“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” – Henry Ford
At least four automakers have announced plans to abstain from next year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Audi was the latest, joining BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in parting ways with the infamous Detroit event, which has brought international brands together under one roof for over 60 years. These companies are looking at the best ways to spend their money. And, with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which USA Today says is “morphing more into an auto show,” just a week ahead of NAIAS, they’re making hard decisions. Many are also stepping outside the expo hall to execute new automotive marketing ideas. These include individual brand activations that launch new models and products. And, it’s this initiative that’s necessary to address the demands of today’s auto buyers, to make business better.
The changes keep coming for an industry known for its decades-long traditions. Another example comes from the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, where we saw brands trade in customary “booth babes” for product specialists. Very few relied on scantily dressed females to drive traffic. Instead, they used other measures to get attendees in their booths for conversations with auto experts.
The shift is due to the new generation of auto buyers – the Millennials, a group that has generally shied away from buying cars. Now, with marriage and children in the picture, they’re taking out auto loans at a 21% higher rate than Gen X did at their age. They also tackle the buying process in different ways than their elders.
Ally Bank reports the average consumer to have visited five dealerships when car shopping five years ago. Today’s shopper visits one. And, this is only after visiting an average of 25 websites, per a Fortune article, to do research and get opinions. When they do enter a dealership, they’re not looking for the traditional salesperson determined to close the deal. They’re looking for a mutually beneficial experience between themselves and the company. It’s this new consumer mindset that’s driving event marketers and agencies to come up with new automotive marketing ideas that bring brands to the forefront of an evolved industry.
The following examples make great automotive marketing ideas for any brand looking to better its business.
A Men’s Health article tells readers you’re not what you eat, but rather “you are what you drive.” It references Consumer Reports deputy auto editor who says, “People think of cars as extensions of themselves and their personalities.” Thus, knowing how important auto brands are to drivers, it only makes sense to meet in venues outside the dealership to share in other interests. This is especially true when brands can enhance consumers’ experiences in other ways, such as at music festivals.
Chevrolet has long associated itself with country music’s CMA Fest and offers attendees’ perks beyond the musical acts. Last year, Chevy’s Equinox Recharge Lounge provided a place to escape the hot summer sun and cool off. There, visitors could also get their hair touched up by stylists and pose for photos to share on social media.
When back on the streets of Nashville, they could catch a free ride – or “Catch a Chevy” – in one of 20 Equinoxes. This was a perfect way to show the car’s capabilities and offer consumers value. Still, these were only a couple of ways they made fans at CMA 2018. And, other brands, like Lexus, which got involved in New York’s Fashion Week, are meeting consumers in other venues to build better relationships and increase business.
An Autotrader study reveals just how important technology is to today’s car buyers. Nearly 60% of millennials and over 40% of baby boomers would “switch brands just to get the technology features they want.” So, automotive brands are not only making sure the features are there, they’re showing them off in extraordinary ways with tech.
Chrysler has used virtual reality and Oculus Rift to give people a look inside one of its manufacturing facilities. Participants got a transparent, immersive view of the assembly of its vehicles. At this year’s Detroit and New York auto shows, Honda used augmented reality to give attendees both interior and exterior tours of its vehicles. Toyota was also at the New York Auto Show and used virtual reality headsets to help people take a virtual ride in its Fine Comfort Ride concept car. The car uses low-carbon power sources of hydrogen and renewable energy and features swiveling seats in the front row and window displays for watching video.
Toyota is no stranger to immersive brand experiences. To launch its C-HR model in 2016, the brand launched a pop-up on London’s South Bank. Visitors walked in to find a touchscreen podium in front of a C-HR, which sat in front of an interactive mural. Using the touchscreen, they could change the pattern and colors of the backdrop for a unique design. Upon completion, they could pose with their mural and receive a gif by email to share via social media for Toyota’s maximum return on engagement.
When on the expo floor, it can be hard to shine amidst the steep competition. That’s why we’re seeing more auto brands take their activations offsite using guerrilla marketing tactics. These days, it’s not uncommon to see street teams luring people to dealerships or showing off a vehicle or two in targeted, high-traffic locations. Yet, guerrilla marketing is also being used at the manufacturer level. In fact, Mercedes gave us a great example of a PR stunt at CES 2018, where its self-driving Concept EQA made its U.S. debut.
On the famous Las Vegas strip, select lucky (and brave) individuals went for a ride in the Concept EQA, which has no steering wheel or pedals. Instead, they relied on a man outside the car to safely get them from point A to point B through use of handheld device. It was a unique way to get the attention of CES attendees and the media, as well as unsuspecting passersby who are sure to remember the thrill.
At Elevate Staffing, we have event staff and product specialists who understand what today’s auto buyers want.