Six years ago, at the behest of an employee at Volvo of Oak Park who had heard me speak at a public relations workshop, the dealership’s vice president met with me at the business, 1140 Garfield St.
At my suggestion, he agreed to bring me onto the iconic seven-car tower that the dealership built in 2006–at a figure that has been cited as $1 million in published reports–and which looms over the Eisenhower Expressway about 10 miles west of downtown Chicago.
Later, I recommended the business do much more to capitalize on the tower’s marketing and public relations potential. In other words, why not get some more ROI for that major-league outlay?
A few of those ideas:
*Install a camera atop the tower that shows updated images of the highway–and enable people to access it via the company’s website.
Doing so would provide a service to people looking to see how traffic is going in that often-snarled spot. At the same time, it would drive plenty of cyber-traffic to the Volvo of Oak Park website.
*Collaborate with one more radio and TV stations to become a reference point that is identified repeatedly in traffic reports. Can’t you just hear it? “On the inbound Ike, 20 minutes from Mannheim and 11 minutes from The Volvo Tower…”
How much would that be worth, every time the Volvo Tower name goes out over the airwaves?
*Create a community-outreach program in which individuals or groups are rewarded with rides in the tower.
This initiative could include students, teams businesses—any collection of individuals, really. Such a program could be amplified by networking with other businesses who see synergy in this kind of outreach, as well as via photos and video that people shoot and share virally through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
In short, let the world help you do untold amounts of marketing and PR for you, at no cost.
At the time, I acknowledged that safety was a legitimate concern that I would have, were I part of the Volvo ownership and we had groups of people going up and down the tower. But certainly there exist attorneys in the world who would help create a liability waiver that addresses such a worry.
These were just the ideas off the top of my head that I conveyed to Scalzo. They’re not necessarily the best approaches, but even if none of those ideas are a fit, there are plenty of other ways in which the business could parlay the tower into marketing/PR action.
Alas, there has been nothing that Volvo of Oak Park did creatively to take the tower to the next marketing-and-PR level. It is debatably the biggest—and most visible—marketing oversight in the area. Within Oak Park, it is beyond a doubt the most colossal of missed opportunities.
There is, however, a rough-cut video that I shot on that sweltering July day riding up the tower. It features an informal Q & A that I conducted with the VP, Carmelo Scalzo:
Earlier this year, the Volvo of Oak Park era didn’t end well. Within a few months of receiving a $550,000 loan from the village, the dealership sold to a new buyer. One Village trustee rued the lack of provision in the deal that would have required repayment to the village if such a sale occurred. And Village President Anan Abu-Taleb remarked, “We invested in the wrong people at the wrong time.”
Now, there’s a new name—The Autobarn Volvo of Oak Park—that comes with the new ownership group. The Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting occurred earlier this month. Good vibes seemingly abound.
Time will tell if this new leadership regards the tower merely as a cool-looking piece of architecture that houses cars. Or maybe, just maybe, they will see it through a different lens: as a towering marketing opportunity whose time is long overdue.
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