You know those booth babes at the auto show you may or may not sexually harass? That’s me. Let’s get a few things out of the way: No, I don’t come with the car. No, I won’t date you. Or marry you. Or let you take a picture of my butt. Or let you sit in this concept car even if you promise me the cover of 944.
What I will do, however, is what this lovely blog so graciously requested of me, which is to provide a wrap-up of the 2010 auto show season. While there are still a few more small regional shows left, the New York show marks the unofficial end of the season with the last big reveals and press days. (It also pretty much marks the end of my sanity, so thank god there isn’t another major show until November.)
Rather than talk about the cars – because I do that all day, and you and I both know all about them, and yes I really am trained by the engineers and have confidential info, yes really – let’s talk about the more mysterious part of auto shows: the marketing decisions. There’s a clearly defined reason behind each and every little thing you see at the auto show, from the shoes we wear to the color of the display, and months of research and millions of dollars go into each decision with one end goal: keeping you in that display for as long as possible. The longer you stay, the stronger the brand impression becomes in your mind. The stronger the brand impression, the more likely you are to buy a vehicle from them.
The 2010 auto show season came close to not happening. Several manufacturers barely participated at all, some didn’t show up until the end of the season when they started getting pushback from dealers and potential customers, and nearly all spent last spring and summer doing a cost/benefit analysis to see how much they would gain or lose by not having a presence in what is arguably the single most valuable marketing tool in their arsenal.
So while this is a lighthearted knocking of some odd choices made by the marketing departments of these manufacturers, it should be stated that I’m glad they showed up at all because doing so kept a lot of people employed.
That being said… What the hell, Kia? I understand that this “one-eyed monster” is a character from some kids’ show, but to your child-free customers this key marketing character looks like an infected phallus with a nasty case of genital warts. If that’s what you get with a new Kia Sorrento, I’ll pass.
The lovely ladies of Fiat/Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep. They looked fabulous. They garnered a lot of attention on press days. But when the spinners are only there to be pretty and don’t know anything about the product, it defeats the purpose and makes the public lose confidence in the rest of us. And PS – those girls are wearing $900 shoes and $1500 Herve Leger bandage dresses. Remember that time when Chrysler accepted more than $7 billion in bailout funds and never repaid it? (Who am I kidding – I’m just suffering from extreme shoe envy.)
The Jeep stoner. I’m pretty sure this guy started the fire at Cobo Hall when he was smoking a doob.
The Toyota entertainment team. Toyota had all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to keep you in their booth: multiple singing groups, flash mobs, a game show, a Stomp take-off, film your own commercial, and more. A lot of it was mocked in the press, but the public ate it up. Say what you want, but it captured people’s attention and kept them in the display during a time when the company was in desperate need of consumer confidence.
The Chevy Volt dancers. Thankfully this only lasted for one or two shows. It was trashed so badly in the press and ridiculed by show guests so hard that Chevy pulled it pretty fast. In fact, the person in charge of this fiasco was moved to another department shortly thereafter.
Ford has pulled together a tremendous auto show presence the last couple of years, and their sales have benefited from it. They know how to get and keep people in their vast display for a long time. But sweet Jesus, this thing scares the crap out of me:
In case you haven’t seen it, it is a robot that moves and interacts with the public from its perch. There is a girl in a little room somewhere wearing a motion sensor suit and supplying the voice, like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. The thing looks like the Terminator, it makes fun of other manufacturers and I freaked out when it started talking to me one day. Maybe next year Ford will bring in clowns and really finish me off. More than a few booth babes I talked to say they are petrified of the thing, so I can only assume a chunk of the general public is too.
So what will next year hold? Will the Fiat twins don whipped cream bikinis? Will Toyota host a circus as a tongue-in-cheek nod to their recent media scrutiny, complete with fire eaters, elephant tricks and a flying trapeze? Will Ford finally bring in Mike Rowe for public appearances? (A girl can dream. I’ve got a dirty job for him.)
What are your 2010 auto show picks and pans?
The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at http://doyoucomewiththecar.blogspot.com. And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at Thetruthaboutcars.com