Volkswagen protests could be a force for good

 
Stephan Shakespeare
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Last Tuesday as I walked down Old Street I was surprised to see a line of Stormtroopers patrolling the streets. This was, of course, the Greenpeace guerrilla ad campaign entitled “Volkswagen, The Dark Side”, protesting against the car maker’s opposition to EU environmental laws.

The street action was accompanied by a YouTube clip that got two million views before YouTube removed the video under pressure from LucasFilm, the creators of Star Wars.

Using BrandIndex daily data we are able to immediately assess the effectiveness of such campaigns and the likely impact on the Volkswagen brand. We saw a few months ago that the UK Uncut protests were not impacting consumers’ perceptions of brands they targeted, so could Greenpeace be any more effective?

The stunt had a small but immediate effect on Attention (the number of people who hear anything good or bad about a brand) – this score rose from 12 on Monday to 19 on Wednesday, meaning an extra seven per cent of people were hearing about VW thanks to Greenpeace.

So it was relatively effective in making noise, but has it put people off Volkswagen? The initial evidence is that people weren’t seeing the campaign and thinking negative thoughts about VW; indeed, those additional seven per cent generally said they had seen something positive and the Buzz score rose from +10 to +17 between Monday and Wednesday (though it has since fallen back to +12).

It remains to be seen whether there is a longer term erosion of brand values, but in the short-run VW might feel that this is an example of any publicity being good publicity. Stephan Shakespeare is the chief exec of YouGov