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Improve Your Brand Positioning Like Volkswagen

By 15. January 2020 January 24th, 2020 No Comments
Improve Your Brand Positioning

In this article, you’ll learn how Volkswagen was able to successfully improve brand positioning while continuing to sell products. We will discuss a blueprint of using associations to understand and then adjust your brand position through the right marketing content.

In this ~9-minute video, Michal Szaniecki from Volkswagen gives more details about how the brand positioning project developed from start to finish.

Let’s start at the beginning. Recently, Volkswagen partnered with us to do something very difficult, to improve brand positioning using Big Data, artificial intelligence, and our neuro-semantic analysis. And yes, it worked.

The Volkswagen Challenge 

Volkswagen wanted to improve its brand position because of the whole Dieselgate scandal. How? By re-establishing what they stand for, by revitalizing their brand values. 

Improve your brand

The brand values that Volkswagen wanted to capture in their brand narrative were:

  • Innovative
  • Valuable
  • Responsible
  • Trustworthy
  • Equitable
  • Reliable 

In order to reposition its brand, Volkswagen needed to be strategic with their marketing content. In the past, their brand story was often connected to discipline, reliability, and trustworthiness. But with Dieselgate, that had changed. Thus, they wanted to construct a new story to improve their core values and re-establish a positive perception in the consumers’ eyes. 

The Solution: Using big data insights to improve brand positioning

Volkswagen was looking for a new method to approach this challenge. Traditional methods, such as focus groups and online panels were considered too slow to quickly iterate ideas. Thus, they began using our FLASHinsight AI

By using our artificial intelligence platform, four brand characters were identified as being fitting and most closely aligned with Volkswagen’s brand values. Such characters, e.g. a doctor, were ideally associated in the consumer’s mind to communicate the desired brand values of responsibility and trustworthiness. The top characters were: teacher, doctor, robot, and dog. 

Ultimately, we decided to focus on responsibility and trust as its two main values. Leading to “doctor” and “teacher” as fitting characters to be considered for marketing content creation.

Brand Characters Calculated using AI

By combining “doctor” and “teacher in the FLASHinsight AI, “pupil” and “first aidemerged as fitting ideas. As you can see in the image below, the concept of “first aid” is very strongly associated with the desired brand values.

The marketing campaign that ultimately developed was to teach first aid to young children and their families. Obviously, this campaign also fits nicely into Volkswagen’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).  

Brand positioning analysis

In the image above, our Software is used to assess how “First Aid lines up with Volkswagen’s desired brand values. 

So a shortcut for getting ideas validated and for finding suitable content for your own brand positioning is using the FLASH AI software. In fact, our expertise and data science advances we have gathered since 2016 is now available for you to use. Try our FLASH AI software for free here to see it for yourself.

The Blueprint for Improving Your Brand Positioning

The Big Data analysis of associations has given us ingredients for achieving our goals (Doctor, Teach, Pupil, First Aid). But how can you do this yourself by using your own head?

1. Brainstorm & Sort

For your own brand, think of characters, situations, and things to do that may carry your brand values. Write them on Post-It notes and put them on a big wall.

Now, draw out your brand values as circles on a Venn Diagram. Then put your idea Post-Its in their appropriate position. The best ideas will have a strong overlap with many of your brand values!

Now, brainstorm again with the Post-Its that are close to/in the middle and are therefore well-positioned with many desired brand values.

Repeat this process until you have a handful of very strong concepts, i.e. ca. 5 ideas that are able to communicate your brand values.

2. Get Creative & Execute

Take the ideas from Step 1 and combine them together in meaningful ways. Ask yourself, how can I express the idea in a situation, what would the story be, what is the motivation of the characters? This step usually takes the longest time, so get creative and don’t throw away crazy ideas. You’d be surprised how often the crazy ideas end up working the best.

With Volkswagen, the creative Agency (DDB Tribal) was of great value at this step. Together with the CMO and the Volkswagen Team, they created pictures, wrote stories and helped put the overall inspiration into an execution that consumers can immediately understand.

You can do the same, probably a bit more cost-effective, by doing it yourself or using creative heads sourced from websites like, or

3. Test!

With a couple of solutions produced, it’s time to put them all to the test. Throw the final executions on your landing page and conduct A/B tests, social media or conduct online research. The goal is to understand how consumers from your target audience are reacting to the execution. Here are some ideas for:

  • A/B tests: Google Optimize is a free and powerful tool.
  • Online panels: You can use Mechanical Turk and Google Forms, or go with a premium solution like Quantilope.
  • Volkswagen: The testing was done using separate studies in respective Target groups by Millward Brown.

Business Impact

As a result of using FLASH insights to inform the creation of campaigns, the following significant improvements were found: 

  • Brand consideration increased by 45% 
  • Social engagement was 417% higher than the “car release” announcement posts
  • Volkswagen even won multiple awards, including four Effies

Improve brand positioning

Conclusion: Associations improve brand positioning and results

From this case study, the following lessons have been learned for improving brand positioning:

  • Understanding consumer associations are the key to success.
  • You can produce relevant associations, ideas and concepts using big data solutions like the FLASHnsight AI or by doing your own brainstorming and brand value evaluations

This power is not exclusive for Brands like Volkswagen. In fact, you may not have the 5-figure budget for hiring a brand consultant. But you can either use the blueprint method above, or you use our FLASH AI software right now. Sign up here for your free trial.

Agency Testimonial:

See what Marta Szufranowicz, Senior Strategic Planner and co-author of Volkswagen positioning, has to say about her experience using FLASH AI:



Jonathan T. Mall

Author Jonathan T. Mall

Jonathan is a cognitive Neuropsychologist turned entrepreneur, obsessed with understanding what and why people think. He founded NEURO FLASH to help communicators find the best words, phrases, and images to connect with their target audience most effectively.

More posts by Jonathan T. Mall

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