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Motor shows ‘a thing of the past’: study

Different approach: Subaru ran a number of special events via its dealer network to display cars such as the WRX concept after the cancellation of this year’s Melbourne motor show.

Small Aussie survey finds little support for traditional big-barn motor show format


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21 Oct 2013

A SURVEY of Australian automotive industry marketing managers has found an overwhelming majority believe traditional motor shows are no longer viable in this country.

Conducted by Melbourne-based marketing and communications consultancy InterCapital Group (ICG), the “snap study” covers only a small proportion of the 60-plus brands represented in the Australian new-vehicle market, with only 10 respondents from car companies or distributors (some representing multiple brands).

However, ICG director John Kananghinis, who is a former head of marketing and corporate affairs at BMW Group Australia, said the study was statistically valid and achieved a representative sample of top-10 mass-market brands as well as major prestige marques, covering 69.3 per cent of passenger car and SUV sales in the marketplace.

Mr Kananghinis said the respondents, all of whom completed the survey on the guarantee of anonymity, were at general manager level in all but two cases (these were one rung down), and that the results provided a snapshot into the current attitude of key industry executives toward participation and investment in motor shows and related events.

Eight of the 10 top marketing managers surveyed did not believe the conventional show format – which has attracted widespread criticism in the industry and led to the cancellation of the Australian International Motor Show this year and next – was still a valuable and viable marketing tool.

Only one manager categorically ruled out participation in a major motor show in the future, but two said their involvement was unlikely and five said they would only “consider” returning to such a show. Just two said it was “highly likely” that their company would return.

Mr Kananghinis said he knew there was a change in perception of motor shows occurring in the industry, but “the collapse of AIMS spurred us to quantify the views of those making the budget decisions”.

“The results are confirmation that for a market of our size, the traditional motor show is a thing of the past,” he said.

“There is still a desire to get ‘bums on seats’ but brand or sector specific customer experience events are seen to be more focused and cost-effective options than traditional ‘big barn’ shows.

“The respondents indicated that the dollars required to be present in the expected manner simply can’t be justified. This is particularly so when there are more direct ways to get a product in front of better-targeted customers.”

Reflecting the roadshow-type activities that some brands, such as Subaru, have undertaken in recent months with the cancellation of this year’s Melbourne show, 70 per cent of respondents in the ICG survey said they were highly likely to look at staging their own customer experience events in the near future.

Most of them (60 per cent) said they believed experiential events are good drivers of new customer contact, although dealers are not typically involved at such events.

Indeed, only one manager said dealers were always involved at these brand-specific events, while half of the respondents (five) said dealers were only occasionally brought in.

Subaru Australia told GoAuto earlier this month that the challenge for the industry was to “reinvent the motor show as we know it today”.

“I think the days of having a motor show under a roof and just putting a few cars on a stand have gone,” he said. “We need to do something that is more in tune with what the customers want – more interactive.

“I think it (the format) needs change and the public have been telling us it needs change. The FCAI and other stakeholders are looking at ways it can be changed to be more attractive to people.”

Mr Kananghinis said that as well as indicating a “definite shift” toward customer experience events, the survey results point to greater digital and social media engagement.

“It does not appear there will be any bonus for traditional advertising as a result of the death of local motor shows – the bulk of that money looks to be headed online,” he said.

Eight out of the 10 respondents said they expected their digital/online media expenditure to grow in the coming years (as a proportion of the overall marketing budget), with the same percentage indicating that their digital media metrics were providing valuable feedback.

Nine out of 10 also said they were achieving a positive return on investment with digital marketing.

In other results from the survey, sports and arts sponsorships were seen has having almost equal importance (four went for sport and three favoured the arts, with the remaining three attributing equal value to both), yet only 60 per cent said they had arts sponsorships in place.

Nine out of 10 said they had some form of sports sponsorship operating.

The survey also asked whether dealers effectively participate in sponsorship activities, with the majority of respondents (six) saying they did “some of the time” and only one saying that the company’s dealers were effectively involved.

One said dealers did not effectively participate at all, while two said they did “most of the time”.

Customer relationship management (CRM) issues were also canvassed in the survey, with most respondents believing that customer loyalty currently stands at less than 50 per cent.

Four said customer loyalty stood between 30 and 50 per cent, three said it was lower at 20 to 30 per cent, and one said it was less than 20 per cent.

Only one senior marketing manager put loyalty above 50 per cent.

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