market, life style defines the activities clients are involved in, beliefs, opinion, health aspects, and interests. As defined in the ‘Activities, Interest, and Opinion marketing model’, life style directly dictates purchasing behaviour and preference (Anbu & Mavuso 2012).
Chinese population consists of many middle income families who have continued to be more conscious of costs and sustainability of automobiles they purchase (Fields 2010).
Specifically, the cosmopolitan Shanghai city has a comfortable percentage of high market clients who have fully embraced Volkswagen Polo brand because of its affordability as compared to other automobile models. Besides, they tend to associate with sophistication and have money to spend.
The middle and high social classes of clients are the key target this product. These groups are heavy spenders in automobile, especially those that promise unique aspects and have unique features such as those incorporated in the Chinese Volkswagen models (Ashtiani et al. 2011).
As the issue of the need for safety and green living penetrate automobile industry, Chinese clients have increasingly grown shy from environmental unfriendly automobile to friendly automobiles that are efficient.
The target group has a peculiar buying motive for the Volkswagen Polo product since the company incorporated the aspects of green living in this automobile model that rhyme with the conservative culture of the Chinese (Fornell 2002).
Besides, a good percentage of sales in China are generated by referrals from satisfied customers who acted as marketing agents for the company on the aspects of affordability, efficiency, and reliability of the Volkswagen models.
The introduction of more efficient technologies has enabled construction of lighter, less expensive, and more powerful Volkswagen Polo brands such as the unique Golf brand for the Chinese market.
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As a result, there has been a global rise in the hobby of driving the Gold model and the application of a model such as sport utility for the young consumers’ bracket (Farris, Neil, & Pfeifer 2010).
The target market for the new Golf brand in China is individual users, government agencies, and military units. However, it is worth noting that each of the target users mentioned is unique and has different marketing and pricing strategies that can be adjusted in accordance to prevailing market conditions in China.
Selling the Volkswagen brands in China is no longer using the indirect method distribution channel; however, caution has been taken to ensure that middlemen are minimized.
Minimizing the middlemen is essential in ensuring profit maximization and that consumers are not overcharged since every middleman charges an extra profit or commission for the goods they sell (Hardester 2010).
Advertisements are very manipulative and use tactics that directly and involuntarily appeal to the mind of the target person. Despite ignorance of the same and disbelief of their effects, advertisements remain complex and significant in the choice of products owned by an individual.
Usually, advertisements appeal to memory or emotional response. As a result, it creates an intrinsic motivation response that triggers the mind to activate affiliation, self-acceptance, and feign community feeling.
In the end, advertisements succeed in appealing to emotions through capitalization on biases and prejudices of people (Freshwater, Sherwood, & Drury 2006). Therefore, the response to an advertisement will emaciate from the bandwagon technique which heaps pressure on the mind to follow the perceive crowd.
Reflectively, the successes of Volkswagen promotion messages are deeply entrenched in the principle of keeping reliable and professional reputation in exchanging ideas and convincing customers.
Therefore, through timely appeal to emotions and self-prejudice, the Volkswagen China Group has realized that the human mind is often skewed towards embracing the ‘perceived goodness’ and need to identify with ‘the ideal’ in the packaging of the Golf model as the third generation green automobile in their television advertisements (Hill & Westbrook 2010).
Interestingly, these aspects are clearly painted as perfect in the various advertisements about products and services through the use of bright and powerful communication themes such as the brands outshining a tiger in a real time race.
These pop up memories will actively reminisce and provoke an involuntary response when noticed in an advertisement. For instance, the Volkswagen China has largely succeeded in implementing this aspect of ‘jumping the queue’ ahead of other competitors through visible and inducing signs all over the Chinese region.
Upon noticing the signs, the mind will perceive them to belong to the Volkswagen Company, irrespective of the physical geography at the moment.
These advertisements erected signs endeavours to cue the visual mental aspect of a person into a particular brand of the different brands of the automobile company (Hill & Ettenson 2005).
Interestingly, this strategy has proven relevant in the case of Volkswagen China Company, which has remained dominant due to perception people associate the advertisement signs with.
Appropriateness of the advertisement messages in China
The advertisement messages are very effective in terms of attention since they are decorated with simple to understand scenes besides the warm red colours common in the Chinese culture.
