Red Dot Award: Communication Design

Interview with Giovanni Perosino from Audi

About brand values, competition and strong slogans: interview with Giovanni Perosino from Audi, Red Dot: Brand of the Year 2017 (part 1)

In 2017, the honorary title “Red Dot: Brand of the Year” was awarded to a brand that has distinguished itself for many years in the Red Dot Award by its innovative design solutions: Audi. Since 2010, the automobile group has received the honorary title five times for its strong brand communication and thus proves that hard work pays off. Alone in 2017, Audi garnered a total of 19 distinctions in the competition. In the first part of the interview with Red Dot, Giovanni Perosino, Vice President Marketing Communication at Audi, talks about brand values, competition and strong slogans.

Mr. Perosino, at the beginning of 2014 you joined Audi as Vice President Marketing Communication. What was your biggest challenge in the early phase of your new position?

Perosino: I took over a well-established, stable marketing communications team. There was no pressing need to take action. However, from my point of view there was an inconsistency when it came to talking with a global voice. This could possibly be attributed to the way in which the company was growing. If a global corporation like Audi grows at high speed in different countries, its brand consistency is likely to be challenged. It’s pretty much like a big symphony orchestra in which the musicians are each proficient and well-prepared, yet nonetheless lack the required synchronisation for performing successfully as a whole and for developing a common identity.

What is it that makes the individual musicians and soloists, each of whom are professional performers of their instrument, capable of forming an orchestra?

Perosino: We created an expert group – the “Board of the Rings” – which brings together key international marketing decision-makers as well as the top agencies. The goal was to, by sharing our experiences and consulting about brand values, develop one voice to be applied worldwide.

But if you put a lot of experts in one room, don’t you end up with just as many different views?

Perosino: I am fortunate to have a team of highly talented people who are very professional in what they do. My task was to guide them in a certain direction and to get them to speak with one tone of voice. By spending time together, we were able to develop a common vision as well as a tone and register that best suits the Audi brand. In many ways it’s like writing a recipe that lists all the ingredients and gives instructions for preparing the meal. In the end, everyone has a clear idea of the shared vision and positioning of the global brand.

With the Board of the Rings, you basically launched an internal communication process that supports the success of Audi’s marketing communications.

Perosino: Yes. The Board of the Rings has become a communication platform for exchanging regularly at an international level and for working towards a shared understanding of brand tonality, brand vision and positioning on an annual basis.

What were the results of the Board of the Rings? What are the values that are reflected in the Audi brand?

Perosino: Since the Board has gotten underway, the point is to check every new idea with our list of dos and don’ts. The Audi brand rests on three pillars: Audi is sporty. Audi is sophisticated. Audi is progressive. These are the three most important dimensions of the brand. And of course, with every campaign, every piece of communication we spread around the globe, Audi has to be unexpected, surprising and connected with the audience. More than ever, these have become the founding principles of our work. The better the understanding of these values, the easier it is to establish and manage the brand. It’s not like Audi hasn’t already stood for these values in the past; in fact, they’re a part of our DNA. However, they must be communicated in a way that’s commensurate with our times.

Aren’t some of the competing brands positioning themselves with similar brand values?

Perosino: Yes, that’s why the challenge is always to stand out from the competitors.

How does the Audi brand differ from other competitors in the industry?

Perosino: Audi creates an unmatched customer and brand experience.

Can you give examples?

Perosino: In terms of sports marketing for example, when we engage in soccer to promote our brand, we do much more than just sponsor FC Bayern Munich or make sure the four Audi rings are visible on the players’ jerseys. We’re interested in how soccer fans might experience the brand and what value the brand delivers. This led us to develop the Audi Player Index, a tool that allows fans to access and compare key performance data about the individual players in near real time. The results are displayed in point systems and graphs. Another, more automotive-related example is the Audi Sandbox, which offers a virtual reality experience. For this, a racetrack was formed in a real sandbox; the track was then scanned with an infrared camera and the data translated into a virtual reality animation including all the curves, tunnels and hills. Users then race through the desert with an Audi quattro! The all-wheel drive of the Audi quattro represents some of the core values of the brand.

Is this part of an attempt to take the customers by surprise again and again?

Perosino: Yes, of course. Today’s marketing is all about attention. It’s a battle for attention, and it’s a challenge to distinguish oneself or create a unique experience. Audi aims for the unexpected and wants to surprise the customer and establish a connection to the brand: unexpected, surprising and connected.

This means that these three soft factors must be reflected in the creative measures.

Perosino: Yes, exactly. One example is the Audi Mission to the Moon, which we developed together with the team of PTScientists from Berlin. PTScientists is a German research and development company in the field of space travel whose goal is to carry out an unmanned lunar landing. Audi is development partner and sponsor of this mission and supported the company in building our rover, the Audi lunar quattro. The rover is slated to land on the moon in 2018, providing real-time images of the lunar surface that everyone can see: unexpected, surprising, connected.

What does it mean to be connected to the brand?

Perosino: Being connected means to be relevant. The goal is to find out what is presently on people’s minds and what issues are being discussed in social media, which are a part of our culture, or a snapshot of our culture. When we manage to identify and determine these issues, we try to interpret them in terms of the Audi strategy and brand values or to give them a new dimension.

What are the factors that determine marketing today and in the near future? Is it increasingly about digital technologies?

Perosino: Differentiation can only be achieved through creativity. My goal is to develop an understanding of what clients want. The customer always comes first. Our goal is to surprise and inspire our clientele by creating an unrivalled brand experience.

That said, is the Audi slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” from the 1970s still topical today?

Perosino: Definitely! “Vorsprung durch Technik” is one of the strongest brand claims worldwide. Moreover, it has become a mindset of sorts. At Audi, we live “Vorsprung durch Technik” in everything we do. Because more than ever, “Vorsprung” is about being ahead of the game across the board.

Red Dot: Brand of the Year 2018

During the Red Dot Gala on 26 October, Audi will be officially replaced by the Red Dot: Brand of the Year 2018. The new title holder will be presented with the trophy in front of around 1,400 international guests. At the subsequent Designers’ Night, all prizewinners have the opportunity to network and to celebrate their successes together.

Look back to the Red Dot Gala 2017: