Can Child-Like Wonder Sell Sustainable Solutions? Audi thinks so.

There’s something so comforting and relatable about a child’s imagination. To fill the void brought on by adulthood, I find myself searching for that magical feeling through experiences, books, films, and art. Case and point – I recently looked into how to buy the animal art that speaks in the movie Amélie (If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s very important that you drop everything and watch it, like right now). Audi’s new spot taps into that emotion brought on by child-like wonder and showcases their new g-tron model that uses fuel produced with wind energy.

Let me speak from the marketing side of my brain first. Berlin-based agency AvL/SE and Audi’s executives understood their audience and went for an emotional pull rather than a complicated technical approach. They visualized the power of wind by taking everyday things we may see out of our car windows – trees, kites and umbrellas, and adding bizarre imagery and motion to make it a imaginary, fantastical world. Visualizing the technology through a child’s perspective taps into a feeling that, for many of us, is buried deep in our psyches – optimism. There’s something so special about a child’s innocent and hopeful nature. All too often, we can get caught up in our own cynicism – feeling like our problems are too big to overcome and nothing is ever going to change. This pessimism leads to apathy that leads to stagnation. Children though, they haven’t lived enough life to assume failure. They ask “why?” until the questions border on something even Aristotle couldn’t answer. The people working on our biggest issues – scientists, engineers, sustainability experts (among others) – must have somehow kept some of that curious optimism. That leads to solutions like the e-gas that Audi created themselves.

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Here comes the sustainable side of my brain. Buying a car is a big deal, so consumers should be doing more research on this technology than, say, their dish soap. Is e-gas the right solution? What about electrification? Isn’t that the technology we should be focused on? Honestly, It’s hard to tell from Audi’s explanation exactly how this technology works and what their e-gas is made of. They say their solution uses 80% less CO2/km than a standard Audi. Everything after that is rather hard to understand, even as a sustainability student (see below).

“One example is the Audi A5 Sportback g-tron1: 80% less CO2/km with Audi e-gas technology purely in gas mode (CNG) on a well-to-wheel assessment (a calculation of emissions that includes both the production of fuel and the running of a vehicle) compared with the Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI2 with 140 kW. As a g-tron customer, you can refuel as usual at any CNG filling station. AUDI AG ensures that the total amount of gas consumed by the vehicle, calculated on the basis of legal standards for measuring fuel consumption and emissions as per NEDC/WLTP and statistical data on the annual mileage of Audi g-tron models that were ordered during the period 7 March 2017 to 31 May 2018 is replaced by Audi e-gas – for a period of three years after first registration as a new vehicle (the amount of CO2 saved is also calculated on this basis and may be lower in actual practice when running the vehicle).” 

What I do appreciate is their methodical approach to assessment and including production in their analysis. What I’m a bit peeved about is how they’re communicating the information. We need something in between that beautiful advertisement and this extremely complicated, slightly vague explanation of their technology. If we want people to start considering adoption of this technology, we must make it easier for them to grasp the benefits and drawbacks. Not once did they mention electrification. I would have loved an honest explanation of the pros and cons between this vehicle and electric vehicles. Perhaps this is a good interim step to increase adoption of more environmentally-friendly transportation. I’m a pragmatist – complete electrification will take a while (due to a combination of lack of infrastructure, power of the oil and gas, and price)  and maybe this is a viable solution until that becomes a reality? I just don’t know if that’s the case based on the information they gave me.

According to André Aimaq, chief creative officer and co-founder of AvL/SE, “To raise awareness about the possibilities of this natural energy, we took an emotional approach rather than going into the complex technology.” I wholeheartedly support that approach to raise awareness about the technology and the brand. However, if they are going to talk about this technology with the public, it is the duty of the company to make the information about their innovations accessible and relevant. Perhaps include a link at the end of the spot asking people to go to a website to learn more about the technology. Include an infographic outlining the process in broad terms. Have comparison charts showing the difference between this, their existing vehicle, and EVs. Create a video showing how and when they’ll distribute their e-gas to participating stations. Perhaps this wasn’t their intention, but having complicated jargon and run-on sentences makes me feel they are trying to hide something. That only alienates customers and slows adoption.

We can tap into the child-like wonder hiding under cynicism through creative, honest and clear communication with consumers. It just takes some imagination.

 

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