As journalist Brett Berk’s story in the current issue of Road & Track documents, today’s young drivers aren’t exactly in a rush to get their official “car guy” card. Fact is, most of them get their adrenaline rush from flexing their thumbs on a game console, not on a real-deal steering wheel.
I heard a similar sentiment echoed at this past weekend’s DigSouth Interactive Festival. Several of the presenters positioned cars and car ownership as we know and love it as certain collateral damage in a world where physical goods are rapidly being vaporized into software, apps and services (think maps, money, games, tickets, etc.)
Keynote speaker Robert Tercek, chairman of Creative Visions Foundation and digital/creative pioneer at a number of companies including The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sony and MTV, built his case on the notion that “the biggest technology shift of the 21st century is the migration from physical infrastructure and products to intangible, invisible software.” Tercek sees escalating adoption of robot vehicles and subscription-based ownership – both of which are in their infancy now but, according to his forecast, will gain serious traction within the decade as consumers no longer see the practical or emotional need for buying vehicles.
Tercek wasn’t alone in questioning the future of cars. Shifting patterns in where and how we work and live favor the creation of public transport to service mega regions, versus traditional roadway infrastructure. As more of us become contractors versus full-time employees and work remotely, the decreased need for daily commutes will also impact transportation trends, according to presenters.
The growth in consumer demand for frequency of re-invention will favor “disposable” brands in the future. How will automakers adapt to the next generations’ rapid-fire shifts in preferences? Based on current production cycles, not very well.
A Future Trends panel discussion moderated by John Biggs, east coast editor of TechCrunch, floated an interesting notion of a NASCAR effect, a time when we simply license our favorite brand’s logo for stuff that we create ourselves. Fire up that 3-D printer and create your own Ferrari-branded skateboard wheels! The idea that brands will ultimately figure out how to get into your house was also intriguing. Imagine a Volvo-branded line of nursery furniture built on that automaker’s legendary safety technology.
For many of us, life without the cars we dream about and aspire to own is unthinkable, so I wish all my four-wheeled friends an eternity of success as physical objects, not vaporware. I know I’ll love the thrill of driving until the end of my days – but that’s definitely a short-term point of view. What do you think automotive brands will be doing 10 or 20 years from now?
Image courtesy of jurvetson on Flickr.
Regardless of whether you loved or hated (yes) this year’s Academy Awards, or spent most of your time analyzing ads, it’s the execution of the event logistics that also deserves a critical eye. Most of us in public relations or marketing organize events for media, customers, dealers or prospects. While it’s rare that we have anything approaching an Oscar-size budget, the same event planning rules apply to any size gathering. Be sure you sweat these details:
1. Attend to obstacles. As Jennifer Lawrence found out, high heels, long gowns and stairs often don’t mix. Why wasn’t there an attendee stationed alongside the steps to lend an arm? When hosting an event, identify potential physical obstacles for stiletto-clad or no-longer-a-spring-chicken guests and assign staff to help individuals ascend, descend, or disembark gracefully and safely. And don’t wax the stairs en route to the podium.
2. Let the content reflect the attire. Call me old-school, but an event where guests drip diamonds and are swathed in couture demands a certain gravitas. Some people actually thought the “I saw your boobs” number hilarious – I didn’t, so Seth, this version is just for you. Sadly, viewer numbers rose by 3 percent so I suppose we can expect more of the same next year. My rule of thumb for client events: let the content and entertainment reflect the occasion.
3. Remember who’s the real star. Was Seth MacFarlane auditioning for his own variety show? He certainly had enough air time. Whether he had you laughing or cringing, the real stars of an event are the honorees or special guests. Whether it’s a dealer of the year ceremony or an industry awards dinner, don’t allow the emcee to overshadow the real stars. Integrate retrospective video, peer accolades and other tactics to shine the light on your guests’ achievements.
Photo courtesy of Disney ABC Television Group
I’ve been in Detroit this week for the media days portion of the North American International Auto Show. In addition to actual client work, it’s a great chance to reconnect with automotive industry colleagues as well as the business, consumer and lifestyle reporters who love cars and trucks. Unlike trade shows, no one’s here to sell anything other than coverage and content. Getting shoppers psyched about the current and future crop of automobiles starts when doors open to the public.
