Automotive Industry Events: How to Drive Interest

Automotive Industry Events

IKEA people do not drive flashy cars or stay at luxury hotels. – Ingvar Kamprad

Could this bold claim be true about the popular furniture brand’s customers? According to its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, it is. That’s right; the man whose initials are the first half of his company’s name pigeonholed his shoppers as frugal. But it’s not intended to be a diss. In fact, Ingvar, one of the wealthiest men in the world, “has admitted to buying all his clothes at car-boot sales,” the equivalent of a swap meet. His thriftiness translates to his furniture’s affordability, suggesting a founder’s lifestyle defines his brand. Yet, is he correct that brands define their consumers? Let’s take a look at the automotive industry. 

What Drives People to Buy Their Automobiles

Behavioral psychologist and Virginia Tech professor, Joseph Sirgy, confirms Kamprad’s principle. “When you’re shopping for a vehicle, you’re looking for a ride that fits the three dimensions of your ‘self concept’: who you think you are, who you want to be, and how you’d like others to see you.” And J.D. Power reports a vehicle’s styling is “undeniably important” to car buyers. Forty-five percent claim it’s “one of the key reasons they’re driving what they own today.”

This tells us, while price may be a big factor for IKEA’s consumers, it’s not as critical for car shoppers. Of course, a final decision could come down to cost, but for the sales process itself, Ernst & Young sums it up best. “It’s less about rock-bottom deals and more about transparency and trust.”

Building Rapport

The Best Way to Gain Car Buyers’ Trust

Knowing that trust is required to make the sale, it’s no surprise reliability ranks first when choosing a car. (Only slightly ahead of styling.) But, just as the car must be dependable, so too must the brand. Event and experiential marketing has helped prove the importance of trust in companies and their products time and again.

Through these forums, automobile manufacturers and dealers have the ability to build that trust. The magic is in face-to-face conversations that relay clear, transparent messages. Also, it’s accomplished through the ability to put products and services right in attendees’ hands. Ford gave us a great example last year with its “Escape the Room” game. More than 1,000 people signed up to receive a tutorial on the 2017 Ford Escape and take part in a challenge that highlighted the car’s capabilities. The experience garnered rave reviews.

These types of experiential marketing activations, whether standalone or at automotive industry events, are necessary to a brand’s success. This is because premium features, like technology, are becoming standard. This means brands need other means of standing out among competitors. And even though expectations are automotive sales will “be flat this year,” they are “great numbers by historical reference.” Opportunity is alive with an estimated 17.6 million automotive unit sales in 2017. Brands only need to heed customers’ longing for connection beyond the connected car.

3 Ideas to Enhance Your Automotive Industry Events

Enhance your presence at automotive industry events, whether exhibiting or hosting your own, in these three ways.

1. Enlist the best product specialists.

Consider the weight consumers place on their car purchases and the level of competition. These facts reinforce why you must have the best and brightest on your automotive industry event’s front lines. That means having product specialists who know your offerings inside and out. An Autotrader survey finds 56% of people, when buying a car, have “done their research on the technology they want before they ever visit a dealership.” This leaves little room for error in conversations, which can have a huge impact on trust.

Other key attributes include the personality to interact with attendees and the flexibility to adapt to their various personalities and demands. They’ll also need to dress the part to reflect your consumers “self concept.” Hire product specialists and event staff as W-2 employees to avoid employee misclassification risk. Or, rely on a professional event staffing company to do the legwork for you. 

Your brand ambassador should be approachable.

2. Keep attendees engaged through technology.

A car’s technological features are becoming as important as its styling. Yet, this comes as no surprise with the role technology plays in our everyday lives. That’s why Autotrader also reports its respondents are “willing to pay an average of $2,276 more to get the exact technology features they want.” Knowing how important the connected car is to your shoppers, and why augmented reality will actually become reality in vehicles soon, consider the use of technology at automotive industry events.

In Ford’s “Escape the Room” game, RFID bracelets caught participants’ moves on camera. Once they completed the challenge, each could view their footage and share it to social media. And BMW is using “highly advanced projection methods” to tell the story of its new 7 Series Sedan’s design. On the initiative, the company’s experiential marketing project manager remarks, “Our aim is to bring visitors closer to the BMW brand through new and interactive experiences.”

This goal should be top priority for all brands as more Gen Zers, who make up over 25% of the U.S. population, come of age and buy cars. These individuals have had technology at their fingertips since birth, making it non-negotiable. Plus, they’re buying used cars at a rate 6.5 times more than new cars, and it is those stand-out techniques that sway their decision. Cutting-edge event activations could help turn them in your direction. 

[Tweet “56% of car buyers do initial research. Your product specialists need to be prepared for their questions.”]

3. Foster communities for brand support.

A 2017 top trend for the auto industry predicts collaboration with others “outside their space.” This is to find “ways to make new profits from disrupting trends.” One of these is ride-sharing. What better way to hit this trend head on than to connect brand enthusiasts in metro areas through automotive industry events?

Event and experiential marketing can result in brand awareness or brand loyalty when targeted at particular segments. A great example is Ford’s Toughest Tailgate Tour. The company visited nine cities to honor local heroes, including military personnel, first responders and construction workers. And it endeared these tough people to the brand through free lunch at Ford dealerships. The campaign also offered activities with chances to win NFL prize packages. Then, to notify winners, the company worked with Uber (someone outside their space) to have its drivers hand deliver prizes in Ford trucks. Initiatives like these prove there is strength in numbers, and that strategic partnerships can be used to move both partner companies’ marketing forward. 

Over the years, EPS has had tremendous success connecting brands with their consumers at automotive industry events. Let us help you make the most of every single event experience that you create. 

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