How VW built its futuristic Moia brand

The VW brand is 80 years old, but the company is giving consideration to a future where it might be obsolete.

Moia: VW's standalone company will initially rival Uber
Moia: VW's standalone company will initially rival Uber

Last week Volkswagen unveiled Moia, a standalone company that will explore transportation in a world of fewer cars and greater reliance on public transport.

Its first project is an on-demand shuttle service, which passengers can hail using an app. They can either share rides or, where they are an individual passenger, use a vehicle from Gett, the Uber rival backed by VW.

The team behind Moia comprises a mix of external innovation types and employees from VW’s own mobility strategy group. Chief executive Ole Harms was formerly executive director of VW’s mobility services group. In total, there are 50 employees headquartered at a new office in Berlin. By contrast, Volkswagen is headquartered in Wolfsburg.

Moia’s global marketing director, Maria Soni Reissfelder, told Campaign it was important to create a standalone company.

"We [set up Moia] to play with the rules of the market and to be very quick on our feet," she says. "We thought we would need to go to Berlin because we’re an urban mobility company, we need to be in an urban environment to monitor what’s going on."

She adds that independence from VW meant the freedom to "be agile" and forge unusual partnerships.

M for magic

Moia has already launched with a slick brand identity and logo, created not by one of VW’s roster of agencies but by creative shop Khanna\Reidinga Amsterdam.

The brand has been created in a matter of months, with VW announcing a standalone company back in May, then investing $300m (£236m) in Gett a month later.

Reissfelder had been working in VW’s mobility group for two years, with the idea of a separate company only "becoming concrete" in 2016. Moia initially issued agencies with an RFP before appointing Khanna\Reidinga Amsterdam to create the brand identity. Campaign understands Moia's relationship will continue with Khanna\Reidinga Amsterdam beyond this initial project.

The word "Moia" is purportedly a reference to the word "maya", which has connotations of magic or illusion in various Indian languages. Reissfelder points out the added tech-friendly connotations of the "I" and "O".

"It was important not only to get a tech name, but to really have a meaning attached to that," Reissfelder said.

"We really like the meaning of magic, because we think all of this – tech transformation and using our imaginations to do all this – will lead to something that feels like magic."

Reissfelder particularly likes her .io email domain, since it continues the binary code theme.

It all sounds very sexy, but how do you create a brand out of something with VW’s heritage and for a product that doesn’t really exist yet?

Reissfelder says the answer is in the logo. The M and A, when inverted, are a clear reference to VW.

"When we defined our brand values, we really thought, these are the values of the VW group too," she says. "It’s defining and innovating something that can be trusted, something that will delight the customer, something that will make his life easier and something convenient.

"Lots of these values are the same."

When it comes to marketing an actual product, Reissfelder points out that Moia will be road-testing its on-demand shuttle service in two German cities next year. Eventually she hopes services like self-driving cars might follow.

Reissfelder’s remit will include not just marketing Moia’s services but conducting market research to inform future services and building trust in the brand.

"On a global level, we want to integrate people into the process and ask their opinion on the pain points in mobility to inform how we create services," she says. "We will set up a platform for doing that.

"In cities, we will do that at a local level. We really want our whole approach very much to be about partnerships and doing things together with cities and citizens."

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