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The ’60s through ’80s was Volvo’s golden age of advertising


You desire a Countach with a trailer? used Volkswagen? And a souped-up Ferrari? Volvo’s obtained you lined

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Within the 1990 film Loopy Individuals, comic Dudley Moore performs an promoting man who comes up with a considerably unlucky slogan for promoting Swedish cars. “Volvos: They’re boxy, however they’re good,” says the banner. Then it doubles down with, “We all know they are not horny. This isn’t a wise time to be horny anyway, with so many new ailments round.”

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The joke is that advertisers cannot afford to inform the reality, and Moore’s concept to be bluntly sincere would not fly together with his colleagues. However here is the factor: relating to Volvo, forthright promoting is a part of the corporate’s heritage.

The true-life advert govt behind Volvo’s golden age of print promoting was a person named Ed McCabe. A high-school dropout, McCabe labored his approach up from the mailroom within the form of pull-up-your-own-bootstraps story that’d have made a stable character arc on Mad Males.

First, McCabe reduce his enamel making an attempt to promote the not possible: Skoda, Isetta, and Lloyd. You have in all probability by no means even heard of a Lloyd 600, however relaxation assured, they have been horrible. But additionally sort of cute.

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Nonetheless, when Volvo got here knocking, McCabe was now coping with a product that had substance. The trick was, how finest to outline that substance to the buyer? Step one was taking the battle to the enemy.

The conflict with Detroit

Volvos are much more advanced as of late, however in occasions previous their simplicity was a boon. Volvos have been sturdy, they did not change a lot yr to yr, and so they have been small and thrifty to run.

It that is beginning to sound a bit like what Volkswagen was like within the Nineteen Sixties, then it must be no shock that Volvo’s promoting took inspiration from VW’s. Volkswagen pioneered easy, humorous, and intelligent promoting, whereas its Detroit rivals most popular to point out glitz and glamor with fussy drawings.

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Volvo went as far as to level out {that a} good place to discover a used VW was at a Volvo dealership, claiming the identical simplicity because the German marque, however mentioning that the Swedish merchandise have been a step up. Additionally they took intention at Detroit’s tradition of deliberate obsolescence: “Beat the system, purchase a Volvo.”

And a souped-up Ferrari

However Volvo advertisements have been additionally enjoyable. When the P1800 coupe got here out, Volvo performed up what a cut price it was in comparison with the likes of a Ferrari or Maserati. The P1800’s humble four-cylinder underpinnings could not match the efficiency of the Italians, however simply mentioning them in the identical breath casts glory on the little Swede.

“What’s it prefer to personal a $10,000 automobile?” one advert queried. “Discover out for $3995.”

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Unchanging worth

One other tactic Volvo excelled at was mentioning how little its automobiles modified yr over yr. “In the event you’re all the time operating out of cash, perhaps it is since you’re all the time operating out of automobiles,” learn the copy.

Volvo’s advertisers touted the truth that the common Swedish-owned Volvo lasted eleven years enduring tough roads and harsh winters. It might be round so long as you needed it to be, dependable and never costing you cash. And handing down a used Volvo would grow to be a part of a household custom. “Previous Volvos by no means die,” one other well-known advert touted. “They simply cross on.”

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Stacks on stacks

One other favourite of Volvo advertisers was stacking the automobiles on high of one another. Volvo liked stacking, because it was such a visually efficient strategy to present the protection of the automobiles.

Whereas reliability and sturdiness constructed the model picture first, security quickly turned a key focus. Volvo was ceaselessly placing crashed automobiles in advertisements, typically ones wrecked in testing, typically ones the place a buyer had walked away and not using a scratch. The picture of a 700 sequence sedan plummeting off a bridge to its doom will not be a tactic you’d use to promote a BMW. But it surely underlined how the Volvo model equaled security first.

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Swedish pace

Lastly, the period of turbocharging supplied an opportunity for Volvo to spice issues up just a little. Everybody already new Volvos have been boxy, sane, and secure, however the firm’s turbocharged fashions have been additionally decently fast. How finest to get that message throughout?

The reply was to get fairly cheeky, exhibiting a Lamborghini Countach with a trailer; or parking a 740 wagon subsequent to a Porsche 944 with the road, “To a radar gun, they give the impression of being precisely the identical.”

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Immediately, these advertisements are fan favourites, particularly the later wagon ones. As a contemporary firm, Volvo has moved upscale, and you may’t fairly get away with the identical quips in promoting any extra. There isn’t any approach getting caught by a radar pace entice would ever be praised as of late.

However for a time, Volvos have been easy and its promoting was enjoyable. They have been boxy, however they have been additionally good.

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