Volvo Penta Making Waves With Content

How do you grab a new audience in an established market?

Do the opposite of what most marketers do.

Content agency OTW wanted a fresh concept to attract people into the world of boating on behalf of their client Volvo Penta, supplier of marine propulsion technology for leisure and commercial vessels.

Many campaigns in the sector address the “marine leisure” market with visuals like these, according to a sizzle reel OTW provided in its Content Marketing Awards submission:

In the first image, a young woman walks onto the deck carrying a tray with a drink. She wears a white, short-sleeved blouse, and you can see a sunny day in the distance.

In the second image, two men in blazers and two women in sleeveless dresses hold champagne flutes on an expensive-looking power boat.

In the Volvo Penta content, you don’t see servers, anything resembling the dressed-up and drinking version of leisure or the sun.

You do, however, see surfers. Wet-suited, boat-driving women surfers tackle waves in the Lofoten archipelago in the northern reaches of Norway.

Those creative decisions propelled the video Finding Hidden Waves in the Arctic and its supporting campaign to land as a finalist for Project of the Year in the 2023 Content Marketing Awards and as the winner for Best Topic-Specific Video as Part of a Content Marketing Program.

Here’s a look at what makes the work award-worthy.

The desired audience (not the product) gets a star turn

Volvo Penta charged the OTW agency with reaching a younger audience to expand the market for its products. It wanted the concept to support the brand’s desired positioning as an “enabler of adventures and unique experiences at sea.”

The agency put the product aside in favor of what would inspire a new generation to get out on the ocean. Instead of featuring Volvo Penta’s engines, the campaign revolved around three young women catching waves where few surfers dare to go.

What do they need to get there? A reliable boat. The Volva Penta product powers the adventure for the adventurers, as seen in this video and the article on the brand’s website.

Content flips a tired script

“Never before had a young group of female surfers promoted marine technology,” the agency wrote in its award application, “and it created rings on the water throughout the industry.”

The content package included several hero films, short technology-driven clips, still images, and articles published across Volvo Penta’s owned digital platforms and social media.

The story-driven film clips with breathtaking backdrops and compelling leads played well on social media. You can see healthy engagement with this series of Instagram posts.

The first two of the nine focus on the story of the women heading out to search for hidden waves. The following posts talk about innovative technology – like Assisted Docking – and the importance of reliable gear, and how this adds up to create a unique experience on the water. But they frame that Instagram content in terms of what those features let you do – seek adventure, take control, uncover hidden gems, and (most importantly) get home safely.

The campaign got results

Volvo Penta and OTW invested in an extensive distribution plan to make sure people would see the video and supporting content.

Paid and organic approaches ensured the messages reached existing followers and the new target audience of younger adventurers. The agency reports spending the equivalent of about $4,500 on a campaign that returned more than 6.5 million impressions and more than 725,000 ThruPlays – watching to completion or at least 15 seconds.

More than a million people watched at least 25% of the content, according to OTW. The trailer for the campaign reached an audience that was 43% women. For comparison, the agency says a benchmark figure for the traditional product-led campaigns in the segment is about 90% men.

You can teach an older industry new tricks

The disruptive campaign sparked conversations internally at Volvo Penta and on social media, the agency said, and Volvo Penta eventually saw similar storytelling initiatives from its competitors.

And that makes sense. As OTW project manager Karin Andersson says on the agency’s website:

“The film shows that you can combine spectacular views with strong storytelling without the product in focus – and still achieve a fantastic result.”

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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