Who would ever have thought that teaming Jean Claude Van Damme, Enya and a couple of trucks could lead to one of the year’s most popular pieces of branded entertainment? Well Volvo hoped it would have that effect when they engaged the martial arts legend to do what he does best in a stunt to showcase its Trucks.
The result is ‘The Epic Spilt’. An online film which sees Van Damme standing between two moving trucks (Volvo’s of course) with a foot on each side mirror. As the trucks reverse slowly they begin to shift apart enabling Van Damme to perform one of his ‘world famous spilts’, accompanied by the haunting soundtrack of Enya’s ‘Only time’.
It’s the latest in a string of stunts created by the brand to showcase the stability, strength and precision of Volvo Dynamic Steering.
The series has been rolling out online in recent months along with behind the scenes films all shot in documentary style and posted on a dedicated YouTube channel.
The series includes ‘The Ballerina Stunt’, ‘The Hamster Stunt’, ‘The Chase’, 'The Engineer' and ‘The Hook’, which notably included a stunt performed by the president of Volvo Trucks.
All of the films demonstrate the precision and stability of Volvo Trucks and each comes complete with at least one behind the scenes film, which looks at how the stunts were created and features the drivers talking about how good the trucks are.
The stunts have been impressive and have done a great job of showcasing the vehicles and highlighting the strengths. It’s fair to say that ‘The Epic Spilt’ takes the series to a whole new level.
"Compared with the previous Volvo Trucks' films, which have a documentary style, we wanted to make something more poetic," says Andreas Nilsson, the director behind 'The Epic Split'. "The film is very clean and simple - there isn't a lot of information and we just let the stunt illustrate what the trucks can do. It's like a slow-moving, carefully choreographed modern dance."
Van Damme said he signed on because he thought it would be “amazing”, “It's very majestic and very powerful."
'The Epic Spilt' has received 35 million YouTube views and counting in just seven days suggests that Volvo have hit the big time with this film.
Not that the series has been underperforming in anyway with the other films also attracting big audiences: 'The Ballerina' and 'The Hamster' attracted 7.8 million and 5.1 million views respectively, while the more recent The Chase attracted 1.8 million and The Hook received 2.5 million views.
Those are impressive numbers for what are essentially films about trucks and therefore they aren’t exactly attracting a mainstream audience… or are they?
Clearly these films are aimed at truck enthusiasts, truck drivers, truck companies etc, however the appeal goes much further thanks to the accessibility and universal appeal of the films, the stunts are suspenseful, dangerous and just plain bonkers - all of which translates to big online audiences.
Volvo has done an excellent job of making these films appealing and accessible to an audience beyond truckers and for this they must be commended. These are really cool films and you don't need to give two hoots about trucks to enjoy them. Obviously Volvo would prefer that you do care about trucks or more importantly that you care about Volvo Trucks after watching these films. While that might be a big ask for audiences, theres no denying you will know about Volvo Trucks, as they are the brand that does those awesome stunts on the internet: awareness and recall, tick, tick.
Volvo have not only made trucks cool, they have made Volvo cool, and given the brand a sense of humour, irreverancy and a supremely cool vibe - how many truck brands have you seen perform cool stunts?
In fact, how many presidents of cool truck brand’s do you know who perform the stunts themselves? The first of this series that I saw was 'The Hook' and I was suitably impressed by the cool, calm, collected attitude of Volvo Trucks' President Claes Nilsson as he delivered his lines to camera while standing on a truck dangling over the sea in freezing cold temperatures.
It says a lot about a company when you see the guy in charge performing the stunts himself. It sends a very clear message to the world. Volvo mean business. The trucks are tough, so are the people who work there. They believe in the vehicles and so can you.
Am I surprised that its Volvo doing this? Well, no. Readers of Branded Arts Review will know how much I loved the work Volvo did earlier this year creating a music video with a host of Swedish talent, including the recently defunct Swedish House Mafia. (Read all about it here )
The branded entertainment project laid bare an intense desire to shake of the brand’s association with elderly and boring to instead embrace an edgy, young attitude. A task I believe they achieved with Leave The World Behind.
In many ways this global doctrine is yet to translate to other markets – the localized advertising and marketing has yet to truly embrace the spirit.
However it would have been easy for Volvo Trucks to steer (see what I did there) clear of this doctrine, the trucks portfolio is completely separate to the cars and therefore you imagine it might have been possible to continue to do its own thing.
Instead Volvo Trucks have embraced the message of edgy, attitude and turned its cool factor up to eleven.
Kicking off with 'The Ballerina Stunt' revealed an intent to go big and not shy away from difficult and testing stunts. It has paid off and Volvo trucks has a series of brilliant films.
The strategy is basic product demonstration, to showcase the precision of the vehicles. The choice to go extreme with a collection of frankly crazy stunts is a smart way to ensure it attracts eyeballs.
It’s also a savvy way to broaden the audience. Trucks performing stunts were always going to appeal to the target market, but Volvo clearly wanted to go bigger and find new audiences.
The films vary in style but the degree of intensity does not waiver from film to film, all of them are spellbinding pieces of branded entertainment.
Volvo is a brand on a mission and I am happy to come along for the ride. I salute the way they have embrace of branded entertainment and the bravery to keep pushing the boundaries to create this edgy, cool brand. With this series of stunts they have made the brand relevant and bolstered awareness of the precision steering while also boosting awareness of the brand in mainstream audiences.
This is a staggering achievement in branded entertainment and I personally love it. Well done Volvo.