A lesson from Volvo

I’m no psychic…

But I bet I can guess your answer to this question:

What car brand do you associate most with the word ‘safety’?

Volvo, right?

Almost everyone makes that connection.

Thanks in no small part to how hard their advertising works to associate safety with the brand.

Case in point:

Their 2020 ad for the XC90 in the US.

Aimed at parents of small children, it closes with the line:

“The car that looks after you like you look after others.”

But here’s something you may find surprising:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is the organisation that crash-tests new cars in the US.

It publishes ratings and lists of the safest cars on the American market.

At the beginning of 2020 it awarded 23 vehicles its highest safety rating, The Top Safety Pick+.

Not one of them was a Volvo.*

Was that a problem for the Swedish brand?

It doesn’t look that way.

Sales of Volvos in the US bucked the market trend in 2020 and increased by 2%.

And the company sold twice as many cars there as they did back home in Sweden.

Something obviously worked.

But what?

I suspect part of the reason at least, is that American motorists are answering the question posed at the beginning of this post in the same way you did.

When they think of safety, they think of Volvo.

They’ll be other reasons of course.

But Volvo still stands out as a great example of simple, focused positioning.

For me, that’s the most powerful kind of positioning there is.

The brand may not always top the list of safest car manufacturers.

But when it comes to safety, it often does come top of mind.

*By the end of 2020, the list of cars awarded The Top Safety Pick+ had increased from 23 to 42. Volvo ranked joint 3rd with Audi, behind Subaru and Mazda, the overall winner. Close. But still no cigar.

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