Volvo awards redefine brand quality

A car is never just a car. It's a moving expression of many subconscious neuroses, desires, and core values, which, of course, is why car companies spend billions of dollars on corporate branding.

A car is never just a car. It's a moving expression of many subconscious neuroses, desires, and core values, which, of course, is why car companies spend billions of dollars on corporate branding.

The interconnectedness of luxury branding and personal image-making typically makes celebrities an integral part of this process, whether unofficially via the TMZ-like car blog, Celebrity Car Parade, or officially, as in Aston Martin's defining connection with Britain's most famous man of mystery and resultant title as the UK's “coolest brand.”

Creating a luxury brand that promotes substance and a truly enviable lifestyle, free of buzzing paparazzi and inaccessible price points, however, is a bit harder to find.

Enter Swedish luxury company, Volvo, which keeps a relatively low-profile among the starlet set, focusing instead on the promotion of its brand principles of safety, quality of life, and environment.

One way that Volvo North America promotes its brand's message is through its annual Life Awards, honoring “America's Greatest Hometown Hero,” or a professional working toward creating [as opposed to simply enjoying] the good life.

The Life Awards are entirely PR-driven by Volvo's brand agency, Haberman & Associates, and created approximately 130 million media impressions.

From the large pool of nominations, Volvo chose 40 possible winners, and asked the public to vote for the most inspirational candidate on its Web site.

Hundreds of thousands of votes were tallied.

Volvo presented its top honor this year to Marilyn Adams, who created the national nonprofit, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, after her 11-year old son was tragically killed during a harvest on the family farm. Adams received $100,000 charitable contribution and a new Volvo, every three years for life.

Other award winners included Matthew Sanford, who, although paralyzed from the neck down, became a renowned yoga teacher; and Lorraine Kerwood, founder of NextStep Recycling, an organization that has recycles electronic waste and donates computers domestically and abroad.

By holding up such commendable work, Volvo enables its lifestyle associations to create something that can't be measured by the price point of its vehicles or high- profile sporting events, like the Volvo Ocean Race or the Volvo Masters, something infinitely more valuable in the long run.

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