It’s Not a Car Show: It’s Speed Dating for Brands

Once again, I accompanied my research assistants to the New York International Auto Show (#NYAIS) with an eye on evaluating the event as marketing.  Although I didn’t see any new exhibits that made me think differently about any given brand, I did recognize a hidden value of the show: speed dating for brands.

NYIAS Retro: Read My Posts from last year’s show

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

With over one million visitors, all of whom seem to want to slide behind the wheel of the same Corvette that you do, NYIAS has no room for subtlety.  In my personal case, my research assistants made sure that I had even less time to decide whether to visit a booth.

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My research assistants couldn’t even agree on which booth to knock over first

As a result, I started to see the similarities between the show and speed dating (as least as I’ve seen it in the movies; I last dated in the Cretaceous Era).

  • The room has a lot of potential matches who start to look alike after awhile
  • Everyone is trying his or her darndest
  • You always suspect there’s someone better for you…somewhere

So, let me point out the brands that would have merited a second date, at least with me (disclosure: I have not been on a second date since 2001, so YMMV) and why I liked them.

Ford Cars: My Kids Liked Her

The closest thing I saw to a home run was (mixed metaphor alert): Ford’s partnership with the New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer.

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I have no idea who those people are, either

  • What was it?  A chance to meet and get autographs from pro soccer players.  I hear it’s popular now.
  • Why did it work? For one, the cardboard shield that the players signed became an ad for the rest of the show, since it couldn’t fit into a backpack or one of the tote bags given away by other brands.  For another, Ford commemorated the proceedings with a photo uploaded to their auto show website that you could then share.

    So I spent more time than I would have expected poking and prodding the Edge.

Ford Trucks: She’s Kind to the Disabled

Several manufacturers, including Toyota, showed vehicles modified for people who use wheelchairs.  Only Ford, in the basement truck exhibit, made one that looked aspirational:

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It doesn’t say you can use the ramp for jumps, but…

  • What was it?  A simple vinyl wrap turned an ordinary wheelchair-accessible truck into something kinda cool.
  • Why did it work? Giving dignity to a much-ignored group of people.

Scion and Elio: She’s Brave

Toyota cancelled the Scion brand, effective at the end of the 2016 model year.  Elio Motors has promised to build a missile-like three-wheeler that rates 84 MPG and costs under $7,000…since 2013 or so.  They just postponed their full product launch again.  Nevertheless, both brands came to NYIAS and put on a show.

  • What was it? A brave attempt, on both parts, to stand up in the face of bad news.
  • Why did it work? In the Scion case, I think the exhibit served to thank current owners for their patronage.  For Elio, their exhibit represented a bit of proof that they’ll still go into production

Volvo: She Likes Animals

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Of course we have a moose.  Why wouldn’t we have a moose?  Don’t you have a moose?

  • What was it? A life-size-ish moose made out of some kind of painted resin with absolutely no explanation of why it was there
  • Why did it work? Beats me.  I like moose.

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