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Julia Manoukian


November 27, 2017

Achieve Better Visibility With These Creative Auto Show Ideas

Julia Manoukian

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American automotive brands are picking up speed. These companies spent $35 billion on marketing in 2016 — and this number is expected to grow in the next few years. Marketing expenses now make up 10 percent of automotive sales revenue as more companies splurge on lucrative promotional opportunities.

Experiential and live marketing, which focus on face-to-face events, lets consumers engage with auto brands and provides manufacturers with an abundance of benefits. Here are some creative auto show ideas that ensure auto brands get the most from their face-to-face marketing budgets.

Incorporate Interactive Games into Auto Shows

Seventy-eight percent of trade show attendees travel more than 400 miles to visit an event, according to research. It's no wonder, then, that auto brands are creating memorable experiences that make these long journeys worthwhile.

Take tire manufacturer Pirelli, for example. At the New York Auto Show in 2013, this company wowed guests with a line of driving simulators that recreated the world-famous Formula One race track. These interactive games proved popular: attendees not only had fun but familiarized themselves with the Pirelli brand.

Auto brands of all sizes can replicate Pirelli's successful strategy — even if they lack the budget of the multinational company. Interactive games are a great way to engage with trade show attendees and could result in more sales and revenue. Manufacturers can provide these games for free in exchange for customers' details like email addresses and dates of birth. It's a win-win for both company and consumer: guests can try out the latest tech, while brands can optimize their automotive marketing efforts.

Use Big Screens to Monitor Results

Auto brands use giant LED screens at trade shows to catch the attention of attendees and promote their brand. At the 2016 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition — one of the largest auto shows in China — car manufacturer Volkswagen displayed brand messages on four curved LED strips, which measured 10 feet high and 95 feet wide.

"The LED strip screens caught visitors’ attention and invited them to interact with the Volkswagen brand world," says ET Global Exhibit Group, who create brand experiences for trade shows.

"The greatest challenge in this major global project was the predetermined short set-up time in Beijing. A total of 30 shipping containers were needed to transport the extensive Volkswagen brand architecture." The group reported that the trade show presentation was difficult to implement, but it provided Volkswagen with a return on their investment.

Auto companies can also use LED screens to monitor their marketing campaigns in real time. Brands can track key performance indicators — the number of people who have visited a trade show booth, the number of people who have signed up to a company's mailing list, total trade show sales, etc. — throughout the auto show life cycle and use this valuable data to shape future marketing campaigns.

LED screens are a relatively cheap, but extremely creative, way to maximize trade show marketing efforts.

Create Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

One-off experiences — unique events that auto show attendees can't find anywhere else — can drive sales and increase brand awareness. Aston Martin is one car manufacturer who created a successful experiential marketing campaign by thinking outside of the box.

The company invited a handful of guests to drive different Aston Martin vehicles in the Colorado Rockies, where icy terrains create a unique driving experience. The campaign was so successful that Aston Martin continues to use this experiential strategy every year.

"This test drive experience included a braking loop, a slalom course, skid pad and a full race circuit," says event tech company Bizzabo.

"All parts of the course were supervised by professional drivers in an enclosed yet amply spacious setting. Although only a handful of Aston Martin owners were able to drive on the ice, the experience was shared across multiple social media channels and lifted Aston Martin’s brand visibility."

Auto brands can follow in Austin Martin's tire tracks and use innovative one-off experiential and live marketing experiences to bolster interest in their company.

Product demos from industry influencers, keynote speeches from automobile experts, live performances — all of these experiences turn a conventional auto show into a creative one. Experiential marketing is well worth the investment: one in two auto show attendees want to purchase something at one of these events, while four out of five visitors have buying authority.

Incorporating social media into an auto show is another example of a unique experience that drives sales. Organizers at Toyota's 2017 Detroit Auto Show streamed the event online, so people all around the world could see the latest exhibits and automobile innovations. Research shows live streaming is a great experiential marketing technique. Eighty-one percent of desktop and mobile internet users watched more live video in 2016 than 2015, for example.

These three creative auto show ideas prove the importance of great experiential marketing at a live event. Auto companies should invest in interactive games, use giant LED screens and create once-in-a-lifetime experiences if they want to maximize sales and revenue, collect customer data and move prospects through the sales funnel. Auto companies who rely on conventional marketing methods, however, could be left at the starting line. There's no better time to adopt face-to-face marketing strategies such as live and experiential!

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