A couple of people took note of VW's campaign "The Fun Theory." Most recently Corley suggested it "further's VW's corporate social responsibility." Ultimately, I believe she is correct in saying that, but it's a broad statement begging to be unpacked.
To be sure, this campaign isn't about VW being socially responsible. It's about VW wanting others to associate the word "Fun" with VW.
The campaign is simple, unexpected, concrete, and each of the demonstrations have the trappings of a story, and presumably the effort is designed to get people excited about the possibilities (emotion). Together, all of these are components of a sticky message (PDF).
But is it credible?
Let's take a look at some of the videos that are currently on their website.
One is the piano. The question is "How do we get more people to take the stairs instead of the escalator." According to VW, the answer is to make the stairs FUN, of course.
I guess that's one way to do it, if you have $40K (or whatever) to spend on labor and materials. The problem, in this case, is that the owners of the stairs get no benefit from such an investment.
Additionally, their efforts may actually lead to injuries due to people trying to play a song on the stairs. There's no fun in that. I'll bet VW won't post any videos of anyone falling down the stairs.
The other, more cost-effective way to do it, without unnecessarily increasing the temptation to be careless on the stairs, is to turn off the escalator. It doesn't cost a thing (it actually saves electricity), and the number of people who use the stairs instead of the escalator increases to 100%.
It reminds me of something I read from Roger von Oech. I'll do my best to not butcher it in my retelling.
The elders were gathered together to figure out how to deal with this. They came up with two ideas.
One idea was to run a string into the grave with the person believed to be deceased. One end of the string would be tied to the hand of the one they buried. The other would be tied to a bell in the graveyard. If the grave keeper heard the bell, he'd discover its source and save the person buried alive. The focus of this effort was to ensure no one was buried alive.
The other idea was to build a large spike into the coffin top, so that when it was closed, it pierced the heart of the body in it. The focus of this effort was to ensure that everyone buried was dead.
As I mentioned to Corley, the issue I have with the effort is that some of them are impractical, and I suspect VW knows that. What they're trying to do is give people a reason to think of "fun" when they think of VW. Regardless of whether the association has validity with respect to their automobile choices, if people believe it to be true, it may as well be.
However, if this effort gets people thinking about the ways they can increase the "fun quotient" in their user experience, they can increase adoption rates. This is laudable not only from a social standpoint, but also from a business standpoint.
Notably, it doesn't have to be an investment of tens of thousands of dollars unless there is a corresponding financial benefit for making the investment.