From “Think Small” to “Drive Bigger,” Volkswagen embraces a new purpose

In the 1960s, Volkswagen came to America’s attention through ads like the “Think Small” campaign that dared to be different than other automakers. They emphasized the connection owners make with their vehicles. And they spoke to a cultural moment, resonating with drivers who were less conspicuous in their consumption.

Today, Volkswagen launches a new direction for itself in America with an advertising campaign that breaks with convention again. “Drive Bigger” isn’t just a slogan – it’s the definition of Volkswagen’s calling to work towards a larger purpose, including its pledge to goal of global carbon neutrality across  our fleet, production and administration by 2050.

“Drive Bigger” rekindles the spirit of this brand and highlights the special responsibility we have as one of the world’s largest automakers,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “Our goal is to become a benchmark of environmental responsibility in our industry, an automaker that inspires people; not just through our vehicles, but by how we go about our business. It’s time to make VW stand for something again.”

The first television ad of the new campaign, “Hello Light,” unveils the creative work from New York-based Johannes Leonardo, Volkswagen of America’s new lead brand agency. Volkswagen has been transforming since 2015, working to atone for its mistakes. Before Volkswagen could credibly lay out a new direction, it had to take a moment to properly address what led to it; “Hello Light” acknowledges Volkswagen’s recent troubles, but also symbolizes a rebirth and sets the stage for the brand’s future – represented by the upcoming ID. BUZZ electric microbus.

Within the next few days, the “Drive Bigger” campaign will begin. In form, tone and copy, it marks a return to the fun and engaging Volkswagen ads that first caught America’s attention in the 1950s and ’60s. The ads will run in print media, as well as on digital and social platforms.

Beyond the ads, Volkswagen will bring “Drive Bigger” to life across its business. The most substantial commitment comes in the embrace of electric vehicles and a goal to make the entire Volkswagen Group – in products,  production and administration – carbon-neutral by 2050. Globally, the Volkswagen Group expects to spend about $50 billion over the next four years developing EVs; the Volkswagen brand alone plans to invest $10 billion.

“Drive Bigger” will involve every touchpoint of the brand – whether that’s supporting dealers in their community events, or engaging new Volkswagen owners with ways to benefit causes they support.

“This campaign is for all of those we disappointed, all of those who stayed with us, those who worked like crazy to keep us moving forward and for all of those who stopped caring,” said Keogh.  “We have a responsibility to do better, to be greater and we intend to shoulder that responsibility.”