Auto Shows are Changing. One Interactive Metric Can Help

Many automotive brands are in the midst of shaking up their approach to the traditional auto show model – and their live brand experiences more generally.

While some experiential leaders have made strategic decisions to pull out of certain shows, others are reassessing their creative partners or reallocating resources to approach shows in new digitally-infused ways…and have gone so far as to produce their own highly targeted, live-streamed experiences.

Each of these efforts aims to get us closer to solving for our most important challenges: namely, improved quality in lead capture and increased press coverage, web traffic and dealer visits.

The not-so-hidden driver behind all of this change is that buyers’ habits have evolved; while the live, hands-on experience of the product will always be a critical decision-point, digital touchpoints matter now more than ever (web, mobile, social and more). It means developing new internal and agency capabilities in buyer insights, technical skills and communication techniques, and applying them onsite at auto shows as well as the surround marketing we do.

One potentially useful model to help frame a new approach to auto show marketing is to establish an overarching interactive yardstick, a measure of what degree a specific auto show tactic (1) solicits buyer input, (2) adapts to personalize and (3) outputs buyer-specific calls-to-action (such as a vehicle configurator and appointment setting with local dealers).

By assigning a rating of interactive to our live experiences, we force ourselves to be even more buyer-centric and give ourselves a tangible metric to make judgement calls about specific elements of our stands (and other events we do). It gives us a self-imposed standard to meet.

As an automotive experiential leader, imagine the ability to look at a menu of options for a specific show or portfolio of events and know – in an instant – how interactive it is, and to subsequently be able to turn the dials up and down depending on the objectives and current situation of the brand and product.

From augmented reality to artificial intelligence, the platforms are proven, the tools readily available, and the costs for creative and engineering at parity or less than traditional auto show services (design, theatrical elements and A/V design). All the pieces are at our fingertips to do something new and more engaging than ever before, based around interactivity and bringing our products to life through immersive experiences.

To be sure, auto marketers are not being caught flat footed by the promise of digital. As an industry we’ve been way out ahead on making the most of the latest and greatest techniques, in many cases for decades. But in the face of ongoing changes in buyer preferences and their impact on how we’re investing in auto shows and other live experiences on a global basis, it’s time to move interactive thinking closer to the center of our overall show strategy and not treat it merely as a show plus-up or enhancement.