For most of us who’ve been on the auto show circuit for a few years, there’s enough material to write a big book about the good, the bad and the very ugly. For now, here are a few pointers for anyone attending or hosting press events at a trade or consumer show. Be a pro – do it right.
Right: General Motors put the first numbered edition of the media launch event press kit for its new-generation Corvette Stingray on eBay, with all proceeds going to charity. Great idea, GM!
Wrong: Certain alleged members of the press who received an invitation to the media launch event promptly put their press kits up on ebay.
This has been going on ever since automakers started creatively packaging press materials. Tacky, with a capital T. Press kits are not a profit center.
Right: There were no reported fisticuffs or injuries sustained while rushing a press kit counter during the show, so perhaps civility is on the rise. That would truly be a capital letter RIGHT.
Wrong. We suggest revoking media credentials to all attendees observed stripping the very cool, albeit heavy metal Jeep press kit box (a field “emergency” kit including the ever-invaluable hand sanitizer) of its press material content, just to get their hands on the freebies. It’s undoubtedly the same list of professionals who stuff their pockets and tote bags with biscotti and other treats supplied by exhibitors.
Right: Espresso bars and recharging stations are proliferating at the manufacturer stands. Kudos to exhibit managers for recognizing the two most important requirements for helping media manage 10 hours of back-to-back press conferences: caffeine and fully-charged devices.
Wrong: Watching a hospitality area guest openly and loudly berate a PR person because they’d run out of a certain lunch item. Note to the rude guest: no one is required to provide the costly, often multi-course meals served during media days. Have you priced convention food services lately? Be happy – or go buy a hot dog at a concession stand.
Right: To warm up for consumer days, exhibits are often staffed by a mix of knowledgeable, polished and helpful product specialists of both genders. We’ve worked with the agencies that manage these teams, and they undergo rigorous training and most know all the vehicle specs. They deserve courtesy.
Wrong: Exhibitors that insist on equipping their all-female product specialist teams in 6-inch heels and plunging necklines. Note to car manufacturers: don’t sagely nod at female car buyer statistics and give lip service to diversity. Put it into action and start by taking a look at who’s representing your product in your stand.
What’s your favorite media days right and wrong?
An atrocity or tragedy happens. Predictably, the exploitation machine revs up. Endless “news” coverage grinds on: close-up on the tears of distraught families of victims, please. Much of it is ultimately so distasteful, insensitive and intrusive that we turn off instead of tuning in. Fake Facebook pages pop up. Relief funds – some real, some not – are flogged by various groups. Social conversation becomes heated; blame is assigned. Anti name-your-weapon-or-cause-of-choice lobbying begins. Politicians get on the bandwagon and pontificate. Celebrities chime in because surely their opinion matters. Frankly, it makes me sick.
Yet, when bad stuff happens, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have a genuine, burning desire to do something, anything, to help. There’s a right and wrong way to do it when you want to respond as a company versus an individual.
Whether the tragedy is natural or man-made, our clients wonder often wonder how they might respond with donations, expressions of sympathy or other engagement that shows they care – deeply.
Here’s a quick snapshot of counsel we often provide:
- Create value, not lip service. If you don’t want to donate money to a local or national relief organization following a disaster, make sure the response is authentic to your brand. A good example of positive “branded” responses that created real value for victims vs. empty words was Bright Box and Verizon’s mobile recharging stations following Hurricane Sandy.
- Grieve in private. Any attempt to publicly comment on a situation that involves the deaths of many by the hand of man is inappropriate for a business. It is certainly entirely appropriate for personal expressions using non-corporate channels, but refrain from connecting your brand. This smacks of exploitation. There are many counterpoints, but my point of view is simple: grieve or otherwise engage privately: that’s decency. Everything else is exploitation.
- Stay off the soapbox. Unless you work for PETA, Greenpeace or a polarizing corporate leader who couples corporate business with personal politics (hello Steve Wynn and Dan Cathy), stifle the urge to weigh in with an opinion or (as we’ve been asked) a paid ad supporting whatever the hot-button issue is (gun control, animal rights, etc.). If you want to make a statement, put your money where your mouth is, privately, or risk alienating employees and stakeholders who feel differently.
Photo courtesy of Digital Trends