Omni-channel marketing occurs across different channels — social, email, and maybe mail. However, today’s consumers demand an immersive experience. Creating an immersive experience is about maintaining brand integrity at all stages and within a physical space. Its like developing your brand into a Disney Park Theme, where the brand is literally wrapped around you. This means engaging consumers in both a digital and physical world. This requires a smooth transition from one medium to the other in real-time. This is not an easy feat for a brand or design team.
In the past, I have explored omni-channel activities such as unboxing an event experience. In this article, I’ll share thoughts on a recent immersive brand experience with Volkswagen’s ID.4, their new electronic vehicle (EV).
Step one — EV Market
First, let’s step back and look at the EV market. There are 1.5 million electric vehicles on the roads in America. To combat climate change and protect our environment, we must replace combustion vehicles. The challenge is most people hate change. It’s human nature to fear change. Moving to EV is a big change for people and the auto industry. A new Pew research found that four in ten Americans, a whopping 39%, say they are somewhat likely or seriously likely to consider an electric car. On the other hand, 46% say they are not too or at all likely to do so, and another 14% are not expecting to purchase a car or truck in the future.
Automakers have a lot to do to convince people that EV is for them. For transparency, I drive a Mini Cooper. However, my husband was an early adopter of electric, first with the BMW and then his baby, the Tesla Model S.
Step Two — Curiosity.
Volkswagen recently held a number of ID.4 Roadshows. So my husband and I signed up for a test drive. I needed a reason to get out of the house and was curious how Volkswagen would manage test drives with the current pandemic guidelines.
I was impressed with the clean online registration process. VW followed up with a personalized email. The email provided me the calendar placeholder, information on how to change my appointment, locate them, and local social distancing rules. The content was just visual enough with the correct details sufficient to hit home.
Step Three — Meet and Greet.
Managing a good experience is about providing the right content at the right time. We arrived at the Natick Mall, where the event was being held. When we drove into the garage, there were pop-up signs and banners, branded VW test drive area. Posters and pop-up signs are a great portable branding tool for marketers. Printed on vinyl, they roll up and travel with the events. My husband and I went upstairs, and there in the middle of the mall was the brand-new ID.4.
Check-in was easy, and if the car had too many people around it, you could scan a QR code on one of the posters. QR codes are a perfect, identifiable symbol, and the code helps take the consumer to the next step.
The simple act of pointing my smartphone at the code took me to an augmented reality experience with the car. The ID.4 pops up in a virtual space, where I can click on areas of the vehicle and experience it digitally, right next to the actual car.
Step four — Bring the Brand with You.
When you want to create an immersive brand experience, wrapping is a great way to achieve that.
When it was our turn for a test drive, we followed the signs downstairs, signed our paperwork, and were escorted to a row of vehicles. Each one had a color gradation, one purple, one green. At first glance, I thought the car was wrapped to include the message “All-Electric ID.4” and the VW logo. Whether it be a boat, train, plane, or car, wrapping a vehicle allows marketers to use color and branding around a large object.
Some marketers may want to stick to a specific brand color, but this was not the case for VW. The color gradations made the vehicles stand out, both in the parking lot and on the road. In addition, the test drive allowed for free advertising for anyone looking at the car. Having a complex gradation printed is not an easy task; I know this from years of working with printers. I even asked one of the techs who said they researched many suppliers and found one with the suitable material and capabilities in Europe. The material was printed in Germany and then applied to the vehicle in the states. I was impressed that the marketing team did their research to find the ideal supplier, not necessarily the lowest-cost supplier. n addition to the color gradation, the car had a watermark of the word ID.4. I had not seen a wrap on a wrap before and questioned if the coloring of the car was printed. When we were out for the test drive, we pulled over, opened the trunk, and took a look. It was a wrap as we could see the original blue paint and the start of the wrapping.
In addition to the color gradation, the car had a watermark of the word ID.4. I had not seen a wrap on a wrap before and questioned if the coloring of the car was printed. When we were out for the test drive, we pulled over, opened the trunk, and took a look. It was a wrap as we could see the original blue paint and the start of the wrapping.
Wrapping an object, a car, a boat, a table, and even a lighthouse enables the brand to continue into the consumer’s space. In this case, however, the vehicle was wrapped, and then the ID.4 logo was printed and cut out, creating a watermark. This made it unique and stood out beyond the typical car wrap.
Step five — Bring the Brand Home.
What’s an event without ‘shit we all get’ (SWAG)? In this case, we were given a promotional metal straw, which lives in my bag with a collection of other items I tend to forget about. Decades ago, SWAG was a pen, but today branding is printed and produced on numerous objects, from stadium cushions to water bottles and even wine glasses. Marketers and designers should remember that SWAG is a way for consumers to bringing the brand experience home and continue the dialogue.
The next day, I received a follow-up email about my test drive, with one action, reserve your car. Am I looking for a new car? Maybe. Was the ID.4 for me? No, but any soccer mom will love it. What made the experience memorably was the continued touch-points, each at the right time and with just enough content or call to action. Too much branding seems cheesy and over the top, here it felt balanced and fun.
My Thoughts on the Overall Experience
If I look back at this experiential journey, it began with an email.
- The email engaged me enough to take any action.
- My action was confirmed with an excellent and simple follow-up email.
- I could locate the even with the clearly identifiable banners and floor stickers to take me to the location.
- The car was visually unique. The wrapped vehicle made the test drive special, watching everyone look at our car, thinking, ‘how did they do that?’
- My drive was followed up with a small, branded token item.
- It concluded with an email asking me if I was interested in moving forward.
It did not feel cheap, and it did not seem like overkill or creepy as some email blasts can be. Overall, it was a well-done marketing campaign.
One way VW could enhance the experience is to have leveraged my test-drive feedback with a direct mail piece. I could have received a postcard, or just like a theme park, a personalized postcard with a picture of me taken in the vehicle before I drove off. The backside of the postcard could remind me of how smooth I thought the drive was or provide me the details on the nearest dealer. VW could have added the QR code for the augmented reality experience. (AR).
Creating a brand experience brings all marketing channels together consistently and cohesively to deliver a message. As you think about creating a brand experience, incorporate digital such as email and augmented reality, with printed items such as banners, direct mail, and car wraps, along with unique color and relevant personalization, all in one campaign. Together this creates a memorable experience that leaves a lasting impression. While I did not purchase the ID.4, I shared my story and the test drive experience with anyone looking for a new vehicle.