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Julia Manoukian


December 16, 2017

What Top OEMs Are Doing to Market Their Cars

Julia Manoukian

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The driving experience is changing rapidly, and getting the general public on board requires a flair for live marketing that captures attention and wins the hearts and minds of consumers. Here's what top OEMs have been doing to market their cars in 2017. 

The old-school model of the auto show, where competitors tried to outshine each other with over-the-top demonstrations and out-of-this-world prototypes, has evolved into an event where brand marketing depends on a positive and engaging customer experience.

Watch And Learn: How The LA Auto Show Creates Hype

Experience marketing is one way that brands connect one-on-one with their target audience. Customer experience at the 2017 LA Auto Show was a top priority for experiential marketing campaigns this year. Auto marketers are still selling the vision of a lifestyle, and they are using the newest eco-connected cars, personal mobility devices and third-party vehicle status reporting apps to demonstrate a product’s value.

The show has its own director of experiential marketing and communications; Lefteris Tsironis. The LA Auto Show is the premier car buying marketplace in the United States. Car buyers know they can get a hands-on look at over 1,000 vehicles (70 of which were brand new this year) at this epic show. It's a great event for marketers in the automotive space to take note of how the best brands in the world are doing it.

The Los Angeles Auto Show offers a showroom that covers more than 870,000 square feet. During the first few days of the show, over 25,000 auto industry heavyweights and 4,400 members of the media show up to see the latest advances in design and technology. They create buzz online and in print about the show and the newest offering from various manufacturers.

After Press and Trade Days, hundreds of thousands of car shoppers and fans of the auto industry flood the showroom floor. Brand marketers know that competing for the attention of this crowd of influencers requires some epic experiential marketing tactics.

Experiential Marketing at Play During The LA Auto Show

The most effective experiential marketing tactic at the LA Auto Show is simply giving visitors what they want. An easy-to-navigate, engaging and beautiful showcase for products that spark curiosity and fulfill real needs in the marketplace.

The GO: Movement Reimagined exhibit includes multiple innovations in personal mobility. This showcase offers test rides for visitors to the convention center. The LA Auto Show organizers doubled the number of participating companies in the GO: Movement Reimagined show floor. A 3,000-square-foot demo area allows guests to take personal mobility devices, electric bikes and different types of scooters for a test drive.

One of the featured vendors, URB-E, launched an Indiegogo campaign with a $150,000 goal. They raised $317,784 with just 844 backers. URB-E’s compact e-vehicle gets 15 mpg and goes 20 miles on a single charge. Their marketing plan for the LA Auto Show included a giveaway. Participants were required to upload a video describing how the lightweight and foldable electric scooter would make their lives better.

The videos are a type of crowdsourced series of commercials for the product, and they are on display on the URB-E website. Live tours on their Facebook feed during the show, announcements on Twitter and a strategic partnership with the Dove Project that works to end the dog meat trade in Asia helped them promote their environmentally-friendly personal mobility device.

At the LA Auto Show Girls’ Pit Stop booth, guests like YouTuber Jessica Chou and race car driver Verena Mei set out to make women feel welcome. Women make 65 percent of all new car purchasing decisions according to Yankelovich Monitor. Creating an environment where women feel comfortable negotiating at a dealership or discussing vehicle maintenance with their mechanic is a top priority for the marketers behind the Girls’ Pit Stop Booth.

They offered workshops for basic car care, meet-and-greet events with female race car drivers and mechanics to engage women in the event. Multiple press releases, live coverage of their events and social media engagement resulted in massive success for the group.

Breaking Out of The Mold: How Tesla Did It

Tesla Inc. took a non-traditional experiential marketing approach at the 2017 LA Auto Show. Based in California, Tesla has deep roots in the area. Electric cars are the latest obsession among automakers and consumers, so it was important for the brand to make smart marketing moves to get the attention of auto enthusiasts at the show.

The brand took a less-is-more approach and parked a flaming red, $35,000 Model 3 in their understated exhibit on the main floor at the entrance to the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Tesla has 350,000 Model 3s on order, and curiosity about the vehicle kept their booth full of onlookers throughout the show.

Tesla hasn’t been at an auto show since January of 2015, when they appeared in Detroit to unveil two versions of the Model 3. They took a low-key approach at that event as well, with CEO Elon Musk offering just one short interview where he challenged their competition to make more electric vehicles.

Positioning themselves as the unquestionable leader in the world of electric-powered transportation gives Tesla the freedom to let their customers' curiosity start the conversation that experiential marketing seeks to create.

If you can't be what everyone is talking about, align yourself with the conversation. BMW and Mercedes highlighted their electric vehicle brands at LA press conferences. The LA Auto Show was full of electric-powered vehicles, showing that the Tesla-led trend has gone mainstream.

CTA image to view Checklist: Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Digital Auto Show Best Practices

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