From auto show to auto experience – brand renewal is an annual rite

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This post originally appeared in Automotive World

Brand images are earned and established over time within their market space. In a few industries, however, recurring events or product development cycles allow individual brands to periodically reinvent themselves. Some high-visibility examples can be found in the technology, fashion and automobile industries. These periodic renewals are valuable opportunities to adjust or even reinvent a brand image or position.

Focusing on the automotive industry, although the mid-cycle refresh and the annual model changeover involve many types of media and messages, auto shows personify new-model introductions and act as critical tests for potential future products.

These shows create huge exposure and tremendous opportunities to renew a brand, with most of the US shows boasting record attendance figures each year. Chicago reported an all-time record of more than 1.2 million attendees, besting New York’s total attendance of more than 1.1 million.

A recent report by the Auto Shows of North America (ASNA) quantifies the benefits of this annual rite. The data shows that 57% of attendees are in the market to buy within the next 12 months; 51% of attendees who purchase new vehicles after a show say the show influenced their purchase; and one in four buyers gave advice to six or more people about vehicles, spreading the word to non-attendees.

Compared to shows of the past, displays now are much larger and more elaborate, and the audience has expanded exponentially. In the past, only press, automotive industry personnel and true enthusiasts would attend motor shows. Now, they are a beacon for anyone considering or searching for a new car. As a result, they have become an experience as well as a show, featuring interactive exhibits, test drives and expert conversations.

Even more important from a brand engagement perspective, the data from ASNA illustrates that auto shows improve consumer engagement, brand decisions and overall awareness. Nearly half of all attendees use interactive terminals, and seven out of ten consumers who were influenced by the show talk to a product specialist on the booth.

People attend auto shows to have fun, but they also go to discover new concepts, see, touch and feel new vehicles, learn about new technology and – most importantly from a brand perspective – decide on new vehicle purchases.

Getting the message right is crucial. Too often, a brand makes just a modest effort to show one or two cars, without any thought to the direction in which it is going. Other times, a vehicle manufacturer tries to show so much that it is easy to lose track of what it stands for.

Successful car companies follow through on their marketing and brand strategies with auto show displays that amuse and delight attendees, show off the latest in technological advancements, illustrate the personality of the brand and inflame people’s desire to own one of their cars.

It’s never too late to become the next great introduction that will shape automotive history. Auto shows captivate people and fuel their dreams. The brands on display should do the same.

Dave Pulaski is research director at Siegel+Gale. 

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