It’s not often you see advertisements for big rig, commercial trucks. After all, the market for those massive vehicles is pretty much limited to small business owners and large corporate executives, who are more likely to make their capital investments based on the physical capabilities of the vehicles rather than a clever marketing campaign.
But over the past year and change, Volvo Trucks has managed to do something rather impressive in a space where most of their competitors simply aren’t found. In its series of “Live Test” stunts from the Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, Volvo has not only highlighted the performance advantages of its trucks for its niche audience, but permeated the mainstream with a steady stream of viral YouTube videos.
This week, Volvo Trucks nearly broke the internet with actor Jean-Claude Van Damme’s epic split across two moving trucks. The video has been viewed more than 44 million times on YouTube, making it the second most viewed automobile campaign of all time, according to tracking firm Visible Measures. The ad also increased Volvo’s brand consumption by more than 300%, according to the measuring firm Kontera.
While it might look to the outsider like overnight magic, in truth, the megahit has been in the making since the summer of 2012.
That’s when Volvo unveiled its first live test, which was arguably even more incredible the Van Damme’s triumph. In it, tightrope walker Faith Dickey was challenged to walk across a rope tied between two speeding trucks before trucks went their separate ways through a two-lane tunnel. The stunt was made to demonstrate the Volvo FH’s steering abilities. But that’s not why the video has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube since being posted in August 2012.
After a year off, Volvo picked up the campaign again this fall, making waves by included president of its trucks standing on a truck suspended from a crane above the Swedish port of Gothenburg. The stunt showed off the strength of Volvo’s towing hooks, by which Volvo Trucks president Claes Nilsson was attached to the crane.
On the same day, Volvo posted a video showing off how high its trucks sit by driving over one of its technicians buried up to his neck in sand.
Later in September, Volvo had a hamster (!!!) drive a truck around a winding canyon by chasing a carrot across its precision steering wheel.
And the following month, a Volvo truck maneuvered around a winding Spanish road while being chased by bulls.
After five crazy stunts and a combined 18.6 million YouTube views, Volvo finally hit the internet jackpot last week with Van Damme’s incredible split. At more than 40 million views, it’s likely you’ve already seen it. But if you haven’t by all means, take a look:
While the Van Damme live test has certainly increased Volvo’s brand awareness and made it look like a cool brand willing to take risks, it remains to be seen whether Volvo Trucks will see a spike in sales. Though only so many people are in the market for commercial trucks, producing a video and putting it on YouTube is an extremely inexpensive way of reaching a large audience, and commercial trucks can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If Volvo was able to sell just 10 more trucks from the Live Test series, the videos will likely justify the time and money Volvo spent making them. And at $291.7 billion in global sales last year, Volvo Trucks make up about two-thirds of Volvo Group’s annual revenues (the Volvo brand of passenger cars is actually owned by the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group).
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