The strategically placed background red colour in Volkswagen China advertisement messages is an eye catcher associated with pomp, speed, and sophistication (Keller 1998).
In addition, the targeted viewer would immediately develop curiosity to understand the symbolic importance of the Golf model outshining the powerful tiger in a real time race.
As a result, it creates an intrinsic motivation response that triggers the mind to activate affiliation, self-acceptance, and feign community feeling towards the Volkswagen brands.
In the end, these advertisements succeed in appealing to emotions through capitalization on biases and the middle and high income clients in China.
The use of glittering generalities on a product or service aims at influencing the involuntary urge in the mind, to identify with attractiveness or glittery of the product as painted in colourful advertisement. Often, an average mind would easily be influenced by the brightness and attractive presentation.
In the process of decoding this message, mind is actually tuned towards accepting the product as perfect and very attractive (Holt & Quelch 2009). Coupled with proven performance, a customer would purchase such as product based on the influence of the glittery on the mind.
Through the envisioning creation of simultaneous but independently functioning needs to identify with attractiveness, many Chinese customers have been swayed into buying the Volkswagen China’s appeal when purchasing automobiles.
For instance, the Golf and Polo have created authoritative assertion that directly appeals to positive emotions among the target audience of the pitched idea (Bowden 2009).
Reflectively, Volkswagen China Group has capitalized on endorsements through testimonials from outstanding figures to promote sales. Factually, in subtle difference makes image stereotyping a perfect situation in the minds of target persons.
Therefore, when the image of the user as projected in such an advertisement resembles the perceived satisfaction of a customer, such a party would aspire to access the same benefits from use as indicated in the image shown.
In the advertisement, the company has internalised the need for uniqueness in display, space and prominence to easily woe the mind into concentrating on the Volkswagen brands in China (Mangram 2012).
Through advertisement, the Volkswagen China Group has ensured that its probability of salience is doubled, especially on automobile brands that are perceived as important in daily life, such as the Golf model renowned for its unique design, smaller size but very spacious and ideal for daily activities due to its navigational ease.
Promotion has developed to become a significantly influential part of the marketing mix. This has played a significant role in defining the relationship that exists among organizations and their customers. Marketing communications are made up of the specific messages and the media used to communicate them.
The increasing levels of competition among the increasing numbers of products in the markets have forced individuals and organizations to adopt strategies to make them more visible in the market through creating awareness.
The type of media used has varying effects on the way the communication is perceived by the public. The efficacy of the type of media used depends on a variety of factors which should all be analysed in order to ensure that the most applicable choices are made (Hawkins, Mothersbaugh, & Best 2010).
The company has successfully used social media (television advertisement, online advertisement) and print media such as their monthly magazine and billboards on the various Volkswagen Polo brands.
Marketing communication tools and media in Volkswagen China Group
Media has emerged as an important tool for organizations and individuals due to its ability to bridge the gap between producers and consumers in the business metrics.
This is especially true for the written media, which has widely been used by the Volkswagen China to draw attention of the consumer on new or already existing automobile brands that the Group offers in the complex trading arena.
The effects of written media on marketing communication has led to suitability of marketing approaches at times, while at others, the approaches have been praised for their authoritativeness towards informing the public (Karamitsios 2013).
For instance, the Volkswagen China Group’s quarterly magazine about its brands has remained a very effective tool for marketing communication on current modifications, developments and what is new about Volkswagen brands.
Written in Chinese, the magazine has captured the imagination of the conservative Chinese consumers who have actually subscribed to receive every new copy.
Besides, the television advertisements have been christened as the real pride of Chinese roads and have actually swayed thousands of customers to purchase the Volkswagen brands.
For instance, in 2014, the group realized a sales margin of more than 2 million units following the successful re-branding of the promotional marketing of the brands in online media, television, written media, and social media.
Significance of communication activities for the Polo product
According to behavioural psychologists such as Kotler, Adam, Denise, and Armstrong (2009), behaviours and attitudes can be changed through conditioning.
Repetition of an act, for instance, through constant advertisement leads to behavioural changes that may be beneficial or detrimental to a company (Kotler et al. 2009). This indicates how the media can, and has been used to reinforce consumer behaviours.
