Freshwater Blog

VW’s Name Change Gets Social Media Buzzing

by | Apr 1, 2021

The Buzz

Car fanatics were eager to hear the German automotive company has officially changed its American name to “Voltswagen”… or at least that’s what many people thought when the company leaked a press release and posted a tweet claiming that it had changed its name to Voltswagen of America. The tweet read:

We know, 66 is an unusual age to change your name, but we've always been young at heart. Introducing Voltswagen. Similar to Volkswagen, but with a renewed focus on electric driving. Starting with our all-new, all-electric SUV the ID.4 - available today. #Voltswagen #ID4"

Before long, the tweet was on its way to half a million views, and VW’s new all-electric vehicle started trending.

Between the news articles, the social media buzz, and the Twitter memes, Volkswagen received some serious online attention revolving around its new electric vehicles. NBC News, USA Today, AP News, and other news organizations began releasing articles stating that Volkswagen had indeed changed its name to Voltswagen of America.

This oddly entertaining news even got some of the team members here at Freshwater talking, but we had doubts. 1) because it was so close to April Fools Day and 2) because VW hadn’t changed its name everywhere on its website.

Even with popular and reliable news organizations confirming the name change, the question remained: Did Volkswagen really change its name to Voltswagen?

April Fools!

A couple days later on Wednesday, March 31, the company released this tweet:

"What began as an April Fool's effort got the whole world buzzing. Turns out people are as passionate about our heritage ass they are about our electric future. So whether it's Voltswagen or Volkswagen, people talking about electric driving and our ID.4 can only be a good thing."

The truth was finally out, Volkswagen was not changing its name to VoltswagenIndeed, it was a classic April Fools prank leaked early. Almost like when IHOP, the classic pancake house restaurant chain, launched its “IHOb” campaign to promote a new line of burgers.

Would we say it was an April Fools effort “gone wrong” like many news organizations have called it? Maybe for the reporters who wrote articles confirming the name change, but from a marketing and PR standpoint, it was fairly clever. As someone who has working relationships with reporters, it’s worth noting that this may have caused some controversy over whether or not it was a deceitful marketing move.

A Social Media Marketing Ploy?

So, what was the reasoning behind all this? News organizations had been punked and their credibility in question. From a social media marketing standpoint, it was a pretty smart way to generate buzz around a new product. Car fanatics were talking about their all-electric vehicles, and we think that’s what VW wanted.

When we looked up the keyword phrase “Volkswagen id4” in Google Trends, the peak of popularity was the week of Sept. 20. This is when the all-electric vehicle was initially revealed. We are still waiting for results from the week of March 28. Considering VW announced its name change in a press release on March 29, we can expect Volkswagen electric car related searches to shoot up drastically from the previous week.

We can get a good laugh at the fact that the company pranked the public into thinking its American name was changing to Voltswagen, but the real value in this stunt was getting people to actually talk about the new line of electric vehicles, and up their website traffic. Today, keywords and trends are more important than ever in the social media world. It is important for small businesses to understand social media is the fastest tool to get your audience communicating about your service or product.

From a digital marketing standpoint—we think the VW stunt was lighthearted and clever. A question to consider is whether or not it was ethical. Deceiving reporters tends to be frowned upon, and it can severely damage your organization’s level of trust and credibility. Businesses need to be careful not to damage their reputations in doing a stunt such as this one.

With that said, there’s no denying that VW conveniently pulled this pre-April Fools Day stunt at the perfect time to keep online users engaged with the Volkswagen brand. This whole ordeal lead a couple of our team members to VW’s electric concept vehicles website. We can only assume that others did the same. Plus, we found out that the famous VW bus is coming back. This time all-electric, and we think it’s pretty darn cool.

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