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Julia Manoukian


August 20, 2018

How Auto Execs Can Prepare for The Future of Experiential Marketing

Julia Manoukian

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Without the right data, it becomes impossible for OEMs to build connected consumer experiences, personalize communications and improve experiential efforts. According to Jon Schulz, Chief Marketing Officer at Viant Technology and a former executive at Ford, all too often, auto marketing departments work in silos, hampering their ability to scale. Here are his recommendations on how OEMs can build data-driven experiential campaigns across brands, event days and regions to stay ahead of the competition.

Watch our latest webinar, "The Future of Experiential & Events: How Top OEMs  Leverage Digital To Impact Engagement & Bottom-Line Results," and learn what  major brands like Cadillac and GM are doing to deliver a rich brand experience  and drive sales across tiers. 

How Top OEMs Build Data-Driven and Analytically Inspired Experiential Campaigns At Scale

Auto execs can't afford to run on autopilot anymore. Antiquated marketing techniques that once produced results, such as online lead generation, are not as effective as they were in the past.

"The focus on lead generation needs to evolve," says Schulz. "There's an emphasis on generating leads, but a smaller and smaller percentage of the population is submitting leads online to purchase vehicles."

Experiential marketing, on the other hand, is relevant. It lets auto brands create unique experiences that consumers will remember.

"When you're talking about a complex and expensive product like a vehicle, touching and feeling that product can change a customer's perception. The level of impact you can make on a customer is bigger in a live marketing situation."

OEM execs who adopt an omnichannel approach to experiential marketing and incorporate online and offline marketing into their business model can track customers as they move through the sales funnel and enhance the overall customer experience. These data-driven campaigns let them forecast future trends and identify problems in their sales pipelines.

In order to unlock omnichannel, OEMs need active data capture at all their offline initiatives. This data needs a way to flow back to the central CRM system, enabling personalization and scale down to the retail level.

How Can OEMs Use Experiential to Ensure a Consistent Consumer Experience?

Schulz says OEM execs need a consistent message across all their channels in order to improve the consumer experience.

An effective measurement system is just as important: "This will allow you to accurately attribute conversions, so you can understand where you're having the biggest impact."

OEM execs should also identify specific pain points in the customer journey and introduce differentiation — the process of distinguishing a product from others on the market — wherever possible. 

The Challenges Facing OEMs

Many OEMs have been slow to adopt data-driven experiential marketing. "Some do a better job than others," says Schulz. "The luxury auto brands tend to be pretty good at experiential, but they have a smaller customer base compared to the general market brands."

A general lack of consistency has also impacted experiential in the auto sector. Schulz points out that some OEMs have success with experiential, but they don't make use of follow-up programs, where they can gather analytics and measure campaign success after a live event has finished.

There are other challenges, too.

"Live events require a higher level of investment for engagement compared to traditional advertising. A digital campaign lets you touch millions of people in a 24-hour period, but you're not going to do that with a live event."

However, experiential lets OEM execs engage much deeper with consumers — this marketing method has a more meaningful impact. Qualitative, active data provides them with actionable insights into their customers.

"Live marketing in tandem with other marketing methods — television advertising, digital advertising, etc. — and creating a seamless experience lets you drive overall value. The integration of multiple channels will help you unlock that."

How Does Auto Experiential Marketing Compare With Other Sectors?

When compared to companies in other sectors, OEMs have been slow to progress when it comes to customer engagement. Schulz notes how retailers like Amazon base their business model on the customer experience, but the majority of OEMs still struggle to engage with consumers.

Things are improving, though.

"Now these long-standing traditional companies are reorganizing their businesses around the future of mobility. They recognize and embrace the need for change."

Consumers are the ones driving these changes.

"Collectively, consumers have a pretty loud voice, and there are auto retailers who are doing a phenomenal job of innovating for the consumer experience."

OEM Experiential Marketing Best Practices

Auto brands need to have a comprehensive multichannel approach to marketing. "In this day and age, there's no reason to have a single channel marketing strategy," says Schulz.

"You definitely need to leverage data. You hear a lot about CRM systems — dealers have them, OEMs have them. You've got to measure everything. You really need to measure and understand what combination of tactics and strategies are working for you in driving the desired outcome and creating a great customer experience."

When it comes to experiential, OEM execs are putting the pedal to the metal. Although many auto brands have been slow to adopt digital tools to measure experiential marketing effectiveness, the benefits are numerous. OEMs can build data-driven campaigns that engage with consumers.


Here are some takeaways from Schulz' interview:

  • In order to unlock omnichannel, OEMs need active data capture at all their offline initiatives. This data needs a way to flow back to the central CRM system, enabling personalization and scale down to the retail level.
  • OEMs should use experiential marketing with other methods like TV advertising and digital marketing for a seamless, relevant, and consistent customer experience.
  • The more data available to OEMs, they better can improve engagement, conversions and sales. 

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