Last year I wrote several posts about the proliferation of brand names and ad campaigns using “Think” and “Rethink”: Think Indian, Think! Shoes, Think Bank, Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Think About It,” and so on.
Now Volkswagen has plunged into the Think tank with a new ad campaign, “Think Blue.”
Full-page ad for the MoMA/VW partnership in The New Yorker’s June 6, 2011, issue.
VW’s “Think Blue” website elaborates:
Think Blue is more than just food for thought; it’s a state of mind. It’s a global call to action—sustainable ecological action.
But “Think Blue” is also more than a state of mind; it’s a history lesson.
In the beginning (1962) there was the famous “Think Small” ad, created by DDB for Volkswagen USA:
The current campaign is intended to make an explicit connection to “Think Small.” When the campaign launched in Europe, in February 2010, the company issued an official statement that quoted Luca de Meo, head of VW’s passenger-car division:
The new advertising campaign builds a bridge from the past to the future. It takes up the thread of the “Think small” campaign that accompanied the triumphant international success of the Beetle as the people’s car in the 1960s. “The ‘Think small’ slogan symbolizes the Volkswagen brand’s achievement in democratizing mobility the world over. The challenge of the future lies in achieving efficient and sustainable mobility for everyone. Volkswagen intends to lead the way. This is expressed by the campaign: ‘Think Small’ has become ‘Think Blue,’” de Meo stated.
Here’s what one of the German ads looked like:
But why “blue” and not “green,” the color more commonly associated with “sustainable ecological action”?
For starters, “blue” directly references BlueMotion, the umbrella name (in Europe, anyway) for “the most fuel-efficient Volkswagen model in its class.” (That doesn’t necessarily mean hybrids or plug-in electrics; the Polo Blue Motion has a diesel engine.) Origin, the UK branding agency that came up with BlueMotion, explained the name thus:
“Blue” is the Volkswagen colour and represents elements such as air and water whilst “Motion” embodies future, forward-looking mobility.
In 2010, BlueMotion VWs won the World Green Car of the Year award. Yes, Blue won Green.
“Blue” has been on the eco-lingo horizon for a few years. In “The Greening of Business Names,” a column I wrote for Visual Thesaurus in 2009, I reported on a rise in “blue” names such as Blue Frontier Campaign, an ocean-protection organization. The New England Aquarium’s tagline is “Protecting the Blue Planet” (thanks for that tip, Erin Brenner).
I heard another echo in VW’s “blue”—and in its “think,” too. The original “Think” slogan belonged to IBM; Thomas J. Watson bestowed it on the company in 1914, and it’s been memorialized (and mocked) ever since. IBM’s nickname is Big Blue—possibly because of the color of its logo, possibly because early IBM mainframes were blue. So “Think Blue” could as easily have been IBM’s ad campaign as VW’s.