Digital at New York Auto Show’12

Working for a leading luxury automotive brand in the past year and on a few auto show launches I certainly developed an interest in automotive marketing. I never really had an opportunity to actually visit the auto shows but I worked on their online marketing, promotions work etc. Even though today I am not working on an automotive brand, I was excited to catch the action for real and experience it as a digital marketing enthusiast passionate to learn more about the latest in automotive.

I tried to visit all the major brands booths at the NY Auto Show and captured the following. My personal favourite among them was Ford and I am really hoping they develop on their “Ford Blue Oval Card” initiative moving forward.

Acura

Absolutely stunning mind-blowing NSX Concept Car – I don’t blame the woman repeating over 10 times that the car will be available for around $27,000-$28,000 range early next year. I mean who wouldn’t want to get that car and what more to talk about than the reassurance that the car is going to be affordable! Acura is talking affordable luxury here and this concept car with its hybrid features makes it sound like Acura is back with a new blood.

There was no engagement really from a consumers point of view but well the cars line-up was the real engagement here. The massive improvement in design and the features of latest models were engaging the consumers enough who sat in the car, playing around and checking every detail.

So, for Acura I believe this time the “product” was the real engagement and all the focus was on the cars. Although it would have been nice to see iPads with a special splash page for each model including the NSX Concept Car. Nevertheless, the brochures were beautifully designed and informative and I’m sure their upcoming appearances will only get better.

To find out more about the NSX visit http://www.acura.com/future/NSX#1

Audi

The Audi cars had unique number plates with a “hashtag followed by a message for the car” – R8 #WantAnR8, TT RS #myTT, A8 #driverspledge and S8 #flagship. Active Twitter users or users who are aware of usage of hashtags in general knew what to do with that – “typically take a pic and tweet it with that hashtag OR take a pic using Instagram and share it with that hashtag and share it further on Twitter” – but no reward as such for doing this – pure fun on posing next to the cars. There was one that caught everyone’s eye #huganaudi too but for people who did not know what hashtags really meant to trigger no information was given to convert them to new followers in any way.

Besides the hashtags on the cars which was a good way to engage people and spread the word on the key thoughts models evoke over social media, Audi tried its hand at QR codes and failed to deliver. The QR code standees looked interesting and had a few people trying their hand at it. I scanned the QR code and got a 17 page PDF on one of the models and it was quite a pain to pinch and zoom to view a 17 page pdf not optimised for the small screen. There was no free wi-fi at the venue considering the amount of technology and scope of sharing possible at such an event. Patience stretched for loading a 17 page PDF was really not the best part of realizing there is no wi-fi to get it faster and move on with rest of the auto show. Audi should have got this one right or not done it all.

There was also a stand with 3 iPads loaded with Audi applications.

  1. One iPad was shut down, not working at all
  2. iPads language were set in German – so for international audience Audi did not even think of changing the iPad language to English to at least make the user comfortable
  3. The screens were really dirt/smudgy with finger marks – something they could have controlled by wiping it after every few uses
  4. All iPads had same apps but were listed in random order. There was no attention to details
  5. One of them had a dull default wallpaper and other one a pretty Audi wallpaper with the beautiful lights. So no co-ordination as to what the first impact is going to be, what do we want the user to feel – happy, confused, just-another-iPad-experience vs oh-wow-look-an-Audi-special-iPad-for-NYautoshow.
However, the apps had good content and allowed users to compare Audi vehicles there and then with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and more, configure an Audi and also locate the nearest dealer.  Again a good idea to put up a few iPads there but done with little concentration and no effort to make it a luxury Audi experience. Disappointed!

BMW

The i8 Concept Car certainly took everyone’s breath away and was the star of the NY Auto Show in my opinion at least. Very beautifully designed and electric in every aspect – features, design and performance. Besides the cars this time, BMW paid attention to their accessories as well.

To promote accessories they engaged the location based Foursquare enthusiasts by offering 10 branded merchandise every day for checking in to their booth. I got an umbrella and was really excited to be a part of the experience. The check-in message also encouraged enthusiasts to go on web and see more products.

For the models the information was available as a plain paper on a standee and also via an iPad. This is a good way to let the user take control and everybody may not want to go in depth so just reading it off a standee might be enough for some. For the iPad users BMW took it as serious business – there were branded iPad standees with optimised content for the particular model.