Communication activities, therefore, are taken to represent the official position of the organization on a product or service by the consumers.
Communicative activities in the two companies have led to doubled sales in the last decade since the products are branded and presented in persuasive ways that easily skew the minds of potential buyers (Menon 2006).
Specifically, through communication strategies, Volkswagen China has expanded its market share and penetrated the competitive automobile industries in the region and beyond.
The different contents of marketing communication, but dealing with similar issues, have an accumulated impact on the individual’s perception about a subject. This means that the more an issue is covered in terms of being published in a marketing medium, the more importance is allocated to the issue (Roth 2008).
Since the public has no frame of reference to base and compare these communications with, the promotion message is taken at a face value. This means that the consumers base their opinions on the products on the messages from the producers.
If an automotive company, for example, came up with a vehicle that did not use the conventional sources of energy, but drew energy from the atmosphere, the information the automotive company would use to advertise their product would be what would be considered as the guideline to form opinions on the new kind of automotive (Motavalli 2013).
The same aspect has promoted growth in the Volkswagen China for its Polo brand since its communication activities have led to the general acceptance of the model in the market.
Challenges of practicing IMC
Although marketing communications have been praised for their long life spans and their ability to be stored for future reference, their use can be detrimental to the organization. This is because of the fact that they can be constant reminders to the public of the failures of a company.
If an organization uses print or social media to extensively promote a service or product, and that service or product turns out to be substandard or defective, the public would have some restraint in engaging in a business relationship with such a company (Jin, Suh, & Donavan 2008).
For instance, the recall of more than 6,000 Polo models within China in the year 2013 due to a defect in the accelerator has affected the credibility of the company. In fact, the company recorded a drop of 13.5% in sales the year 2014 following this incident.
With the evidence of the company’s failure lying around in the form of print or social media, consumers would take a long time in coming to trust such an organization again.
This means that while written communication acts to add confidence to the buyers about a product or service at times, it can also lead to loss of public confidence with a company or product once inconsistencies are identified by the consumers, especially when the business lacks a well-built structure and policies as in the case of large corporations (Saxena 2012).
Recommendations to overcome the IMC challenges
Essentially, the success of a marketing plan depends on proper alignment of a functional team who is responsible for the creation of flexible but quantifiable measurement tracking tools for reviewing results periodically.
Reflectively, this product team should have the essential knowledge in social media and tools used in marketing. Besides quality in service delivery and customer satisfaction depends on the support team.
Therefore, customer retention is achievable through the creation of reliable, informed, and passionate support team. In addition, the plan should include a monitoring matrix that maps out potential competitors and identify online weaknesses and strength of the clients (Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon 2004).
The Volkswagen China Group will eventually need to embrace more traditional media marketing in order to keep growing, especially when targeting clients for the Polo brand.
In order to effectively reach such audience, the marketing communication plan will suggest the best advertisement strategies to cover its wide market area (Simon 2007). The company will definitely have to branch out beyond its target market due to the brand dynamics and the need to expand market base.
The company will have to decentralize its marketing strategies to meet the specific demands or consumer behaviour if it decides to implement internalisation strategies that will be proposed (Bowden 2009).
These aspects influence the need to carry out a comprehensive marketing communication plan the Volkswagen China Group for the Polo brand.
There is need to design an appropriate communication plan consisting of a simple but well thought message and a complete channel. The communication channel is complete when the decoder and encoder can decipher the communication codes in the form of images and letters that appeal to the client.
Any integrated marketing plan should have a functional model that will cue the mind of a customer towards a product or service.
The functional model comprises of elements such as awareness, interest, desire, and action to ensure that the Polo model’s marketing strategies match the interests and desires of the target market within China. This is referred to as the AIDA Model (Yelkur 2011).
The element of awareness is related to brand knowledge or visibility among other alternatives. The element of interest comes after awareness. Interest is developed out of a need for a product or service. This interest may activate the desire to purchase the product to meet the need because of preference.
In the end, a customer may take the action of purchasing. Therefore, a stratified marketing communication plan should integrate the above elements to easily convince the customer to purchase the Volkswagen Polo product.
This may be achieved through designing a relevant advertisement, critical public relations exercise, and continuous sales promotion.
Besides, it is important to integrate personal selling through referrals and direct marketing, especially for the older customers who depend on product performance history in purchasing an automobile.
Since the world has become a village, the marketing plan for the Volkswagen Polo may adopt an appropriate medium that appeals to the target audience. In the ideal, there should be a mixture of the traditional marketing channels and the modern marketing channels such as online marketing and social media.
It is important to plan for the integrated marketing communication and create success measurement parameters. The parameter is meant to check goal achievement.
In addition, the whole plan should be managed within a predetermined budget range, which is derived through the rule-of-thumb and objective-and-task (Bowden 2009).
To increase credibility and maintain professionalism, the current bomb internet channels used by the Volkswagen China Group, for reaching the youthful consumers, should be tailored to encompass processes and features that flawlessly facilitate a healthy and a lifetime relationship between the airline and its clients.
These will be achieved through the following ways;
Website search engine optimisation (SEO)
The Volkswagen China Group should optimise its search engine to improve on its online brand visibility among the youthful clients in China who are interested in the Polo brand.
Search engine optimisation can be achieved through installing ‘plug-ins that possesses extra features such as page navigation and thumbnail within the company’s website.
Specifically, this proposed system in Google will consist of a multi tab page that will serve different offers and specifications of different brands of the Polo model to online youthful customers.
Thus, recruiting independent ‘bloggers’ to ‘blog’ about the Volkswagen China Group’s Polo brand will give the company a competitive advantage in marketing its products to youthful clients across China.
This promotional strategy has been successfully applied by the Volkswagen UK Group, which has a strong global SEO for its Polo brands.
Besides, optimising the link referral has the potential of making the company’s advertisement website to go viral among the youths within six months because the unique cookie will spread to the phones of primary and secondary users (Bowden 2009).
The SEO may also be tailored to include a unique cookie which is transferable to the visitors of the Volkswagen China Group website. The unique cookie for the website will be transferred to all primary and secondary visitors to this site hence broadening the spread information on this website.
Optimising the SEO has the potential of creating a long term loyalty among young clients. For instance, Volkswagen UK Group’s SEO strategy has successfully increased the percentage of young customers who buy the Polo model by 20% in the last three years.
The potential of the referral link approach is that it will improve the visibility of the company’s products among the targeted clients.
For instance, the Volkswagen China Group’s website should carry out a link reference promotion where the website visitor with the highest number of referral links is rewarded with a free Polo car (Hawkins, Mothersbaugh, & Best 2010).
Social media (Facebook and Twitter)
Through timely appeal to emotions and self-prejudice, a marketing manager is in a position to realize that the mind is often skewed towards embracing the ‘perceived goodness’ and need to identify with ‘the ideal’ in the packaging of a product or service.
Social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, has gained popularity among the potential young customers of the Polo brand in China, who use these sites as interaction models to share flight culture and exchange ideas.
The Tweeter and Facebook fan pages are ideal tools for branding and community following building for the Volkswagen Polo product, especially among the targeted clients.
For instance, the Volkswagen UK Group has grown to its current position due to its successful fan page marketing. This will allow the clients to interact and let users to add content to align to different orientations of the company’s brand (Bowden 2009).
It will help the company to reach the targeted young customers by skipping or bypassing the traditional gatekeepers, such as written magazine publishers, and placing them online so that customers can get to know about the Volkswagen Polo brands directly.
Properly modified fan pages will reassure the young customers of the aspects of affordability and quality of the Volkswagen Polo product within China.
Through massive recruitment of young fans on the Twitter and Facebook pages, the Volkswagen China Group will not only benefit from an increased traffic of online compliments, but also record high rates of customer loyalty as most youthful customers are influenced by reactions from those they perceive as sharing the same youth culture.
This strategy is meant to position the company as a market leader in terms of customer satisfaction tracking and response among the targeted clients for the Polo model (Hawkins, Mothersbaugh, & Best 2010).
Marketing communication strategies are important in aligning a company towards the target market in order to achieve optimal sales. The main determinants of a successful marketing communication plan lie in the proper brand alignment and research on segmentation.
Volkswagen Group in China has successful IMC since their strategies are skewed towards customer Centricity for the dynamic Volkswagen Polo product.
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