This week’s road trip is a special journey through a much-loved American tradition: NASCAR. We’re going to be driving through the South, some lush, beautiful country full of hospitality, great barbecue, and rabid loyalty to the local citizenry’s sponsored stock car of choice. This is a much longer trip than last week’s – we’re going to hit eight states – so plan accordingly, i.e. a case of beer per person per day. Only to be drunk after the day’s drive is complete, of course.
One of the many amazing benefits to my booth babe job is that I get to travel this beautiful country and somebody else pays for it. I’ve been to many cities that I never would have gone to otherwise. (Seriously, does anyone go to Milwaukee on vacation? No, but it’s a pretty rad city.) There are around 80 auto shows every season. I don’t go to all of them, but every year I’m sent to a few different ones that I’ve never been to before. At this point in my auto show career I think it’s safe to say that I’ve hit at least ¾ of all consumer auto show cities.
Summer is nigh upon us, and that means two things: Your electric bill is ridiculous, and it’s time for a summer road trip.
We’re going to suspend our disbelief here. We’re going to pretend that there is no reason why any and all of us cannot take off for a week or two and explore this beautiful country of ours during the most gorgeous weather of the year. We’re going to pretend that we have little to no responsibilities and that we are free, fun-loving 25-year-olds with generous benefactors who fill our gas tanks, and us with a sense of adventure that never steers us wrong.
While we’re at it, let’s pretend I get to work both the Miami and Hawaii auto shows this year. Neither of which have anything to do with road trips, but a little dreaming can’t hurt…
And with that, let’s take off on our summer road trip!
First, the rules…
Happy Hangover Tuesday! I trust you’re all in good spirits despite possibly imbibing too many good spirits over the holiday weekend. Nothing a nice nap in the county lockup won’t cure.
Yup, chances are at least one or two of you were given an introduction to the ins and outs of traffic, DUI or public drunkenness laws this weekend. Hopefully you didn’t try to outrun the cops before they caught you.
There’s always lots of cool things to see besides the new model year vehicles at the auto show, and one display I always enjoy is the one showing off the latest and greatest police cars. I especially love the ones they’ve confiscated from drug busts and tricked out to take care of law enforcement business. Good luck outrunning those.
Auto show season might be over, but the marketing event season is in full swing. At concerts, state fairs, sporting goods stores, hotels, golf tournaments, baseball games, food and wine festivals, gay pride festivals, dog parks, any kind of place where a target demographic might gather, you will find a car company showing off the vehicle they think target demographic should be driving.
It could be a ride and drive, it could be a static display ,or it could be an entire day’s experience like AMG Challenge, Chevy Rev It Up or Taste of Lexus (although big events like these seem to have been put on pause with the onslaught of the recession). Regardless of the level of formality or the amount of activity, all have one thing in common: People like me are working there.
Let’s be real: I am not rollin’ in an exotic. My middle-class wheels get me from Point A to Point B with a little fun in between, but it’s not something that’s going to get any panties thrown at it (that and the fact that I’m not a wealthy middle-aged man). The closest I get to those amazing pieces of vehicular art is the same as most of you: at the auto show and, if I’m very, very lucky, the occasional track day at which I’m either working or to which someone has graciously invited me.
In the last couple of weeks though, I have seen some ridiculously hot cars driving around town.
Music and scents. That’s what surrounds me during my work at car shows. The music tries to drown out the display next door. The ladies, gentlemen, even the cars in the booth are carefully perfumed. (There are other scents … but let’s not go there.) Nothing evokes a greater emotional response than music and scents. Retail establishments have figured out how to get to you via your nose and ears for years. Until Smell-O-Vision is actually rolled out, TV advertising has to be content with the music side of things. Luckily, most auto manufacturers know exactly how to push our buttons with a great tune. Here are some of my personal faves.
Earlier this week on my blog I wrote about narcissism – specifically of whether or not bloggers are by nature narcissistic and if gender makes a difference in that judgment. As I linked in that entry, Justine Musk, soon-to-be ex of Tesla head Elon Musk, had some interesting ruminations on the subject if you care to read it.
Anyway, between Musk’s thoughts, another run-in with an Unnecessary Truck and this awful situation in the Gulf, self-involved tendencies have been weighing heavily on my mind of late. Being so selfish has certainly led to that disaster, but I also don’t think you can argue with the fact that many of our choices as consumers are driven not by necessity, but by pure narcissism.
Despite the fact that the Greatest Generation keeps me cornered at my info desk for 45 minutes while telling me filthy dirty jokes, I know if not for everyone’s grandpa I’d probably be heil-ing allegiance to the flag of the Rising Sun or some German/Japanese combo thereof. I can’t imagine any 18-year-old boy I’ve ever known doing anything nearly as heartbreakingly heroic as some of the things these men and women did, although I know plenty have since and plenty, sadly, will in the future.
There are many legacies left to us by these old cranky dudes who fought so I could have the freedom to say whatever I want in my blog, but I think one of the strongest culturally is the love of the automobile. They are the ones who spent that post-war disposable income on those big, beautiful machines that became instant status symbols by their sheer power and heft. They are the ones that started the grand American tradition of the summer road trip and backseat shenanigans, and without them we’d probably never have those little shaky-shaky hula girl dash ornaments.
The beauty of humanity is that we all have different tastes, that our aesthetic preferences create a marvelous tapestry of beauty, and that this creates a market where there’s something for everyone. Whether it be cars, shoes, or a life partner, what you think is absolutely hideous could very well be the greatest thing your boss has ever seen, and you’ll have to lie through your teeth about how awesome it is in order to keep your job.
Opinions are like the proverbial anatomical orifice, the only difference being that people have no problem spreading their opinions all over town and the Internet. (If you do the same with said orifice, please do not share the details here.)
Here’s my daily struggle: I like cars and I like (and greatly appreciate) how I make my living. But I also really like the Earth and nature and polar bears and would prefer mankind not relocate to some Total Recall-like Mars colony stocked with Evian, Luna bars and aliens with three boobs.
Automotive marketing – marketing in general, really – fascinates me. I have a business degree with a focus on marketing and spent many years studying the commercial machine of capitalism, along with the psychology behind getting you to buy. The whole thing is extremely thought-provoking (such as Mike Rowe) and often more than a little spooky. Such as a penis with warts …
The Booth Babe Chronicles: Psychology Of Auto Show Marketing, With Special Emphasis On Gender-Related Issues
Thank you so much for the warm welcome last week! I appreciate all your comments and encouragement and look forward to sharing more about auto show life with you.
A comment on my last column caught my eye. The gist of it was why bother with “booth babes” or professional presenters at all? Why not just have sales people or the actual engineers at the shows? It is a question that has been asked of me multiple times in different forums, so I’d like to address it in greater detail here.
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- Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
- Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
- Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
- Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
- Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )