By Tricia Carr
October 8, 2012
Luxury automakers are using digital channels to spread live model launch events to a larger audience, but those that hone in on peer-to-peer influences on social media and the brand lifestyle can better stand up to competitors.
There needs to be a strategic balance between exclusive events and digital efforts so that luxury marketers can create substantial awareness for a new model while catering to target consumers. However, the power of social media has made it essential for inclusion in a luxury model reveal, and brands that use the channel to flaunt brand lifestyle – not to cater to aspirational minds– will likely come out on top.
“Although the bare bones of a launch are based on getting the right information to the right people and getting the right people behind the wheel, how luxury brands go about doing this must evolve,” said Garen Moreno, Los Angeles-based partner at CuldeSac. “The current evolution that luxury brands must embrace is the democratization of influence between, dealers, press, advertising, social media influencers and direct customer engagement.
“There is no standard method or formula that can be followed,” he said. “Each can be more or less valuable for each specific vehicle and brand.”
There are quite a few ways that luxury marketers are showcasing new models.
One of the most prevalent formulas to release a car model to the public is launch events that correspond with auto shows accompanied by a digital campaign.
Further efforts are print and television placements when the model becomes available for purchase.
“The key channels for creating excitement in the media and among car enthusiasts are the auto shows and the media publicity and consumer word of mouth generated by them,” said Ron Kurtz, president of American Affluence Research Center, Atlanta.
“Digital and traditional media directed at current and past owners would be the next most important channels,” he said.
British automaker Jaguar Land Rover has been pushing two model releases: the all-new 2013 Range Rover and the Jaguar F-Type.
Land Rover used a combination of live reveals supported by coverage via digital, and digital efforts centered on its heritage to market the new Range Rover to existing customers as well as nouveau riche.
The revamped model was revealed Sept. 6 at the Royal Ballet School in London. To follow was a U.S. reveal party.
Then, the Range Rover made its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show.
All the while, Land Rover gave its opt-in social media followers a glimpse at the events via photos and videos. It also created a microsite on which it showed a history display and other images and videos.
Land Rover likely went down this road in an attempt to attract young consumers, but keep up exclusivity with its current audience.
“If it is a substantially changed model of an existing car, the brand needs to be clear if it is trying to attract new buyers to the brand while maintaining the loyalty of past buyers or simply trying to strengthen customer loyalty,” Mr. Kurtz said.
“Customer loyalty is very important to a brand as prior owners are the major source of buyers of new cars in the United States,” he said. “This is much less true in emerging markets like China.
“There are several luxury car brands that are battling to be No. 1 in total sales volume, and they are introducing new models and new price points to generate incremental sales and to match the special interests of affluent buyers in certain international markets.”
Meanwhile, Land Rover’s sister company Jaguar has been hyping its F-Type via digital for quite some time, but ultimately chose a live reveal at the Paris Motor Show. But, true to form, the event was spread via social media.
Earlier this year, the automaker began using its digital outlets and an ambiguous YouTube video to speak to consumers’ curiosity about its new sports car and ask them to register for email updates about the mode.
Generally, there are two different ways that luxury automakers can push models: showcasing the brand lifestyle and pushing the innovations of a new model.
“There is a sizeable portion of luxury car buyers who want to have the newest models,” Mr. Kurtz said. “This sometimes reflects the buyer motivation of wanting to have the prestige of owning a new model.
“In other cases, it is because the buyer simply wants the new look or the new performance, convenience or safety features being introduced with the new model,” he said.
Automakers seem to focus on brand lifestyle during model reveals, and use supporting channels such as digital, TV and print later on to focus on innovation. A focus on lifestyle likely helps automakers remind customers of why they buy the cars in the first place at the time of a new model launch.
For example, Jaguar is using musician Lana Del Ray as the spokesperson for its new F-Type model.
The allure of Jaguar is in large part due to its duality, a unique blend of authenticity and modernity, two values that Jaguar believes are shared with Ms. Del Ray and her professional achievements, per the automaker.
In addition, British automaker Aston Martin showed the new Vanquish model to the U.S. market for the first time at status events and hosted invitation-only viewings and test drives at its private estate property.
The automaker leveraged the attraction surrounding its latest model – as seen in the successful social media campaign centered on the Vanquish – during Monterey Auto Week Aug. 15-19 in Monterey, CA.
Also, Toyota Corp.’s Lexus revealed the 2013 Lexus LS flagship sedan with a photography exhibit and invited consumers to get a glimpse into the invitation-only launch event during a live-stream offering.
The Lexus Laws of Attraction exhibit showed the vehicle in images that depict modern couples.
The large social media push behind the unveiling of the model culminated during a live feed of the event on the Lexus Web site and a Facebook application.
The common thread in most model reveals is a supporting social media push. Therefore, luxury automakers that are looking to stand out on the channel should tap the community in a meaningful way.
Now more than ever, social media has the power to influence potential buyers, per CuldeSac’s Mr. Moreno.
Social campaigns surrounding new model launches that not only engage users in a way that is compelling to them, but encourage sharing can tie up efforts centered on a new model.
“Using social media as a tool to prospect through a launch and have the most trusted voices become advocates will quickly become the norm,” Mr. Moreno said.
Social media users are willing to share personal information will their followers and trusted brands.
It is no longer about how many social media hits a brand can get for a specific campaign, but the quality of interactions with that campaign.
“From 2006 to 2011, the trend in social media has been about the masses, but numbers are meaningless if your followers will not follow you anywhere” Mr. Moreno said. “We are entering an era where social media engagement is focused on quality not quantity.”
For that reason, luxury marketers should tap the community on social media as a large resource to share a model launch.
Content should be personalized, engaging and relevant.
“We are getting into an age where storytelling is becoming invaluable and luxury automobile brands are laden with unique heritage, rich stories and just enough poetry to keep inspiring,” Mr. Moreno said.