Experiential marketing: Automakers’ new tool to build brands

Ketan Thakkar, ET Bureau Apr 11, 2014, 07.07PM IST

MUMBAI: Jann Mardenborough, a 22-year-old race car enthusiast, will soon participate in GP3 racing and take a step closer to his dream of racing in Formula 1 championship.

The platform for Mardenborough was being offered by Nissan's GT Academy in Europe which has now come to India. The academy aims to reach out to 5,000 young people in five cities in India to test their driving skills on simulators installed in malls. The company will filter 14 best drivers, but the main aim is to spread awareness of the Nissan brand to the participants.

This kind of experiential marketing is increasingly turning out to be a new brand building tool for automakers in India. Be it Mahindra's Great Escape `off-roading rally' for its customers or Tata Motors' recent truck racing.

"Experiential marketing is a fast gaining currency in India for high engagement categories such as automobile and luxury goods. Advertising is increasingly very expensive and is like carpet bombing,'' Alpana Parida, president at DY Works, a brand strategy firm said.

Parida said there was a direct correlation between higher level of customer engagement with a brand to conversion and preference for that brand.

"Experiential marketing reaches out to opinion leaders, who are the innovators and early adopters in a category. They are the influencers, the enthusiasts, who today, thanks to the evolution of technology, are more important than ever. They create a viral buzz that quickly reaches a wider audience. This is a very effective strategy to build brands beyond advertising," Parida said.

Television and print commercials can spread awareness but the 'customer-speak' performs a crucial part of converting interest into purchase, according to industry officials. The concept of CAP - the 'Customer As Promoter' is becoming big in India.

To tap this avenue, US carmaker, Ford India, reached out to 100 prospective EcoSport buyers a good three months ahead of its launch through its Urban Discovery campaign to spread the buzz about EcoSport through social media.

The idea of this campaign was to make customer their brand ambassadors. The customers shared photos, experiences and testimonials. And it seemed to have delivered within months of its launch. Ford had garnered over 60,000 bookings.

"People relate to customer speak much more than a car manufacturer's prophecies. Source credibility is more from word of mouth than a company promoting its own products," says Vivek Nayer, CMO, at Mahindra & Mahindra's Automotive Division.

For the company, Mahindra Adventure, an experiential marketing initiative, has turned out to be a significant brand building exercise.

M&M created a property called Mahindra Great Escape way back in 1993, to offer a platform to its customers to enjoy 'off-roading' & to test their Mahindra SUV's capabilities. From being an annual event in the 90s, about three years ago Mahindra started a separate vertical called Mahindra Adventure keeping in mind the changing lifestyle aspirations of its customers & fans.

The Mahindra Adventure arm today does about '10 Great Escapes' a year across the country, Time Speed Distance (TSD) Rallies, Special Escapes ( a multi-day rally ) say from from Delhi to Leh and it has even gone international by doing a Tri Nation Escape( across India, Nepal & Bhutan). And now M&M even intends to organise an off-roading rally for its customers in some of their overseas markets such as South Africa or Chile.

Even its French rival Renault which will have almost 100,000 Dusters on Indian road shortly has started a similar customer engagement initiative called 'Gangs of Duster'

Motorsport is another avenue, which is getting increasingly tapped by auto companies. Post the first Indian Grand Prix, the awareness of motorsport has been on the rise.

Tata Motors decided to leverage this platform to bring in truck racing into India, which is a common phenomenon overseas. Tata Motors feels that through this initiative, it will be able to retain second generation of fleet operators engaged in the truck business and offer aspirational avenue to the truck drivers who stay away from driving and build advanced technologies.

"Racing helps us to engage our customers through the experiential marketing route, helping them form a memorable and emotional connect with the Tata Motors brand, generating customer loyalty and also influencing purchase decisions," said UT Ramprasad, head, marketing communications, and commercial vehicle business unit at Tata Motors.

The buzz surrounding the brand on twitter, facebook or online blogs are turning out to be key indicators to measure the benefits of advertising, an industry official said.

T1 Racing for Tata Motors concluded on a positive note with an audience of over 25,000 at the Buddh International Circuit. It had a social media reach through 218,359 Facebook fans and 1.6 million twitter users and 274,408 YouTube views post the race.

Pointers for Experiential marketing story

Nissan Motor India is doing a five-city tour of GT Academy competition to scout for fast Indian drivers - aim is to reach out to youngsters through this initiative.

Mahindra & Mahindra has set up a Mahindra Adventure team to engage with customers through `off-roading rallies' and competitions.

Ford India conducted Urban Discovery Campaign to create prospective customers as their brand ambassadors ahead of EcoSport launch.

Tata Motors organised India's first truck racing competition to showcase technology, build loyalty and attract drivers, who are in short supply.

Alpana Parida is president of DY Works (erstwhile DMA Branding).

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog..An Experiential Marketing offers
    something wholly disparate from regular media advertising. This form of advertising;
    such as the television advert as been losing its effectiveness for some time, perhaps
    down to an overcrowded marketplace, a greater consumer awareness of advertising
    techniques or just cynicism amongst the consumer public as a result of constant
    advertising bombardment.