As US states allow EV startups to sell directly to consumers, brand activations like pop-up retail, road shows and local showrooms are building momentum.
In a KPMG study released last year, nearly half of global automotive executives think that most of new-vehicle sales worldwide will be directly to consumers from the manufacturer, by 2030.
So automakers will need to connect directly with consumers. And local brand activations are looking like a great solution.
But what about auto shows? They don’t build the connection that they used to. There’s only so much you can learn about a complex modern vehicle that’s parked on a stage. Global attendance has fallen dramatically. Most of the top luxury and sports brands won’t show up this weekend at the LA Auto Show.
Brand activations, on the other hand, allow people to learn about a vehicle and the company behind it, in a no-pressure community space. Product experts function more like Apple’s Genius Bar representatives.
And this is an especially apt comparison because vehicles are increasingly differentiated by their software capabilities and tech features.
So here are just a few noteworthy brand activation examples in the automotive industry today:
The EV startup Fisker, which is scheduled to start production this week, just completed a “Road Tour” for its Ocean model, a crossover SUV, touted as a serious rival to Tesla. The marketing team brought product experts, prototypes, tents and even the founder, Henrik Fisker, into neighborhood locations in several Western US cities. Paid reservations for the Ocean have now topped 62,000.
Another EV brand, Rivian, opened “The Hub,” in Venice, California, last year. Rivian describes The Hub as "a place to come together, connect, and share ideas." Physically, the Hub is basically a showroom dropped into small brick compound that also houses a library, a cafe, gardens and lots of seating. There are product experts and no salespeople, which explains why it has so many positive Google reviews. The company is on track to build 25,000 vehicles in 2022. It has paid reservations for over 114,000.
Then of course there’s Tesla. The original disruptor brand often reaches out to communities via their showrooms and special exhibits. For example, as the LA Auto show opens this weekend, Tesla will have a one-night-only exhibition, hosted by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. It will feature company stories and future plans, with the Cybertruck and Roadster prototypes on site. VIP tickets are already sold out.
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