How Volvo Own the Word Safety

How Volvo Own the Word Safety


A sign with the words 'Saftey first' written on it and then the background is clouds

It might seem logical to start with choosing visuals for marketing, but that's not the first decision a marketer needs to make.

A visual hammer can build a brand, but that's not the main goal of marketing. The real aim is to "own a word in the mind."

But if the objective is to own a word in the mind, why fool around with a visual hammer? Why not just focus your brand’s entire marketing effects on a verbal approach? Consider a nail and a hammer.

If the objective is to nail two pieces of wood together, why fool around with a hammer? Why not focus all your efforts on putting the two pieces of wood together with a nail? That’s the essential problem of marketing.

Your main tool is your positioning idea. Once it's in your prospects' minds, you don't need the hammer anymore. But it's not quite that simple.

The three rules to advertising are

1) Repetition,

2) Repetition,

3) Repetition

So, you need to hammer away, not just for years, but for decades. This applies not just to your ads but to everything you do, from websites to business cards to annual reports.

Many marketing slogans fail because, without a visual hammer, they don't stick in people's minds.

What do consumers look for when they buy an automobile? Among other things, they look for reliability, good fuel mileage, good looks, nice interiors, control and the right size.

The first mistake automobile manufacturers make is to advertise all the features. That’s logical. That’s what consumers want.

This is a significant error. When you advertise everything, your prospects remember nothing.

Another mistake is focusing on your brand's main feature. But that only works if it can become a visual hammer. Take Volvo, for example.

Years ago, Volvo focused on "safety" and hammered it home with dramatic TV commercials featuring crash tests.

To bolster sales, Volvo even attempted to promote performance.. Volvo introduced sports cars, even Volvo convertibles. As Volvo’s director of global advertising once said: “safety on its own is not enough.” That is the left-brain thinking.

Logic says consumers don’t buy cars just for safety; they consider many factors. But unless a brand gets into the consumer’s mind and into the dealer’s showroom, logical thinking doesn’t matter.

In marketing, everything else is secondary to the job of getting into consumers’ minds. And without a powerful visual hammer, that job is exceedingly difficult to do.

For 62 years since its launch, Marlboro has never advertised without using cowboy imagery.

Nor has Marlboro ever used a woman in its “cowboy” advertising. Many brands have tried to copy the success of Marlboro Cowboy.

Look in magazines, newspapers, TV, or online, and you'll find many visuals trying to copy the cowboy's success. Monkeys, donkeys, dogs, kids, babies, sexy women, old women, hot men, old men, celebrities and many other visuals.

Most of these visuals never become hammers. Why is this? Art directors often pick visuals based on humour, seriousness, cuteness, sexiness, or fame without considering the words first.

You need two things to build a brand. A visual hammer and a verbal nail. And the nails come first. At the time of Marlboro’s introduction, the majority of competitive brands were “uni-sex”.

Cigarette brands that made classic mistakes of appealing to everybody. Marlboro was the first masculine cigarette, that’s a verbal nail. And what could be more masculine than a cowboy?

When your idea is broad and abstract, it's hard to find a visual hammer to drive it into prospects' minds. Good visual hammers need specific ideas, like driving and safety.

How can anyone find a visual hammer that symbolises democracy, loyalty, trust, and other high-level abstractions? Consumers tend to take verbal ideas like “Find new roads” literally.

It sounds like an advertising slogan for Range Rover, whose owners often get off the roads to explore the backcountry.

Before turning abstract ideas into visual hammers, we need to ground them in reality.



Marketing strategies and campaigns are essential for any product or service. It's not just about advertising campaigns but about every aspect of marketing efforts, from website design to blog posts and more.

Marketing managers need to create content that resonates with their target market, using various marketing channels to increase brand awareness and achieve a good return on investment (ROI).

Small businesses face unique marketing challenges, and understanding market trends through market research is crucial. It's about creating a positive customer experience and knowing your target market well.

With effective marketing activities, businesses can navigate the ever-changing landscape of marketing and stay ahead of the competition.