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Geneva Motor Show: the art of the perfect trade event

Posted by: Thomas Harrison-Lord on 13 March 2017

The trade show can be seen as an expensive dark art. You need to prove that the investment is worthwhile, get people to visit your display stand rather than your competitors’, and make sure they leave with favourable and memorable brand impressions.

A visit to the 2017 Geneva Motor Show will crystallise exactly what you need to do at your B2B event. It’s difficult to think of one particular event where everyone who is anyone within a particular industry is showing off something new, at great expensive – all to try and outshine the opposition.

Geneva Motor Show 2017 Renault Trezor

Mobile World Congress is a big event for smartphones, but the bigger Samsung releases and all Apple launches are not there. E3 is big in the world of video games, but again, several key players do not visit each year.

At the Geneva Motor Show, there are over 100 car manufacturers investing in the event. There are two press days to kick things off, where product launches and keynote speeches take place, followed by two weeks of public days. The general consumer can visit, see, sit in and smell all the latest cars that may be a year away from production. The access, apart from Ferrari, is stunning. Sitting inside the newly revealed McLaren 720S and pressing all the buttons? Sure, no problem. Any car fan would love to visit.

For Fox Agency, who work a great deal in automotive marketing and on trade show marketing, it was an essential visit.

Handing out free merchandise at shows is often seen as a way for brands to increase recognition and memory recall. After all, a piece of free merchandise can have a high average life span. Pens, tote bags, caps and the like. But Skoda, they do things differently. You could choose between a free detailed model car, worth around £20, a stylish leather bag, or other expensive merchandise – certainly a cut above a free pencil. Amazing!

But how on earth could they justify this expense? Easy – you had to do a little work to earn your items. Each visitor was given a book and a pen. Inside the book where all sorts of fun facts and car information, as well as Skoda trivia questions and places to collect special Skoda stamps. For each correct answer, you scored a point, and then you had to earn stamps – this could be by listening to a representative talk about the Skoda car app, or playing an interactive racing game on a tablet. Stamps equated to points and the more points you acquired, the fancier your free merchandise.

We ended up spending more time on the Skoda stand than any other. We saw all the Skoda cars and visited every corner of the display. We then left with premium items gratis! Utter genius. I felt so positive towards the brand, knew about their new models and I’ll be wearing my Skoda socks every single day going forward.

This is a great example of engaging with visitors and making their visit enjoyable. Many other car companies went down the route of Virtual Reality experiences. I lost count of the number of VR devices available to try. From a Samsung Galaxy VR 360 degree video on the Subaru stand, to a full-blown WRC driving experience, including a hydraulically-moving car to sit in while you drove down a bumpy stage in VR, by Hyundai. The last one in particular left visitors sweating, such was the immersion.

Geneva Motor Show 2017 Dacia Photos

Or, in the case of new Indian sports car brand TaMo, they had a Microsoft HoloLens demonstration which blew my mind.

A setup such as a games console, a steering wheel, a TV and a seat attracted the crowds. The chance to drive one of the new cars on a video game is a relatively straightforward way of making sure people gain awareness and have fun on your stand. Some even had a Top Gear-style lap boards with the quickest times winning prizes.

More basic than video games, Peugeot were handing out cups of water. You wouldn’t believe how warm it can get under the exhibition hall lighting with thousands of people milling about. Consequently, the free water – located right in the middle of the Peugeot display – generated a large crowd, walking past all the new Peugeot models as they looked for refreshment. Another addition was phone charging cables on several displays, keeping you there for a few minutes to top up your battery.

I personally always enjoy a visit to the Citroen stand at the Geneva Motor Show because they splash out on comfortable carpet and sun lounge-esque chairs. When you are on your feet all day, the soft spongy response of the Citroen carpet coupled with a sit-down on the lounge chairs is such a pleasant relief, like riding in an old 1970s DS, in fact. Did I go to their stand to see the latest crossover? No, of course not, but seeing as I was there for a rest, I ended up looking at the C-Aircross Concept, which otherwise I would have walked past.

I believe this shows that instead of focussing on your primary product offering, or special deals and flyers, to really succeed at an exhibition you need to surprise, entertain, and even ease the pain of visiting a trade show. Simply put, think of the trade show from a visitor’s point of view, then tailor your offerings around their wants and needs. Even if a driving simulator may be out of your budget, there are plenty of ways above and beyond a free pen to attract new business.

For more on what Fox Agency can offer in terms of Automotive Marketing, please visit here.

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