Volvo brand communicates through art and dance

Cars are increasingly commoditised products. This is the sad truth. As the car evolves to be less of an automobile and more of a tech gadget, as it becomes more practical, safe, logical, and ecological, it also inevitably becomes a blander, more homogenised product. The seductive narrative so imbedded in the automobile of the last century is now being replaced by others – by progress, care, creativity.

Aligning with the arts works well to indicate this less tangible branding, the overall thinking, and company direction. Brand communication, as we know well at Spinach Design where we specialise in creating unique brands for companies, is an increasingly complex arena. The consumer is wiser than they have been in the past, and can easily read through the obvious fluff so brands are having to be much more creative in how they narrate their message.

We witnessed such an act recently in Zurich at the latest Volvo Art Session which sees the Swedish brand align with a work of contemporary, mostly provocative art. There is little commercial gain here other than the artist benefits from the funding, and Volvo from the avant-garde association. Yet it works brilliantly in delivering the message and to a wider audience.

Gathered at the MAAG cultural centre, a re-purposed factory space on the edgier city side in the former railway backlands, we watch dance duo Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez perform a mesmerising fusion of hip-hop, ballet, and Capoeira, whilst a masked Ata Bozaci spray paints a matt-white V90 in black, the urban artist then theatrically peels off the tape to reveal his graffiti all to the sound of Pablo Nouvelle’s electro-pop. The experience is captivating and certainly adds to the allure of the car, the latest Volvo V90 Cross Country, unveiled earlier.

Lately, Volvo has evolved to be so much more than a creator of safe and practical cars yet it is highly aware that the general public remains focused on this more cautious narrative. Owned by Chinese multinational Geely, the Swedish marque is as much about safety as being a thoroughly modern and international company. This means focusing as much on design and engineering as on connectivity, electrification, and autonomous driving. How Volvo would like to be perceived as doing things differently from its premium rivals is to focus on technology primarily for occupant wellbeing. This is essentially the expression of safety in the modern driving world.

‘We have to respond to new ways of mobility, understand the mind-set of the millennial and new ways of car ownership, as well as automated driving,’ says Anna Rynvall, the company head of interaction and graphic design, noting her team has grown in numbers and importance substantially in the last few years. ‘We need to offer something else to these customers,’ she says urgently.

Last year’s Concept 26 is an exploration of autonomous driving, and all Volvo 90 series production cars can be ordered with Pilot Assist to be driven semi-autonomously in certain road conditions. Then there is Drive Me, a pilot driverless project with the XC90 in Gothenburg, and a similar project, we’re told, is planned later in London.

Rynvall is assessing the role of the interior space in the age of the driverless car when piloting the car is no longer the primary function. ‘Should this become more of an analogue world rather than digital,’ she notes, ‘a space where they can shut down from work, the outside world.’

We later catch up with design director Thomas Ingenlath to understand how he sees the marque approach design in the context of the sustainable driverless car of the future. ‘Our human-centric approach means that if a user scenario changes, this will be reflected in the final outcome – that scenario would reflect a new starting point. This is the way Volvo will stand apart from other brands.’

Images © Honji Wang and Se?bastien Ramirez at Volvo Art Session

Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Honji Wang and Se?bastien Ramirez at Volvo Art Session
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