What Marketers Can Learn From The Auto Industry

Experience Innovation

Innovation in Automotive

When automakers installed GPS in their cars back in 2003, they became pioneers in what we now call the digital, connected economy

Now consumers don’t just expect their cars to give them mobility, they demand airtight directions to where they are going, including knowledge of resources and places of interest along the way.  

Mainstream adoption of GPS continues to spawn dozens of other connected experiences. The auto industry’s current penchant for innovating outside the lines should inspire any marketer looking to rise above the noise, not just with talk of innovation, but with a new curiosity that whets their appetite for delivering better, more magical experiences through the unique attributes of several emerging technologies.

The trend

From the connected car to holograms and hover boards, automotive manufacturers know what it takes to stay top of mind within the complicated, competitive and ever-evolving world of “cars.” Let’s depart for a moment from the constant buzz around autonomous “driving” and review how the continuous focus on innovation, R&D and emerging technologies is facilitating the reinvention of many auto brands while helping them drive engagement, deliver leads and sell cars.

In this piece from Razorfish, we look at how business leaders in any sector, including government, can apply learnings from the automotive marketplace to bring innovative branded experiences to market through:  

  • Emerging technologies and trends

  • Innovating outside the lines

  • Recommendations


Emerging Technologies and Trends

The technologies and trends we have reviewed have been in development for several years. At this point, the underlying hardware and platforms they are built upon have evolved to a state where applying them for commercial use is achievable. The connected environments, personalized experiences and immersive storytelling that these technologies advance are limited only to the imagination, and their charm and enchanted qualities are moving them to center stage.  

Connected platforms & IOT enable incredible “If this, then that” moments 

As networks and technologies advance, real-time experiences leveraging big data will continue to connect drivers with their surroundings. For example, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive Solutions offer a range of connectivity solutions: Vehicles-to-Vehicles (V2V), Vehicles-to-Infrastructure (V2I) , Vehicles-to-Pedestrian (V2P) and, of course Vehicles-to-Cloud (V2C) communications. From BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to NFC, RFID and more, the integration of connective technologies across devices, objects and environments enriches the connected driving experience. As a result, expect to see huge improvements in areas such as personalization and even safety, in ways that could make the all-too-familiar auto accident a thing of the past.

Holograms bring another dimension to the driver

While we are years away from R2-D2-inspired projections, advances in technology and some clever parlor tricks have brought holograms within reach. For example, Mercedes-Benz just launched its Vision Tokyo concept with a dynamic hologram interface infotainment controls. There is something undeniably magical about holograms that enamors us all. But such technology also makes controls more accessible, more intuitive and less distracting, letting the driver focus on moments that matter versus fiddling with switches and knobs.


Source: Daimler

Machine learning makes cars & their passengers even smarter

With increasing momentum in the autonomous driving experience, it is only natural to have an always-on approach to data. From scouring email and GPS records to social sentiment and telematics, smarter experiences deliver unprecedented personalized moments that are as unique as the individual. Watch Google Now for more inspiring approaches to advancing the experience with machine learning.  

Biometrics & wearables take sensing seriously 

Biometric information is fueling smart watches, wearables and even car seats. Never before have consumers been so obsessed by the data that they create and share. Recent advancements in biometrics are even fighting fatigue and stress. Smart seats, steering wheels and connected wearables are keeping track of your health, mood and wellness. In the case of an accident, they can even report vital signs of occupants to paramedics before they arrive.

3-D printing accelerates new product development 

From creating unique one-off parts for Ford’s Daytona race car to the world’s first printed car, the Strati, 3-D printing is becoming a viable alternative to traditional manufacturing and prototype processes. To add fuel to the fire, the open-source approach within the community is challenging the design-build process that many OEMs consider their secret sauce. This revolution in production has shortened R&D processes and is delivering faster and more frequent innovations to the customer. 

Virtual and mixed reality deliver “Real” world experiences

From immersive virtual reality test-drives to augmented experiences that adapt to your environment, virtual and mixed reality technology will finally deliver the future we have always dreamed of. Products like Microsoft’s HoloLens and the Google-backed Magic Leap will change our relationship with our environment and bring a new dimensionality to augmented content and experiences. From the low-cost, smartphone-powered Google Cardboard platform to higher-fidelity hardware units like Oculus Rift, new  realities within VR will become destinations for brands to educate, entertain and transact.


CGI delivers hyper-personalization opportunities

The advancement in CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) has finally blurred the lines between live action and animated objects. From life-size, real-time rendering of Audi’s fleet inside Audi City, Audi’s digital showroom of the future, to the ability of our partner, Mackevision, to bring flexibility and scale to the creation of millions of CGI assets, the tools are finally at our fingertips to deliver hyper-real content with limitless personalization.

