Volkswagen is not being rebranded as Voltswagen. The automaker giant admits its misinformation as April Fools’ Day prank.
Volkswagen, earlier Tuesday, issued a news release announcing the name change; however, the automaker giant put a “reverse gear” saying the rebranding announcement was a pre April Fools ’ Day joke and was intended to garner the interest of the people on its electric SUV.
“There will be no renaming of Volkswagen of America,” said Mark Gilles, Volkswagen spokesman Tuesday night. “The alleged renaming was designed to be an announcement in the April Fools’ Day, highlighting the launch of the all-electric ID.4 SUV and signaling our commitment to bring electric mobility to all.
Some sections within the media have called Volkswagen’s joke an “intentional fake news release”. The marketing strategy of Volkswagen has also left several branding and ad gurus gasping for air since this would only add to the damage done after the September 2015 scandal.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had discovered that Volkswagen had fitted deceptive software in over 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. The cheat software showed 40 times reduced emissions than permissible in the U.S. soil. The 2015 Volkswagen scandal cost them $35 billion in fines and civil settlements.
Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business said, “It just shows a lack of understanding about what this company did and what its standing is in the world and how it needs to rectify its history and rebuild its image.” The professor further added, “Goofing around about who it is and what it’s trying to do, particularly with anything related to sustainability strikes me as really, really bad taste. It’s just terrible.”
Volkswagen’s name change news resulted in articles and reports by several media outlets including The Washington Post and The Associated Press. The news created confusions which resulted in moving the shares of the company. The name change news, which immediately lit up online news sites and social media, had Volkswagen’s communications team on the defensive.
James Cox, professor of corporate and securities law at the Duke University, said misinformation which can twist stock prices must be dealt with all seriousness by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Cox said, “The whole market has gone crazy.” The professor further added, “We need to throw a pretty clear line in the sand, I believe, about what is permissible and what isn’t permissible.
Companies attempting April Fools’ Day stunt to garner some public attention is nothing unusual; however, a company deliberately misleading reporters to create sensational news is out of the ordinary.
“The problem is that in the short run, you can fool people, and it seems cute and entertaining,” said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University. “But in the long run, you really need positive and good relations with the media. For a company that already has credibility problems, this is really a strange move.”
While it is true that the “April Fools’ Day” incident might not hurt Volkswagen consumers, the company needs to keep healthy relations with reporters, especially for a brand trying to rebuild its image.
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.