The Fun Theory

Volkswagen’s piano staircase experiment proves the power of fun


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Volkswagen’s piano staircase experiment resulted in a 66% increase in the amount of commuters who take the stairs.

Clara Maultsby, Co-Editor in Chief/Columns Editor

When we have to choose between taking an escalator or the stairs, most of us probably take the escalator. We know we should take the stairs – doctors tell us to, almost every health website has an article titled something like “5 Reasons You Should Take the Stairs,” and Dr. Oz claims that it will change your life, but escalators are more convenient.  

Volkswagen Sweden and ad agency DDB Stockholm theorized that if they can make mundane activities – like taking the stairs –fun, people will change their behavior.  

As a part of their “Fun Theory” initiative, the companies conducted an experiment in the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm, Sweden. In the subway station, people consistently chose to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Overnight, Volkswagen transformed the stairs into giant, working piano keys. The next day, when people approached the piano staircase and the escalator, they instinctively headed towards the escalator but were intrigued when thenoticed the staircase. The majority of the commuters took the staircase instead, hopping up and down the steps and composing their own songs. In a YouTube video produced by Volkswagen, couple can even be seen attempting to play the simple, widely-known song “Chopsticks.” The video has gained millions of views on YouTube, and the experiment has been written about in several reputable publications.  

According to The Los Angeles Times, Volkswagen found that the number of commuters who chose the stairs over the escalator increased by 66% after they turned the staircase into piano keys. So, the next time you have to do a boring task, or you are trying to choose a healthier alternative, apply the Fun Theory. Whether you are walking up a staircase, doing household chores, or exercising, add an element of fun, and your boring task or healthier alternative will be easier to do.