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VW: When the Event Becomes the Ad

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Any savvy advertiser knows one advertisement does not change a potential customer’s mind from undecided or even negative to positive. It’s a relentless multi-pronged attack at all levels from ads on the web and TV and in newspapers to billboards to websites and now, the ever ubiquitous “driver’s event” organized by the car company’s marketing department.

These events consist of a well-organized and highly targeted driving course with all the requisite marketing swag, such as a driver’s course, sample cars, the salesmen, refreshments and the swag gifts at the end. It’s all in an effort to wow you, and more importantly, to get you in to the manufacturer’s vehicle as an invited guest and get some fun time behind the wheel without some sales guy pressuring you to “act now because these deals won’t last!”

I was fortunate enough to stick my name on an email list for VW some time ago, can’t remember why, and I was invited along with 100 other people to come try out VW’s line up of cars on a road track with an instructor beside me telling me when to accelerate and when to brake, etc. They had Tiguans, Golfs - both TDI and gasoline engines - and of course they had the greatly lusted after GTI. The only downside was every car was an automatic, no matter how good the DSG or the 6-speed auto was. But it really gave you a feel for the car in a controlled yet fun situation.

Apart from the opening sales pitch at the start, where I knew more than the salesman about most of the features and engines, it was a low key event that was there for fun. Not too many marketing types either, and the only mildly annoying thing was one question at end where I was asked if I was more or less likely to buy a VW sometime down the road.

Thing is, this was so much fun and I was so impressed by the cars (high MSRP notwithstanding) and the organization and the low pressure atmosphere that I would consider buying a VW product. In fact, I even recommended one to my dad and to another friend shortly after the event. To be honest, I loved the Golf TDI, fully loaded and would buy one tomorrow, if I had an extra 30K lying around. Or if I had a little more in the kitty, a GTI with a manual.

Let me just say this - VW’s advertising barrage has finally broken me down. I am fan of their products, warts and all.

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