Close-Up: Why Range Rover is checking the city's pulse

Recession and changing consumer behaviour have forced a new approach to marketing cars. Matt Springate explains how.

The car industry, often seen as a barometer of the world economy, dived head-first into a deep recession in 2007, with sales and profits tumbling.

Trusted and stable businesses found themselves staring into the black hole of bankruptcy.

Flash-forward to today and we are still dealing with the fallout of the economic crisis; it has forced car manufacturers in particular to re-evaluate their ambitious plans and find new ways to launch cars.

However, coming to terms with the aftermath of the economic meltdown hasn't been the only challenge facing car-makers.

Consumer behaviour has changed forever.

A New Way to Launch

In this new world, car-makers are having to learn that great communications builds communities and inspires participation.

Modern communications includes activity as varied as branded events and art installations, to smart social media campaigns and "real-time" GPS treasure hunts.

Traditionally, in the car industry, the automotive press has been given first access to any new car model, and it is these people who have shaped public opinion.

But the successful car brands are now also inviting consumers earlier on in the launch of the car to get them involved in conversations around the brand.

This has therefore moved PR further up the integrated mix, and one of the measures of success in this new world is PR and marketing working closer together.

Influencers as Media

The super-connected and influential are increasingly being used by brands to shape campaigns. Using these influencers in the right way can help connect with the right people and build the reputation of the brand.

Any influencer strategy needs to be created based on the true values of the brand and the inspiration behind the product you want the influencers to talk about.

And if brands do get their influencer strategy right, it can reposition and broaden their appeal more effectively than a traditional 30-second TV spot.

But using well-connected people to drive a conversation about a brand only works if you fuel that relationship with interesting stuff and make them part of the story.

Hello Evoque

Back in February, we were briefed to create a long-term launch strategy for the new Range Rover Evoque, which would run over a period of 16 months before the car goes on sale in key markets.

This new car is Range Rover's design answer to the modern world: it will be the smallest, lightest and most efficient Range Rover ever built.

The car has been inspired by the city: the designers at Range Rover drew from architecture, design and technology to create a new model that will start a new journey for the Range Rover brand.

Connecting with a New Crowd

The Evoque is not just a Range Rover built for the modern world, but a car built for a new consumer.

Our challenge was to connect with a younger, urban, design- inspired and environmentally conscious consumer, a group that has traditionally rejected the brand.

We needed to reach out and engage people living in world cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and Shanghai. These are people with a city-state-of-mind who love the creative energy of their city and are plugged into the heart of city life.

Celebrate the Inspiration

In the modern world, great brands don't talk about themselves; they talk about the things that inspire them.

And so as this car launches around the world, we're inviting people to come on a journey to the cities that inspired it.

Energy. People. Streets. Architecture. Music. Design. Excitement. Colour. These things make up the pulse of the city.

So the Pulse of the City project aims to bring some of the best cities in the world to life through the people (and things) that make them amazing. From artists and designers to musicians and fashion bloggers, we're calling everyone and anyone that shape the cities they live in.

Every month, we'll be asking questions about people's cities, sharing answers and creating a new city pulse based on what's really happening.

We've asked city shapers around the world to get involved. People such as Daisy Lowe, Natasha Slater, OK Go, Greg Kozo, Tadi Rock, Os Gemeos and Jessica Schwarz - a mixture of established celebrities (to guarantee mainstream PR coverage) and cutting-edge tastemakers (to build reputation in the right places).

People can then go online and view the city shaper's journeys around their city and see what they have to say.

At the heart of the campaign is a Pulse app that anyone can download and become part of the project. The app, via GPS technology, allows people to draw their movements across their city and create stunning data visualisations of their journeys.

These can then be shared on the Evoque website or across their own social media spaces.

The more people get involved, the more their city comes to life.

This is just the beginning of the journey. Over the next 12 months we'll be bringing 12 cities to life through interesting collaborations and one-off, special events.

Everyone will be taken along for the ride.

- Matt Springate is the senior planner at The Brooklyn Brothers.


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