The real Skoda puzzle?

If you’re a fan of US crime dramas on Channel 5, you’ve probably noticed a couple of things in recent weeks. Firstly, and I’m guessing here, the crime dramas involve lots of dead people, a fair amount of swearing and copious amounts of pretty people going about their business attempting to solve the murders. You may also have noticed that each ad break is topped and tailed by Skoda and their latest campaign, ‘Skoda Puzzle’. Linking a campaign centred on puzzle solving with televisual crime dramas isn’t exactly genius at work, but the actual approach is really rather slick.

Skoda Puzzle website

The TV idents provide clues to an online trail, with the ultimate aim of finding a hidden Skoda somewhere in the UK. Participants will then have the chance to win a Fabia vRS at the end of July. The campaign is being heavily promoted through social media channels so even if, like me, you aren’t that interested in gritty US crime dramas, you can still take part. ‘Skoda Puzzle’ works because it is an example of a great idea that’s well executed and keeps the audience engaged. Check it out at www.skodapuzzle.com and via twitter at @skodapuzzle.

But for me, this isn’t the biggest puzzle surrounding Skoda. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you can’t help but notice that Skoda has been on something of a roll. If there’s an award for reliability or satisfaction then you can bet your bottom dollar that Skoda will be in with a shout of winning. This doesn’t happen by accident and Skoda has invested heavily in building a brand that is largely centred on a promise of customer satisfaction and real honest values. Of course, a brand promise can only be delivered if the products and services deliver match the expectations and in Skoda’s case they invariably do. There are of course exceptions to the rule and I know of folk who haven’t had the best experience with the brand, but as any company rep sent into the lion’s den of Watchdog will tell you, for every complaint, there’s probably thousands of happy customers.

I’ve owned two Skoda in my time. One was a MK1 Octavia vRS which despite being bright red, still managed to go about its business in a discreet and purposeful way. It was quick, frugal, spacious and ridiculously cheap. I loved it. I also ran a MK1 Superb for a couple of months and it effortlessly chewed up the 250 daily commute. It was about as fashionable as creased denim and completely devoid of character, but it didn’t matter. It did exactly what it promised in the brochure. How rare.

In both cases I was constantly bombarded with jokes at Skoda’s expense, many of which were unfunny and well worn. Actually, all of them were unfunny and well worn. But this was six years ago, I thought that perhaps people would have moved on and found a new butt for their jokes. Well seemingly not as, whilst the motoring press and a growing army of loyal customers continue to heap praise on Skoda, a section of the buying public are slow to catch on.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing three Skodas on PetrolBlog and I found each one quite delightful. The Fabia vRS was great. The Superb estate was sublime. The Yeti 4×4 was brilliant. And yet many people I came into contact with simply couldn’t get past the badge. “You know what the biggest problem with that car is mate? The badge”. Really, I actually think the badge is one the car’s biggest assets. It says more positive things about you than a new Audi could ever do. As I’ve said before, the Skoda range makes the directly competing Volkswagen and Audis completely redundant.

Skoda New LogoFace facts. Skoda’s range line-up is probably the most relevant and sensible on offer in the UK. Free of niches and devoid of any fluff, just take a look at their website to see what I mean. There’s a greater degree of clarity and a refreshingly simply approach compared to say Audi or BMW. Skoda also has a shiny new identity which was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. By removing the ‘Skoda Auto’ element from the badge, the company presents a more confident, self assured look. Subtle, but effective.

I’m not sure why I care really. Maybe I should let the naysayers remain blissfully happy in their ignorance? After all, if Skoda gets too popular the brand will lose the appeal it currently has. Besides, as a certain Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones once blurted out, the problem with success is you become what you detest. But in the meantime if you happen to own a new Skoda, just get in the habit of smiling politely when you hear another joke at your expense. After all, it will probably be you who has the last laugh.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

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