Corporate Stories: The Beetle and the American

by Stratton Craig

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Every business has its own story. Over the next six weeks, we'll be looking at some of the inspirational, lucky and humorous stories of the world's best known brands. First up: Volkswagen.

Before 1959, Volkswagen had had a chequered history, tainted by associations with Hitler, and not exactly loved by consumers outside Germany.

In 1950s America, car ads were all about horsepower, glory, the American Dream. How would a small, ugly (or cute) German car named after an insect, penetrate the market?

A small New York agency called Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) had the answer: a series of simple, witty press ads that completely undermined conventional automotive advertising and how consumers thought about cars.

Headlines such as 'Live Below Your Means' and 'Think Small' introduced the car buying public to a new way of looking at vehicles. DDB's strategy was not to sell the brand to an uninterested audience, but to create a loyal following of brand ambassadors who would disseminate messages of economy, reliability and sound engineering which were implied (never stated) in the ads.

The Beetle campaign spawned a whole series of iconic ads, all bearing the humorous, self-mocking tone of voice, and helped VW become the most popular foreign car brand in the US through the 1960s.

At Stratton Craig, we're professional storytellers. We can help you tell your story, and win new affection for your brand among your target market.

To find out more about what we can do for you, please call us on 0117 937 1383, email [email protected] or visit

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