This 1960 ad leaned into its product's flaws and used a tricky bit of reverse psychology to stand out among the competition.
All it takes to create a timeless ad is brutal, unforgiving honesty.
How do you take a car beloved by Nazis and sell it to hippies protesting for peace?
If you're Volkswagen, a unique selling proposition built upon brutal honesty of your vehicle's flaws is the answer.
At a time when car ads were focused on the beauty and luxury of the product, VW decided to strip away all the pomp and tell it like it is.
This car's a lemon
That's not a good thing.
People who purchase cars considered "lemons" are entitled to legal compensation.
But that's the beauty of the headline. It gets people interested enough to read on.
The body copy then describes how the car pictured did not pass inspection because it had a little ding on the bumper. It never made it to market because the quality of every vehicle is so important to the manufacturer.
The message is clear. This thing might look like a lemon, but you'll never buy a lemon from us.
You want quality? Get a VW.
Lemonade is timeless
The campaign has been so successful, VW reused it to launch an all-electric vehicle after their infamous emissions scandal.
Just goes to show....
It's easy to be forgiven for your flaws if you simply find a way to reposition them.
This campaign has lasted the test of time and become almost as iconic as the car itself.
Good advertising does that. It sticks with buyers and becomes an ongoing story that can be told and retold for years to come.
— Mike Doane
P.S. Don't walk away empty-handed
Above the Fold is a newsletter about the power of marketing. Every week I'll send you stories just like these on the art and craft of corporate myth-making.
C'mon, flip the page already.