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Why it pays to put the customer first

When we first launched Working with You in 2013, we wanted a campaign that was genuine, compelling, and offered something fresh to our audiences – both current customers and new.
It needed to reflect our unique offering, as the only manufacturer to support our customers with a nationwide network of dedicated van specialists, and do it justice.

We started by putting our customers at the heart of it, calling on a large number of them to share with us their stories to help craft our strategy. It’s an approach we’ve seen taken before by powerhouse brands outside of the motoring sector, notably by the likes of John Lewis and Apple, as a means of showing their customers just how much they mean to them, but it had never been done before in the commercial vehicle industry.

A bold move, perhaps. Though in our thinking who better to help shape and share our brand messages than the people who run fleets of our vehicles day in, day out?

We spoke with them at length to get to the core of what is truly important to today’s business owners and fleet drivers. It was from these conversations that we learnt the ‘added extras’ were key, and for a brand that is driven by cementing tangible partnerships with its customers, this proved to be a valuable insight to us.

At Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles we see ourselves as an extension of our customers’ businesses. We truly pride ourselves on ensuring the relationship doesn’t end the moment the keys have been handed over. In fact, it’s at this moment we believe our customers gain a new business partner – the ‘added extra’ we’re committed to provide.

It’s a brand value that remains true today across every part of our business, and it has been a foundation of the Working with You strategy throughout. At each stage our customers, their success, and the relationships we’ve formed with them, have been the main themes.

And as it progressed, what originated as a campaign concept quickly developed to be one of the driving values at the heart of our business strategy.

As well as a fundamental tool to bring our campaign to life, the insights we collated were used to give them a platform to speak from. Forming the first stage of the campaign, and the first approach of its kind, we put our real life customers in the spotlight across OOH, print, radio, point-of-sale, and direct marketing channels.

This was followed by a second wave of activity last year, structured around two media partnerships, with Channel 4 and The Times newspaper, including a unique business mentoring opportunity with YO! Sushi founder, Simon Woodroffe OBE. This initiative had a tremendous response and, as a result, we were able to support SMEs and growing businesses across the country.

Fast forward to today, to Working with You’s third year, and our customers remain very much at the helm of our strategy. Earlier this year (February), we went live with the third stage of the campaign, breaking television ads and social media activity, taking a new approach to reach out to today’s business heroes.

The emotionally rich ad, aptly named ‘The Boss’, was especially designed to celebrate the UK’s passionate business owners, as well as to showcase our commitment to supporting them, by asking the question: who looks after the person who looks after everything else?
We captured this by portraying a day in the working life of ‘Bill’, a character who cares deeply for every detail of his business.

Bill is the first person through the office door in the morning, always ensures his team is being looked after, is committed to his customers, and is the last one to leave when the day is done. Audiences see his dedication paralleled, and the ‘who looks after the person who looks after everything else’ question is answered, by a member of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle team.

Though each phase differs in style, Working with You has been built firmly around three main components; putting the customer first, responding to their wants and needs, and our dedication to our brand promise. As well as working with our customers to help tell our story, we’ve also turned our unique qualities and services in to our strengths – the ones that will benefit our drivers the most, both now and in the future.

When it comes to communicating a brand, service or product, I urge business owners to recognise the qualities that make them stand out the most, put them at the forefront of their communication strategy, and to always remember that a good word from a customer is the most valuable promotion tool of them all.

Of course, always take note of how your competitors are telling their own stories, though don’t be afraid of being the first to take a new approach to tell your own.