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How to embrace the power of experiences to launch products

28 September 2020

Introducing new products or concepts to customers with little or no knowledge of how they work, or why they need to take notice, is a challenge. Not only do you have to launch something wholly new, but there’s also a job to do around education and shifting deeply ingrained consumer behaviour. The automotive sector, however, has managed to do this effectively and some of the latest electric and hybrid vehicle experiences are particularly noteworthy. Christophe Castagnera, Head of Connected Experiences, discusses further.

Of course, rational factors are always important when it comes to car buying. However, automotive brands know that when purchasing something as important as a car, the heart has a significant role in decision making. That’s exactly why many use experiences as a way to form emotional connections with new audiences and change the way they think, feel and act towards brands and their latest vehicles.

Below are four key learnings drawn from our experience in launching electric and hybrid cars in a cluttered but still relatively new category, that apply for any marketer looking to introduce a new product successfully.

  1. Make sure your brand activation has depth and reach

Some of the most successful automotive electric/hybrid brand activations over the last few years have created spectacular launches that are not simply stunts, but also deliver on depth and reach. By that we mean that the activation emotionally connects to the audience during the event (it has depth) and it reaches a wide number of people, ensuring the excitement and depth that’s generated during the event translates to as many people as possible.

Ford’s Mach-E, ‘Go Electric’ vehicle experience is a good example of this. Hands-on and visceral, the core of the experience was a rollercoaster-like 'E-Launch' acceleration simulator, that propelled riders using the same extreme electric power as the Mach-E. On top of this, guests learnt about plug-in technology through hands-on interactive exhibits and expert advice from Ford’s host team.

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Getting hands-on with new products and services is a great tool when it comes to communications, but you can make the most of your investment in pop-ups by providing layers of storytelling and experiences that create returns in multiple ways; such as outdoor media equivalent value, sales leads and engaged dwell time with your brand and products.

  1. Support your experience with content that challenges customer perceptions

Creating content that achieves high levels of reach is difficult to do well. You need to plan content that will support your experience before, after and during the event. A great example of pre-experience content comes from Formula E Racing. Although it has a solid track record of media spectaculars, it really needed to rival F1 and capture the imagination of the world with a campaign that brought to life the thrill of electric racing.

So it pitted man against machine in an outrageous stunt at a Formula E track that left viewers with their hearts in their mouths. The video that captured this feat has been viewed nearly six million times. Experience content does not get more visceral than that.

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It’s very rare for a piece of content to go viral and reach millions without a strategy in place ensuring it does so. Formula E carefully chose to partner with stunt driver Damien Walters who has a large social media following on Instagram and YouTube and is famed for his participation in Skyfall and Captain America. This ensures the content would reach an audience beyond Formula E’s normal channels. On top of this, they partnered with The Mail Online, Fox New and Red Bull to feature the video on their channels and total reach exceeded 100 million.

  1. The best way to educate your customers is to put them in the driver’s seat

Putting a sceptic in the driving seat and showing them exactly what a new product can do is a sure-fire way of silencing them. Many automotive brands are adept at creating experiences that are as exhilarating as the product and go far beyond a simple test drive or product demo.

One of the best examples of this I’ve seen recently is Polestar. The brand has seized the opportunity to embrace COVID-19 experiences by working with the Fully Charged electric car show to create a drive experience with a twist: an Electric Car Drive In Cinema.

The Electric Drive-In will run for a limited time at Farnborough International and features TENET, the new blockbuster from British director Christopher Nolan and starring John David Washington. Guests will be able to enjoy the movie from the seats of the new Polestar 2, and spend time in the car. Literally placing the customer in the driving seat.

  1. Bring innovation into the retail experience

Lastly, it’s important not to forget the retail experience. Many brands have failed to match the excitement of their innovative electric car communications when it comes to the in-store or online buying experience. This highlights an issue, which troubles many CMOs today; how to create a consistent and exciting customer experience across all online and offline touchpoints?

Tesla has led the way when it comes to innovating in the automotive retail sector since 2011 by completely changing the full brand ecosystem and abandoning the dealership model. Tesla controls the messaging and relationship with the customer from start-to-finish, enabling them to be truly customer-first as everything from the initial test drive to follow-up maintenance is done by the same company.

Porsche have also been pushing the retail envelope with their new VR experience available across their retail network for the new all electric Taycan.

Experience activations are a unique marketing tool for today - they allow marketers to effectively and creatively respond to the challenges of the pandemic and help pave the way for future business success.