Sector insight: Automotive

The need for smarter mobility is changing consumer perception of the car industry, so brands must now present their softer side.

Event explores experiential in the automotive sector
Event explores experiential in the automotive sector

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders identified in its 2014 Motor Industry Facts report that auto manufacturing in the UK boasts £60bn in annual turnover. And this vibrant sector shows no signs of slowing down - the same report highlighted that 18 of the world's 20 biggest automotive suppliers have a UK base.

It's no surprise to see car brands such as Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Honda in the top 20 of Interbrand's Best 100 Brands 2014 list. However, what is interesting is consumers' changing perception of automotive companies. Daniel Binns, executive director, global brand engineer, for Interbrand New York, says that a number of factors are affecting people's relationships with car brands.

"One is increasing urbanisation, which is clogging our roads and polluting our air," he says. "The need for cleaner, more efficient and smarter forms of mobility is accelerating automotive innovation. Perhaps more interesting is the race to create autonomous vehicles.

This technology promises to dramatically improve vehicle safety, as well as ease congestion with integrated traffic-management systems that will control traffic flow and enable cars to travel inches apart as they speed down highways."

Binns also believes that the millennial generation don't have the same status associations with car ownership that previous generations had.

Emotional attachment

Binns stresses a need for car brands to evolve the customer experience. "More emphasis is placed on the softer side of car branding, on building a stronger emotional link with customers," he says. "This is challenging how companies position themselves and communicate, and it makes the overall customer experience even more critical."

Steve Lidbury, European creative director of automotive at Imagination, supports this point.

"The most memorable automotive activations are not simply 'events' but living, breathing experiences of the culture, purpose and performance of the brands that stage them," he says. "The best experiences allow brands to become 'story-doers' by using technology, customisation and participation to create emotionally responsive spaces in which audiences can engage before, during and after an event."

For Skoda UK's first presence at automotive festival Goodwood two years ago, events manager Deborah Elsom says that while it was important to have an emotional connection with consumers, making the brand stand out from other car brands was equally significant. "We looked at the exhibitor plan and saw that we were surrounded by brands such as Bentley, Jaguar and Audi," she says. "We knew we couldn't use a traditional car display, so we decided to build a bakery experience to put our stamp on the event."

For this year's Goodwood festival, Skoda created a cycling-themed stand to reflect the Tour de France coming to the UK. "People could race against the clock on a live course," Elsom explains. "This element not only harked back to our roots in cycling from the 1880s, but also gave consumers the chance to experience the brand's human touch, which we believe is a very powerful tool."

Case study: Imagination created a design-led multi-sensory experience for automotive brand Rolls-Royce at the Saatchi Gallery in London in November.

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