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45 Years Ago, An Ad Campaign Made the Beetle the World’s Most Popular Car

Ranked as one of the best print advertisements of all time and one of the most successful before the popularity of television exploded, this ad campaign successfully changed Americans’ perceptions about cars. Before this campaign, not only were Americans into buying big, powerful cars as status symbols, but they were also not quick to by German-made vehicles.

In 1959, Volkswagen turned the car market upside down with its “Think Small” campaign. It was built around the shape and size of the Beetle, which was much different from other cars being manufactured at the time. Rather than placing the vehicle front and center in the ad, it was filled mostly with white space, and the car was placed off center and made very small, which was a clever way to emphasize the car’s simplicity and minimalist design.

The campaign was successful in piquing the interest of the American public. Once they were interested, they were then sold on the benefits of the car. It’s considered a highly successful ad because of how it changed people’s perceptions about the Beetle and about buying German-made cars.

What marketers can learn: You can use marketing to change deeply entrenched perceptions about your products or services.

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