My first experience with the power of suggestion came from a boss when I sold stereo equipment in Atlanta. Larry Sarner had been a sales superstar for “Crazy Eddy’s” in NYC before starting “Stereo Village” (yeah, we used to call them “stereo’s” back then). As people left the store, Larry would call out to them “Bye Now” as they headed out the door, some would leave, but I was amazed at how many would get out to their car, turn around, and come back in and say “I’d like to buy that now.” As if he had implanted the idea to “buy now” with some sort of super sale ray gun. It worked, and it’s part of the reason this new campaign for VW works.
If you are searching for the secrets of great advertising, take notes from this campaign for Volkswagen by Crispin Porter+ Bogusky:

Just as politicians and magicians use distraction to move the conversation and attention away from their obvious short comings, Crispin uses the technique of “Cool by association” to make you think differently about Volkswagen- instead of being a poorly made German car with obvious shortcomings- it is now the only car you can plug a guitar into and become a rock star- that’s right, don’t buy the car because it’s a reliable form of transportation- buy it because you will be able to jump out of your car in a traffic jam and jam like Slash. What? You don’t play guitar? Don’t need a guitar? Who cares? Think of it as a $599 rebate- without costing VW a dime- or turning them into another price competing car company- just throw in a guitar that no self respecting pro would play- with some special VW touches on the knobs and the fret inlays- and then stamp them with a matching VIN code- and you’ve differentiated your brand and made it one step cooler than the run of the mill iPod integration that everyone else is so “hip” with.

Guess what- any car with an iPod in jack could be a “rock car” with the pre-amp included First Act guitar that VW is partnered with- but only their über agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky made the leap. To explain it to the people in Detroit- it’s not about playing guitar anymore than it’s about a “Hemi”- it’s about people thinking- “He drives a VW- therefore he could be a rockstar- like Slash in the tv spot.”

Cars are a product that are sold on many levels. The rationale for buying varies for every buyer- but it comes down to how the driver sees themselves once they own the car. At one time VW stood for practical, fuel efficient, reliable and un-pretentious (remember, Beetle body styling didn’t change much from year to year for 35 year). Now, VW is trying to find a new position, one that distracts consumers from the poor quality and low resale values, and cool is a good place to hang out until the other problems can be resolved.

What’s even more impressive is that Crispin is probably getting the guitars for next to nothing in exchange for giving First Act a chance to get high dollar media exposure on VW’s ad budget. While Crispin probably doesn’t make more money by suggesting this, they create a win-win for VW, First Act and the guitar stars that appear in the campaign. This is the thinking that sets them apart from most agencies.
First Act - About First Act - In The News - 10/1/2006

In a groundbreaking new collaboration, First Act has teamed up with Volkswagen of America, Inc. to present the First Act GarageMaster guitar, an innovative guitar that plays through the audio system of select VW models. As of October 3, each new Jetta, GLI, GTI, Rabbit, New Beetle, and New Beetle Convertible will come with the custom-designed First Act GarageMaster guitar.

Owners of new VW models can transform their cars into mobile amps, with a newfound freedom to rock in the driveway, play at outdoor parties, or shred in the beach parking lot. New rockers will hit the road with a First Act GarageMaster guitar in the trunk, ready to stop and dispense riffs wherever the mood strikes.

While other car companies keep talking about the cars- CP+B keep the conversation focused on the buyers. And even if I don’t play, it really doesn’t matter- because my new Vdub rocks. Yeah, that’s what I want people thinking, even if it has nothing to do with music.