Lydia Ding, Ford & Lincoln China business director, Imagination, talks to CEI Asia about conceptualising the mega car show.
When did you become involved with Auto China?
Imagination has been working on Auto China since 2004. It was back then when Ford Motor Company elevated the status of the show to a global auto show with a similar importance to the shows in Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva, Detroit, L.A. and New York.
At that time, Ford Motor Company owned Mazda, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin – most other brands were treating the show as a local show, Ford’s presence changed it all. It is incredible to see how the scale of the show has grown since.
What are you working on this year?
This year Imagination is responsible for Ford, Lincoln and Jaguar Land Rover. I lead the Imagination team responsible for Ford and Lincoln.
For Ford, it is the first outing of its new 'Connected Innovation Studio' Experience in Beijing which features a gigantic LED oval and a plethora of engaging interactive and shareable experiences.
This year we are proud to be launching a whole new stand design for Lincoln. As the brand continues to build in China we have designed a new home for Lincoln that we call 'Lincoln House'. It is a place of sanctuary for guests to experience Lincoln's exceptional hospitality and its products.
How does Auto China differ from other events?
Every global auto show has its uniqueness and quirks, but they also have a lot in common. The main aspect you need to really consider at the Beijing show is the volume of people attending.
At Imagination, we spend a lot of time ensuring the experiences we create can be enjoyed by the many rather than the few, and are good to both spectate as well as participate.
Also with the ubiquitous use of WeChat in China, we work hard to ensure that we make our experience highly shareable through channels that visitors are comfortable using. Guests simply scan a QR code via WeChat to receive a souvenir or get product information – it’s that simple.
What is the boldest thing Imagination has done?
One of the most ambitious things we have done at Auto China in Beijing was to create a Sky Lift that flew our guests eight metres up through the roof to a 360-degree LED theatre where they watched Ford's vision for mobility. It was a big hit and local and national TV stations broadcasted from our stand throughout the show.
And the most difficult?
Every year we challenge ourselves and there are so many memories, this year we have a flying car and have created a world-class VR SUV experience.
I think perhaps one of the most difficult things we need to overcome each year is ensuring the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Ford have a great experience and can quickly and easily get the information they need and share mementoes of their experience simply. To make this seamless we use Imagination’s Propriety Experience Toolkit (XPKit) which allows for seamless integration to WeChat and allows smart measurement and analytics of the experiences on offer.
Most importantly, XPKit provides guests easy access to the things they care about. We must not lose sight that most visitors to the show are shopping for a new car, so we need to ensure we tell Ford and Lincoln’s story really well and give them a positive experience of the brand.
How does this year's show differ from other years?
Stands are getting smaller in size at the Beijing show as the available space has to be shared with more brands, and especially start-up EV brands. Whilst this can present challenges when our client's vehicle portfolios are expanding, it also is a good thing for the show as it provides more reasons for the public and media to attend, and demonstrates how important Auto China is on the world stage.
What is your Auto China highlight?
For Imagination, it is the positive feedback from the public and media to the stand. Each year Ford engages third-party research and the Ford and Lincoln stands are consistently considered the best brand experiences at the show.
I think it's down to our focus on not creating a stand, but a memory, by creating experiences that are innovative, captivating and elevate customers’ perception of the brand and put the vehicles we display front-of-mind when they are wanting to buy a new vehicle.