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Volkswagen Polo app breaks download records

The iPhone racing game "Volkswagen Polo Challenge" chalked up more than 820,000 downloads and now tops the application download charts throughout Europe and is among the Top 10 in the United States.

Volkswagen's Polo debuted at the Geneva Motor Show on March 3, supported by the mobile racing game for the iPhone and iPod that went live in the Apple App Store on the same day (see story). The idea behind the application is to position Volkswagen as an innovative brand and to generate leads, dealer contacts and test drives.

The Volkswagen Polo's low-emission, fuel-efficient engines paired with intelligent styling are said to set new standards in the fifth-generation Polo. A total of seven engines will be offered on the new Polo -- four gasoline and three diesel engines -- ranging from 44 kW/60 PS to 77kW/105 PS in power output.

The iPhone application was developed by Fishlabs, a developer and publisher of 3D mobile games.

The Volkswagen application provides pure racing game fun with the new Polo on eight detailed, animated tracks for the iPhone and iPod touch.

The difficulty increases with every course and only those who drive a best time will be rewarded with a new track.

The realistic four-point driving physics and the innovative controls -- steering is done by tilting the iPhone or iPod touch -- are impressive.

The Volkswagen Polo Challenge is designed to offer the perfect combination of sporty driving fun, attractive design and quality.

Those who want to test drive the new Polo in real life, and not just virtually, can use the game menu to navigate to the nearest Volkswagen dealer via GPS and Google Maps.

Mobile Marketer's Mickey Alam Khan interviewed Markus Arand, head of Volkswagen brand and product communications, and Michael Schade, CEO of FishLabs. Here is what they had to say.

What explains the number of downloads?
Fishlabs' Mr. Schade: Volkswagen is a very well-known brand all over the world. This helps in the first place to stand out from those more than 26,000 apps in the App Store.

Second, racing games appeal to a broad audience. But most importantly Volkswagen let us create a very accessible and high-quality racing game.

It is easy to pick up and offers value that can compete with full price titles. This led to very positive user reviews. It is a common mistake by brand owners bothering users with too much information about the product while neglecting the fun in the game.

Also, working on a low budget on a very competitive high-end platform backfires always to the product and might even damage the brand itself. Another key factor for success was that Volkswagen let Fishlabs take care of PR for the game.

Usually brand owners want to take the driver seat for all communication channels. Volkswagen realized the potential of Fishlabs' popularity among their fan base of several million active mobile gamers and also its reputation in the gaming media to help promote the game most efficiently.

What patterns have you noticed with the downloads?
Fishlabs' Mr. Schade:
Naturally, as Volkswagen and Fishlabs are German companies the uptake in Germany was the steepest.

Good results in Western Europe were, of course, no surprise as Volkswagen is one the biggest car manufacturers in the world with strong markets all over Europe.

Actually, we were quite surprised to hit No. 1 in Japan, too.

In the U.S. it takes a bit longer perhaps because the Polo is not that known there but the game is still bubbling its way to the top.

Has Volkswagen seen an increase in the number of enquiries for the new Polo?
Volkswagen's Mr. Arand:
Of course, bringing potential customers to Volkswagen dealers is the primary target of this application.

Right now it is too early to come up with numbers for this but we can tell that our dealers are very excited about this new marketing tool. Especially, as we have implemented a GPS-based search for VW dealers.

What is so unique about this application?
Fishlabs' Mr. Schade:
Actually, nothing is really unique about the app. Except it offers way more than users expect from a free app. Somewhat a nice fit to cars by Volkswagen which have a great reputation to never let you down and offer great value for money.

Will Volkswagen consider more such apps for other models?
Volkswagen's Mr. Arand:
The Volkswagen Polo Challenge is already a tremendous success.

In some reviews users even ask to include more cars. We are currently discussing with Fishlabs how to proceed with this application and also what kind of new apps can generate even more contacts of such a high and positive involvement for Volkswagen.

Does this mean that mobile marketing works for Volkswagen?
Volkswagen's Mr. Arand: To generate 820,000 downloads in only one week and still counting, ranked in the Top 5 in all countries - except U.S. No. 7 - on a premium platform like the iPhone/iPod touch is a great success, no doubt.

The great media coverage in the gaming press also helped to generate more awareness for Volkswagen and the Polo in a younger target group. This was also one of our key objectives.