Small Wonder Volkswagen is Actually a Pretty Big Deal 

Though their “Think Small” ad campaign came out in 1959, the 78 year old Volkswagen group actually thinks pretty big.

3 min read
A 1998 Volkswagen&nbsp;Beetle. (Photo: <a href="">Volkswagen</a>)

At a time when the US customer was being cajoled to “Think Big”, Volkswagen came out with its “Think Small” campaign . This was the year 1959, and the product being marketed was the Volkswagen Beetle. The Volkswagen group, that gave us the cult car Beetle, was founded on May 28, 1937, exactly 78 years ago.

The Think Small campaign. (Photo: <a href="">Volkswagen</a>)
The Think Small campaign. (Photo: Volkswagen)


Looking back, the Think Small campaign  would have appeared a ludicrous move — a marketing blunder even, given the aspirational advertising trends of the time. Years later, it was called the No. 1 campaign of the 20th century by Advertising Age.

The radical copy and simplistic advertising had made the German Beetle the darling of America. This was because instead of marketing it as a luxurious vehicle with lots of space — something all of its competitors were doing — Volkswagen talked about its compact size and affordable price.

And that is how this puny German car, originally an idea of Adolf Hitler, was sold to post-war Americans.

A Nazi Car

The Beetle was Adolf Hitler’s promise to the economically strained Germans after becoming the chancellor of Germany in 1933. Volkswagen in German means “people’s car”. Germany was at the time reeling from the economic aftershocks of the Great Depression, when cars cost more than what people made in a year.

Automotive designer Ferdinand Porsche and Austrian designer Erwin Komenda, of whom Hitler was a fan, designed the Beetle.

A 1938 Beetle. (<a href="">Photo: Volkswagen</a>)
A 1938 Beetle. (Photo: Volkswagen)

From Nazi Germany to Post War America

The tumultuous defeat of Germany in WWII may have dented the Beetle’s production but after coming under British trusteeship in December 1945, Volkswagen became a civilian company that started exports two years later. The bug then hit the world. And by 1955, the one millionth Beetle had rolled out of the US production line.

The Other Hits

Yet another hit of the Volkswagen group was the Jetta, which was launched as a sedan in 1979. The Jetta, which went on to become the world’s most successful sedan with more than 14 million units sold since 1979, has had over six generations so far.

Another iconic family car that came from the stables of the Volkswagen group was the Golf, launched in 1974. 

Volkswagen Golf Make 1. (Photo: <a href="">Volkswagen</a>)
Volkswagen Golf Make 1. (Photo: Volkswagen)

The Polo was introduced in 1975, and while all these cars were launched in succession in the late 1970s, the 1980s were a tough time financially for the Volkswagen group.

With sales slumping, Volkswagen once again got a branding face lift, and after appointing an edgy agency, came out with the slogan, Das Auto.

Kinda a Big Deal

Today, the Volkswagen Group sells passenger cars under the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen marques. It has 100% ownership in Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., Bentley Motors, Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A., Škoda automobilová a.s., and 99.55% ownership in Audi AG.

The “Think Small” campaign notwithstanding, Volkswagen is actually a pretty big deal.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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