Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do!” – Find out how this brand made the mundane exciting through a FUN campaign! [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

June 9, 2022

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Have you heard about Guerrilla Marketing? 

According to Jay Conrad Levinson, a business writer who popularized the term, “Guerrilla Marketing,” this technique looks beyond the traditional ways of advertising a product or service. Campaigns of this type are engaging, easy to execute, and sometimes, inexpensive. 

As a business leader, I personally love encountering these kinds of campaigns. I’ve seen how this strategy plays a significant role in the achievement of a brand’s goals.

Today, we’ll talk about a fun and creative guerrilla marketing tactic that got the attention of commuters in Sweden in 2009. 

Keep reading to know the factors that contributed to this campaign’s success. 

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

The better or healthier choice isn’t always the easier thing to do. 

According to an article from Diet ID, it is part of human nature to seek comfort and avoid pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, the good choice is often the uncomfortable one. 

For instance: Healthy meal planning takes time and effort, pizza delivery does not. Alcoholic beverages make some people relax and unwind, water does not. Working out is difficult and strenuous, binge-watching is not. 

Here’s another example: 

Suppose you’ve just taken the subway and you need to go up to exit the station. To do this, you can either take the stairs or the escalator. Which one would you choose? 

Sure, you know that taking the stairs is the healthier choice. However, you might still choose to use the escalator because it’s the easier way up. 

… but what if we make going up using the stairs FUN? Wouldn’t you change your mind? 

Let’s see what happened in a similar strategy conducted by this automotive company… 

Photo from The Verge

Volkswagen (VW) is a motor vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. Founded in 1937 and known for its iconic Beetle cars, VW is the flagship brand of the Volkswagen Group, the largest car maker by worldwide sales in 2016 and 2017. 

Did you know that aside from these details, Volkswagen is known for creating engaging and memorable guerrilla marketing strategies? 

In fact, one of its campaigns in the early 2000s centered on the concept of FUN—“The Fun Theory” campaign

“The Fun Theory” was a 3-series guerrilla marketing campaign that aimed to prove that “fun is the easiest way to get people to change their behavior for the better.” 

Using 3 different mundane things and transforming them into something fun for each campaign installation enabled Volkswagen to positively interact with its target audience and communicate its message that it is an “eco-friendly, fun, and exciting company.” 

Let’s focus on one of the guerrilla marketing stunts under “The Fun Theory”… 

The Piano Staircase 

“Can we get more people to choose using the stairs by making it more fun to do?” 

In September 22, 2009, Volkswagen partnered with marketing agency DDB Stockholm to transform an ordinary staircase at Sweden’s Odenplan Subway Station into a musical staircase, where stepping on it produced a sound. 

The campaign team’s proposition was that by making going up or down the stairs more fun to do, people would actually lessen using easier vertical transportation systems such as escalators and elevators. 

What else? 

By promoting the use of stairs, Volkswagen could also help improve people’s health by promoting an active lifestyle. 

Note: Improving the public’s health was one of the selling propositions of the car company’s BlueMotion technology, which was also released at the time of the campaign. BlueMotion was installed into Volkswagen cars to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. 

Here’s what the campaign team did: 

When the subway station closed down at the end of the day on September 21, 2009, Volkswagen and DDB Stockholm attached electrical wires that connected to a sound system on each stair. 

After making sure that each step was working, the team covered the entire staircase with vinyl wraps that looked like a piano. They also installed cameras near the piano staircase to record the reactions of commuters and keep track of how many people used the interactive stairs. 

True enough, a lot of commuters who used the subway station the following day and saw the unique staircase got curious. Instead of using the escalator, they went up and down the stairs to see if it truly functioned like a piano. 

Each step produced a melody that sounded like that of Mozart’s. Even those who used the escalator turned their heads to see where the music was coming from. 

It was a beautiful sound and activity indeed! 

Was Volkwagen’s piano staircase effective? 

The campaign lasted until the end of September 2009. After that, the campaign team compiled all the footage they got from the musical staircase and made it into a 2-minute video that they posted on YouTube. 

Below are the results of the guerrilla marketing stunt: 

  • The YouTube video of the piano staircase garnered a total of 23 million+ views. 
  • Over 300,000 commuters used the stairs during the duration of the campaign. 
  • The number of people who used the stairs at the subway station increased by 66% after the launch of the campaign. 
  • The piano staircase in Sweden was replicated by local governments in New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Turkey, and Colombia. 
  • The campaign received a total of 7 awards from AdForum in 2010 and became part of the organization’s ACT Responsible Collection. 
  • The piano staircase drew worldwide attention and was featured in various articles from The Los Angeles Times, Design of the World, Times Now, AdAge, and more. 

Clearly, these numbers, awards, and publications show that Volkswagen’s fun tactic was effective and resonated with thousands of commuters. 


Fun makes all the difference between doing an easy task and a difficult task. Sometimes, a difficult task becomes lighter and easier to do when fun is added into the picture. 

Think about this in the context of Volkswagen’s piano staircase… 

In an ordinary day, it felt hard and even burdensome for many commuters to go up or down the stairs. Who knew what their reasons were? Some of them could be tired and didn’t want to exhaust themselves further, or they just felt too lazy to use the stairs. 

However, when Volkswagen and DDB Stockholm made something fun out of the mundane, people’s behavior and responses to the situation changed. 

When they saw the piano staircase, their curiosity and inner child took over—young and old alike played with their steps and enjoyed creating a melody through the stairs. Some didn’t even notice they’ve repeatedly gone up and down the platform! 

It was clear that the novelty and entertainment of the stairs outweighed the comfort and convenience of the escalator during the time of the campaign. This proved Volkswagen’s theory that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” 

Besides, the company was not only promoting fun in its campaign but also the health benefits of Volkswagen cars’ BlueMotion technology.

By advocating for people’s health through the piano staircase, the brand also communicated that it is an eco-friendly, fun, and exciting company, and that the new technology installed in its cars is safe not only for drivers but also for commuters.

Get inspired with today’s topic! 

If applicable to your brand, start making your own fun and excitement-boosting guerrilla marketing strategies. These will help you happily interact with your target market and leave a lasting and positive impression on them.

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Friday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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