Friday, March 14, 2008

The Auto No-Show

Car brands have to be about the most sophisticated examples of the marketer’s art. Each brand is so finely nuanced, so clearly differentiated, with stories so thoroughly told.

At least, that’s what I thought, until I took a trip to the local, annual auto show.

By and large, the stories were not in the room. Only a handful of brands even made much of an attempt. For the majority, it was enough to line their cars up in an efficient manner, plop a brochure dispenser in the middle, and hire a few models to walk around wearing logo shirts and headsets.

In other words, most of the marketers failed to capitalize on one of the most persuasive touchpoints in the buying experience.

Not everyone forfeited, though. Hyundai, ironically the latest to market with a new brand idea (“Think about it”), did an impressive job telling their story. Their display featured plenty of cream leather seating and white seamless backgrounds, and well-crafted, consistent communications - for example, “would you rather have more cupholders or airbags?”

Scion made the most of their real estate with a double-deck display of modified cars, and giveaways of Scion-ish lifestyle mags, keychains and music.

And the throw-everything-at-the-wall award had to go to VW, who not only had conversation pits, audio pods, video games, three-foot wide Fast statues, and stylized auto factory production lines, but they did much of it in German.

Perhaps the no-show story-tellers are relying on the reputations that precede them, or the virtues of the product itself. My money is on the brands that go further, and take control of their story arc.

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