Do you know the difference between a Rolls Royce Phantom and a Maserati Quattroporte?
Show me a glimpse of the sleek, artfully sculpted flowing lines and evocative curves of an exotic automobile.
I will tell you the name, make and model instantly. And whether the engine under the hood is a 453 horsepower V8 or 460 horsepower V10. And that the seats are decorated with hand-stitched saddle tan leather trim. And how the interior door handles are made entirely from bamboo.
Allow me to confess: I’m a self-diagnosed car addict.
So it should come as no surprise to anybody that I recently spent $15 to spend my day staring at cars.
Yes, I visited the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan this past week. It was a gleaming metallic utopia of striking contours, graceful silhouettes and alloy rims. Boy, did I feel right at home.
The gargantuan convention hall was transformed into a crowded, noisy automobile showroom with cars of every color and ethnicity in attendance.
Heck, I think I even saw a Kia.
I also saw dozens of lavish displays, creative booths and downright bizarre exhibits that reinforced lots of important things I already knew about marketing… and a few that I didn’t. Check it out.
Lesson 1: Show Ordinary Things In An Unordinary Way
What’s the first thing you do when getting into a sporty new car?
Check out the power seats. Play with the sunroof. Maybe gun the engine loudly.
Chances are, fiddling with the center console (that’s the spot where you have the temperature controls and knobs) is not very high on the priority list.
Unless you build a giant twenty-foot mockup of a center console for people to actually touch and try out. One where the A/C dial is the size of a monster truck tire and the LCD screen displaying the temperature stands higher than Shaquille O’Neal.
Kudos to the folks at Volkswagen for creating this larger-than-life interactive idea to promote the new design of their center console. And for giving me something really cool to write about.
Lesson 2: Forget Freebies, Give Me Some Real Care
So there I am, three hours into the show, walking from car to car, clutching a bag which was clearly suffering from “freebie obesity.” It was weighed down with thick brochures, mini flashlights, cheap coloring books and leaky pens.
I’m standing the middle of it all feeling thirsty, sweaty, achy, tired and bald.
While gazing at the new Lincoln MKZ wondering, in my dehydrated state, if it was a car or just a shiny mirage, a Lincoln salesman walks over and invites me to relax inside their private lounge. A narrow room off to the side with black walls and dim spotlights, it’s decked out with padded barstools, a soothing Michael Bublé soundtrack… and free water bottles.
The fancy ones. With lots of weird letters from some foreign country. Like France. Or maybe Mexico.
I suddenly feel this obligation to buy a Lincoln sedan and a bottle of spicy taco sauce. Know why? Because Lincoln showed – in a very small, yet tangible way – how they genuinely cared about me. My sweaty feet, achy knees, parched palate.
Too bad they couldn’t do anything about the baldness.
Lesson 3: Let’s Create Serious Value
PlayStation 4 has finally met its match.
Hyundai sponsored these awesome arcade-style racing games featuring eye-popping graphics and a real Nascar stick shift knob. Of course, no big surprise about the choice of gaming. Duh. It’s supposed to be a show about cars. What other games do you think they’d offer?
Apparently you didn’t visit the Toyota exhibit.
They sit you inside a Toyota Camry, wrap a pair of 3D video glasses around your head, and have you play a game called “Teen 365: Distracted Driving Simulator,” which was clearly designed with a higher purpose in mind. Here’s how it all went down.
I’m driving my car down the road. A voice instructs me to text a friend that I’m running late. I lean over, pull my BlackBerry out of its holster, and hear a loud thump.
Some unlucky chap just got run over.
I swerve and drop the BlackBerry on my lap, trying to regain control of the vehicle. There’s a brick wall looming ahead. I skid toward it in horror and hear an explosive crash. My windshield shatters. Sheer darkness surrounds me.
I mentioned this was only a game, right?
What amazes me here is just how eye-opening this game proves to be. Sure, it’s a form of entertainment – but it provided me with a real learning experience and sense of value I won’t forget anytime soon.
Before long, the show begins winding down. I grab a few extra brochures to bring back for my fellow copywriters and graphic designers. I know it’ll score some extra brownie points at the office.
I also assure myself that I’ll pen an article about some of the timeless lessons gleaned at the New York International Auto Show.
But I won’t write it while driving.