Marketing Wonders of the World: The List Begins

In this day and age, everything seems to be about marketing — politics, education, philanthropy…and the vast array of products and services that are made and sold. There are zillions of books and articles about the “7 Wonders of the World.” So why haven’t I seen anything about the “Marketing Wonders of the World?”

A few memorable marketing moments immediately cross my mind:

– The 2008 campaign that elected President Obama broke all sorts of records: dollars spent, contacts made, social media tools launched, etc. As John Quelch says in his Harvard Business Review blog post, “When the book is written on this election, it should not be titled “The Making of a President,” but “The Marketing of a President.” Barack Obama’s campaign is a case study in marketing excellence.”

– The Apple iPod/iTunes launch and how this innovative combination finally made digital music a legitimate (and profitable) business. Oh, and how Apple saved the butts of the recording companies, who had no idea how to handle the Internet except to send troops of lawyers after Napster.

But I’m going to start with something different. I’m going to give the Volkswagen’s AUTOSTADT the honor of being the 1st Marketing Wonder of the World.

Now you might think, oh come on, it’s just another fun auto museum. Well, yes and no. The Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany, is a brilliant combination of marketing and customer service, all rolled into a Disney-like day of fun. Oh, and it attracts 2 MILLION VISITORS A YEAR! According to Andrea Hiott, author of Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle:

In some way, the Autostadt is one giant advertisement, a public relations stunt on par with anything ever done by the likes of Edward Bernays [ed note: pioneer in the field of public relations]. In another way, it is a piece of modern art, a way of using the corporate world to advance the creative one. Being so technical and modern, and yet also being a place totally devoted to the love of cars, it’s certainly a place where emotion and reason are allowed to collide.

One of the most brilliant marketing bits of the Autostadt is how VW delivers cars to customers right there, in the middle of this playground. Two monstrous glass towers, 48 meters high, are fully automated, high-rise stacks that deliver an average of 600 vehicles per day. As you can see in the picture above, what a sight!

According to VW:

New cars are rolled over from the neighbouring Volkswagen plant using a robotic-pallet system mounted on rails. The cars are loaded into and fetched from the towers using two “car shuttles” or lifts per tower, each servicing 180° of the silo. Cars are loaded 24 hours in advance of their collection to ensure timely delivery aided by their close proximity to the Car Distribution Centre.

A signal which is activated by the customer-service agent sets one of the car shuttles in motion. The shuttle then selects the correct vehicle and conveys it to the centre of the tower from where it is gently lowered to the ground floor. Thereafter the new car rolls through a tunnel into the Car Distribution Centre. Here, in the LastFinish area, number plates are mounted before the customer takes final charge of the vehicle.

Customers watch as their new car is delivered to them. Volkswagen staff introduce each individual to their car, pointing out all the special bells and whistles. At the end of the day, customers jump into their beloved new VW and drive away through giant doors.

I learned to drive in a used, red Volkswagen bug. I’ll never forget the experience or the car. How’s that for a marketer’s dream come true?!

I’m taking nominations for the next Marketing Wonder of the World to add to the list. Who or what do you nominate?

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