Online since 30.03.2016 • Filed under Industry news

Siyabonga Joko from the small South African city of East London is ground zero of a marketing idea that could change the world.

Joko made the first ever Social Test Drive when he took a Volkswagen Amarok pick-up on a 492km round-trip through beautiful but challenging terrain to deliver sewing machines, over lockers and fabrics to a woman’s sewing group in the isolated rural community of Lady Frere.

His journey arose out of an advertising agency brief to generate test drives for the Volkswagen Amarok in South Africa.

Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town’s Nicholas Wittenberg said “we sort of had an AirBnB moment as we realised that we could create a peer-to-peer connection between two parallel worlds - potential pick-up owners who are driving around every day to no purpose beyond a limited and self-contained trial of the vehicle in a tarred urban environment and the thousands of organisations and communities which are in desperate need of a pick-up to make urgently needed deliveries in inaccessible places”.

The result was the Amarok Social Test Drive which re-purposed the routine test drive into a highly beneficial programme of community interventions around South Africa and, in the process, provided a perfect demonstration of the virtues of the vehicle.

The initial challenge was to find a way to connect the drivers with the deliveries.

“We began on a small scale by using social media sourced entries for a digitally-based competition to find five Social Test Drivers for a predetermined cause”.

This resulted in Siyabonga making his journey to Lady Frere and other deliveries of books and other supplies for under-resourced schools, and desperately needed provisions for an animal sanctuary.

Nicholas Wittenberg says the initial programme demonstrated the viability and the appetite for the concept and “we now have a massive vision for it as the Dealerships are starting to connect with local organisations that they can support on a regular basis with every Amarok test drive”.

Amarok Social Test Drives are also being deployed to meet immediate crises. Volkswagen was approached by Operation Hydrate to deliver four, one-ton loads of fresh water bottles to Senekal in the rural Free State in the midst of the worst drought the area has seen in decades.

Volkswagen South Africa’s Tarryn Knight says the upsides for the Amarok Dealerships are clear; “they contribute to their communities, give potential buyers a far truer test of the vehicles capabilities and leave those potential buyers feeling like they’ve made a meaningful difference in the lives of others. That is what the Amarok and the Volkswagen brand are about”.

Nicholas believes the power of the idea lies in its scalability; “there’s no reason why every Amarok Dealer around the globe can’t do this quickly and easily which means there is a huge upside for ‘delivering’ social good.”

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