Computer vision brings you into the experience

From depth and motion sensing to facial tracking and emotional recognition, cameras are now being used not only as controllers and inputs but also as identifiers. Gesture inputs and libraries are now being familiarized and add a layer of interaction that is theatrical, futuristic and intuitive in nature. From facial and skeletal tracking to mood monitoring and touchless controls, cameras are becoming as valuable inside the car as they are outside. 


Innovating Outside the Lines

An obsessive culture of innovation, transformation and reinvention is being born within the walls of some of todays’ largest brands. The agile processes and customer-centric standards have broken down many of the silos that have constrained nimble and innovative solutions. Innovation has become a necessity in the “fast eats slow” world we now live in. Below are examples of how automotive brands are leveraging new and emerging technologies to produce launches, shape brands and challenge user paradigms for a re-imagined customer experience. 

Lexus SLIDE  

The speed at which Doc and his DeLorean were transported across time in the film “Back to the Future”—88 miles per hour—inspired Lexus to give a nod to the film’s 30th anniversary with its SLIDE, a working hover board that even Marty McFly would be proud to ride. Featured in the campaign “Amazing In Motion,” SLIDE blends advanced technologies like maglev (think frictionless high-speed trains) and liquid nitrogen-filled superconducting blocks with beautiful product design, to demonstrate detail and craftsmanship that only a few could deliver.

As futuristic as this approach is, it makes perfect sense considering Lexus’ evolution of both its products and brand to a broader, more youthful audience that values the technology and experience that it helps deliver. In fact, this year, U.S. sales figures put Lexus behind only Audi in year-over-year increases in sales percentage.

“Embarking on this project, we set out to push the boundaries of technology, design and innovation to make the impossible possible…”


Volkswagen Golf R Touch

As “hands-on” as VW is with its driver experience, it augments its in-car experience with some very “hands-off” moments. At CES 2015, the former technology conference that seems to be evolving to become an automotive innovation launch pad, Volkswagen revealed its “Golf R Touch” platform. 

Now that gesture and multi-touch languages are more understood, VW has adapted them into its cockpit to “make human and machine interact as one.” Hand gestures are used to control elements from song selection to opening and closing windows, and the experience is both natural and intuitive. In addition to the multiple screens that deliver the complexity of personalization controls within delightful animations, haptic touch screens and even surfaces are brought to life and given easy mobile-influenced inputs and actions.

All of these technologies heighten the overall experience while decreasing driver distractions— adhering to an important form factor we call “eyes up moments.”

Source: Volkswagen


What can all marketers learn from the auto industry?

Support an innovation structure

Transformational thinking and experiences do not happen overnight. If your company does not have an innovation arm, augment the team with a unique blend of agile technologists, creatives and experience architects. If there are larger needs, you may want to look at an IAOR (innovation agency of record) relationship to increase the speed of ideas, prototypes and pilots.

Lead with experience, not with technology

Ideas, not the technology that aids in delivering them, are remembered. And great ideas tend to outlive technology. When people think of Uber they don’t think of the technology. Rather, they think about the experience and ease of engagement. While the technology may change, the idea will live on (with continued innovation). Hence, adopt a philosophy of ideas first and technology second.  

Be true to your audience and staff

Experiences like these often alleviate common frictions between sales and service processes. But make sure your zeal to blend processes for a better experience does not interfere with your brand’s voice; rather, use these opportunities to inspire voices and stories to be heard and shared. Both sides of the table are equally important, and collecting the right information to continue the discussion or experience across other channels is imperative to success.

Test, listen & learn

Innovation is not easy and is often associated with more failures than successes. But the learnings from failure fuel future success and provide the ideas that move you toward a more successful, more customer-obsessed experience. By applying a variety of tools to track impressions, behaviors and interactions, we can support our concepts with measurable results and quantify future innovative work.

Consider consumption data as an economic resource

When data moves from primary to secondary use, its value is extended over time. Cars are laden with chips, sensors and software that upload performance data to the computers when the vehicle is serviced. Secondary uses of this data will give competitive advantages to those in adjacent sectors (including government agencies) to broaden their own value propositions. And the best practices and lessons learned from how auto marketers leverage consumption data will be instructive for all marketers.

About Razorfish Emerging Experience

Emerging Experiences, part of Razorfish’s Experience Innovation service offering, is a global practice of makers, creators, technologists and dreamers that helps clients blend digital and physical worlds through customer obsession. We envision, incubate and launch transformational experiences—which are often crafted, prototyped and tested within one of our Emerging Experiences Labs—in order to innovate tomorrow, today.


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