Auto companies are planning month long road trips one after another. A few recent ones are Mitsubishi Lancer great India challenge, Nano Superdrive, Ford Figo Smart drive and few that are planned are Skoda Right of Way. I was part of Nano Superdrive, Hrish Thota was involved in Great India Challenge and Figo Smartdrive while Mridula Dwivedi will be part of Skoda Yeti Right of Way.
I am only referring to long term road trips done with lots of media publicity and public involvement. Auto companies regularly do road trips internally for testing, auto magazines regularly do short trips with new cars to study them and write about them-these are not public events and hence not considered here.
Though the event might be promoted in a different way, the ultimate objective will be to promote the brand and ensure higher sales. This post is a personal assessment of pros and cons of such road trips, for the automotive companies
Above: Ratan Tata flagging in Nano Superdrive convoy. Hotel Taj President, Mumbai, June 2010
Advantages of Road Trips
- Experiential marketing like road trips give auto companies a different way of promoting the cars, something different from traditional ways of advertisements
- Helps create brand awareness and hype around it, attracting public attention, at least for the moment.
- Morale Booster for staff and dealers: Company employees and dealers will have something to speak about in their peer group and gives a good reason to celebrate. Most of the dealers we’d stopped by during Superdrive had mini celebrations when the cars were entering/leaving their dealership
- Get public involved and get extra publicity: Online contests where wannable winners have to secure lots of votes or contests with good gifts command large number of public involvement on websites/social networking sites. People often tend to promote the brand in temptation of some prize (or even otherwise). Figo almost doubled its fan base in facebook during Smartdrive. Couple this with offline events involving customers, public etc, there’ll be good word of mouth publicity, at least for a short term
- Gives good business to event management companies, PR agencies, social media consultants-creating employment for hundreds of people
- A small part of general public may get to part of it in some way and it could be life time experience for such people
Disadvantages/Limitations of road trips
- Roadtrips cost in crores. While a simple drive from city A to city B would cost only few thousands in fuel bill, month long road trips cost auto companies several crores. Majority of expense will be on travel- (company officials, event management personnel, guests etc) and offline events (hotel rent, food, publicity etc) Lots of money is also spent on PR, Media, photo & videography, contests & gifts etc. During Nano superdrive, a mini bus that carried event materials paid about 1.6 lakh rupees just for interstate permits (money had to be paid while crossing each state, about 7 of them). Top company officials flying in for press meets will alone cost a few lakhs.
- Measuring ROI can be tricky. Ultimately the buyer of the car will have to cough up extra money to reimburse the amount spent on such road trips. If 10 crores is spent and if company plans to sell 50k cars, each buyer will have to shell out about 2000 rs more towards the event cost.
- Its difficult to sustain the buzz for long time. Despite spending crores, general public can easily forget about the event and brand in few weeks and move on.
- People won’t buy a car because of road trips. Nano sales dipped to all time low of 506 units in November 2010. Figo is a good value for money car on its own and will continue to clock good numbers, with or without road trips. Segment leader Maruti sells close to 1 lakh cars a month without much marketing stunts. Buyers are smart enough to judge a car for what it is.
- Lots of caution is required during such road trips. Any negative incident can cause PR disaster
Also read: Figo Smart drive vs Nano Superdrive * Mitsubishi Great Indian Driving Challenge * Fiat Linea Review * Ford Endeavour TDCi 2.5 MT review * Maruti A-Star review * Scorpio 2.2 Vls mHawk Review * Ford Figo Review * Chennai Roadies * Nano Superdrive *