Blog: Inside this year's Geneva Motor Show

James Little, senior account director at agency Avantgarde, offers his take on the Geneva Motor Show, one of the key events in the automotive calendar.

More than just A-B

The Geneva Motor show is without doubt one of the key events in the automotive calendar and a chance for the world to see the latest offerings from the automotive industry. Avantgarde has been delivering European motor shows for Honda since 2015 and this year more than any before has seen a seismic shift as the automotive world begins to herald in autonomous and connected technologies. Our relationship with cars will soon become more like that of smart phone, instead of a tool that simply gets us from A-B. Consumer mobility behaviour is changing, a report from McKinsey, released in January 2016, suggests ‘one out of ten cars sold in 2030 potentially being a shared vehicle’.

These new automotive innovations will allow consumers to upgrade and personalise their mobility choices with much higher frequency. For us marketers’ this presents an exciting opportunity, helping manufacturers in the race to differentiate their products, and create sustainable brand advocacy.

So as the lines between automotive and tech come ever closer, how we engage consumers needs to keep up with the pace of innovation. As you walk through the show halls you are overwhelmed by an audiovisual assault on the senses as each brand vies for your attention.

Making the most of tech

Virtual and augmented reality are still popular attractions and a useful means to tell brands stories, but, beware, as there are some poor uses of this tech out there. Consumers are increasingly tech savvy and expectations are set high when they see tech; get it wrong and your engagements will drop off fast.

The best use of VR technology is when it provides an experience that can’t otherwise be shared and that holds a relevant connection to the brand. A good example of this can be found on the Volkswagen stand this year where it has used VR to give consumers an insight into its vision of autonomous driving for the future. The experience puts the consumer in a simple seating module, a brand ambassador fits your goggles and headphones and you are immediately transported into first person drive in Volkswagen's vehicle of the future. The tech is by no means revolutionary but they are using it in the right way,  producing a short, simple and fun engagement that left me feeling excited by a product that does not yet exist. And in doing they are now very much on my radar. Job done.

Driving data

Elsewhere data collection still remains very important to automotive brands but there seemed to be a much more passive approach at this year's show (often it can be like running the gauntlet to avoid overzealous brand ambassadors after your email). There are now some highly sophisticated CRM systems being used that lower the barrier to engagement at the source and result in a much more personal consumer journey. By encouraging user led content with the use of hash tags on social media we can now identifiy specific communities that are talking about your brand and in doing so not only target specific individuals but also provide an opportunity for dealers to personalize their approach to a consumer. Data-driven new marketing tech can turn an event into the beginning of a genuine conversion funnel that will turn visitors and their social media friends into buyers.

Looking ahead

In the future I think we are going to see a lot more technology and automotive shows merging, you only have to look at CES and Mobile World Congress where this year there were four automotive manufacturers, namely BMW, Ford, Mercedes and Peugeot.

With the pace of innovation changing the landscape of many industries it’s a super exciting time to be working in brand experience, particularly automotive.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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