A good effort by BMW to reach potential customers via informative apps on iPad and also enthusiasts by awarding merchandise for free.

Lexus

Lexus had an interactive booth promoting its innovation side and the Lexus Enform application.

The Innovation wall was quite cool with interactive panels. Each panel was motion activated and shared what innovation means to Lexus as a brand. The first screen was activated on proximity and played a film in innovation. The second one had “The Crash Test Dummy” which was kinect interactive and showed how a crash test dummy works. The last panel was touch-screen on Hybrid fuel and what the future has in store for Lexus users. It shared lots of useful information on Hybrid and also allowed users to vote on the one they preferred the most.

Here’s a video I found online where you can see how it actually works.

For Lexus Enform application they installed an interactive screen where users could control the screen with a mouse and learn about the application. It had a look and feel of the car dashboard and as to how it will look in real life. It was quite good and it worked very smoothly and literally showed the users how they are in so much control and have access to useful information and cool apps.

Toyota

Toyota had a few interactive panels on their booth besides their latest cars as well. The Toyota Touch Wall was quite popular among kids too.

Touch Wall – An interactive wall which Toyota presented last year as well for Prius was quite a hit. Below is a video to show how it actually worked.

Besides the touch wall Toyota also had screens at information desk which provided information on their current models, car care, racing and real-time social media updates from their Facebook and Twitter profiles.Even though Toyota had screens in place they did not do much on collecting users data as compared to the way other brands were doing it and for these screens there was no messaging to attract crowd to use it.

Hyundai

Hyundai was promoting their Blue Link technology. There were touchscreens with Blue Link technology demo to understand how it works. The interface was quite user friendly and allowed the user to explore Hyundai’s offerings and advancement in technology today. Hyundai also captured fresh data by placing stations where visitors could enter into competition by entering their email.

To find out what Blue Link is go to http://www.hyundaiusa.com/technology/bluelink/

Ford

Ford totally marvelled their Auto Show marketing ground. They definitely take it very seriously, invest a lot of research and time in making their booths one of the most useful, experiential and talked about one. The “Ford Blue Oval Card” attracted a huge number of audiences and there were enough machines and registration booths to get people to work. Ford Blue Oval Cards were available right next to the screens and people just had to grab one, tap it on the screen and register with minimum info – username, email and password – to begin using the card.

After registration, the card allowed users to participate in competitions at voting booths installed at various places at Ford booths by tapping on their choice of answer. One of the most useful part of having the Ford Blue Oval Card was to access content about the cars by just one tap. Upon tapping the brochures are saved on the web under users’ profile and accessible by logging in with the Ford Blue Oval Card registration details. The card also allows users to capture videos, share an on-stand photo with Facebook friends and also submit an opinion to be displayed on the LED screens on the stand.

This certainly let Ford to build a huge base of database of current as well as potential users and also automotive enthusiasts in general who were definitely attracted by this engaging and personalised Blue Oval Card mechanic.

I tapped the card for a few cars and even voted. I noticed that the Ford Blue Oval card website (https://www.blueovalcard.com/) allowed users to pre-register for the event and gathered useful insights on the interested users in the registration form. The personalized space is simply designed and very easy to use without any clutter. It gives information on the vehicles one tapped the card for and encourages users to share on Facebook and Ford Social as well. (The name area is grayed out to avoid sharing personal information)

The Blue Oval Card idea is quite good and it has the potential to grow even bigger for the current Ford owners I believe. If Ford can put this card to use even further than an auto show engagement and convert the interested Ford users to current one by making their life simpler and easier I would think that the ROI on this idea has been totally appreciated. There is a lot to learn from such an initiative in automotive marketing.

Ford also had a really cool driving simulator complemented with a huge augmented reality screen. To participate one had to stand in the middle of the circle on the floor and watch the huge screen where a racing-simulator brings a drifting action to life on the screen by Ken Block, Gymkhana cars. After taking several rounds around the person standing the middle, Block gets out and cheers on the big screen and the entire experience is recorded and accessible via the Ford Blue Oval Card on the personalised site later.  This is one of the most awesome simulators I have seen in a very long time and I hope there are more to come in near future with the technology available these days.

To wrap it up I am hoping the 2013 Auto Shows will be more interactive and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for what Ford is going to do next since they definitely immersed everyone in a great experience at their booth. 

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