This week I was invited to the Orange County Auto Show. I’ve been in the car business my whole life and these shows have always been a great distraction for me. I enjoy seeing all the new models, the display-area designs and the beautiful Italian cars with prices that cause me to ask the question: Which would I rather have – this car or my house?
No auto show would be complete without the ‘assistants’ that are there to enhance your visit. Some would say this tactic is out-dated but I see it as an homage to the early days of marketing cars. It’s so retro – just like the redesigned Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from surviving in a business that’s a petri dish for human behavior, it’s that attractiveness never hurts when it comes to selling the dream. When given the choice, we pick attractive over unattractive every time.
There was an article last week on msnbc.com about I agree that scantily-clad models can alienate a potential buyer of certain brands. I also agree that technology has brought a ‘green glamour’ to auto shows. But I frankly don’t mind seeing attractive women or men promoting the features of my next car. Sexy attractiveness and technology are not mutually exclusive.
Taking a more ‘restrained’ approach dilutes the whole idea why we go the the auto show. The operative word here is ‘show’. The auto show is designed to sell the dream of owning a cool car, whatever that means to us as the buyer. Whether it’s a low-emission $20K sedan or a 670-horsepower $468K rocketship on 4 wheels, the connection still needs to be enticing and meaningful. It’s a fantasy world no matter what your fantasy is. We need the right players in the show to help create the fantasy.
As technology advances we look for the auto shows to bring us the latest and greatest. While the OC Auto Show’s Facebook page was up and running (and focusing on scantily-clad ladies), they had no Twitter presence. Quite a pity since there were lots of tweets about it. What I’d like to see is a much more interactive show that brings in everyone connected through Social Media. Dealers could participate in thousands of ways (not just schlepping the display cars every year). A Twitter feed displayed throughout the show would help engage (attract!) the buying public even more and boost attendance.
I like the idea of old-school tactics and 2010 technology working together to entertain us. It’s attractive. So let’s not take the sexy out the automotive experience. We can be respectful without being beige.