Forget stat-packed presentations and kabuki drops. For the launch of its new Navigator SUV in Beijing in January, Lincoln wanted to challenge the conventional auto-launch format.
Six months prior to the event, Lincoln reached out to Auditoire to provide insights and trend analysis beyond the automotive industry to determine how it could stand out from competitors. Once a direction had been identified, the creative work began in September.
Auditoire was appointed creative lead event agency, taking care of the initial event concept, creative development and execution, production and on-site management. Lincoln’s PR agency, H&K, invited the media partners, and its social agency VML handled the on-line campaign.
Used to making creative decisions within the definite frame of a brief, Auditoire was instead tasked with coming up with a concept from scratch.
Penelope Guerineau, creative director at Auditoire China, decided to rethink the interaction between the brand, the product and the audience using disruptive, immersive storytelling. “It all started with a vision: creating the unexpected,” she said. “The industry landscape is crowded, so how to craft a unique brand signature? How to give a new dimension to the SUV event experience?
“The first challenge was to translate the product positioning, ‘Cultivated Mastery’, into an innovative format, where the audience could embrace the idea of mastering off-road environments, rather than staying passive spectators.
“Our idea was to create an immersive narrative combining digital storytelling and immersive theatre. Nowadays, the true challenge of the event industry is to remember its true purpose: creating magic and touching people at an emotional level.”
To achieve this, Auditoire needed more than a ballroom. Stanley Hsu, account director, Auditoire China, said: “We chose 898 International Exhibition & Convention Centre in Chaoyang as it’s a brand-new venue and fresh to the media, plus it has over 10,000 sqm suitable for a grand event like this. It was also the first big event to be organised there.”
Two back-to-back events were arranged: the first for 227 dealers, the second for 291 media.
The space was split into a sleek press conference set-up and mingling area at the front, with an immersive multi-terrain experience hidden behind it. At the end of the press conference, the car drove on stage accompanied by an extravagant sound and light performance - but suddenly turned back and drove out, to the surprise of the audience.
The audience was then invited “backstage” for the full reveal, and split into six smaller groups for an interactive adventure trail through a "mysterious forest", "unchartered canyon" and "fearsome bayou". Dancers and performers populated each landscape: a hunter in the forest, cowboy in the canyon, and villagers on the bayou.
Guests wore RFID bracelets to “check-in” at various points in each environment. The check points were located on rocks, trees and walls, and were used to unlock maps, activate sound and light effects, reveal new car features and collect puzzle pieces.
After completing the course, guests arrived in a luxurious “Sanctuary” where the new Navigator was on show for up-close inspections. A jazz band provided the soundtrack and cocktails were served.
“The event was a truly immersive experience giving an opportunity to all media and dealers to create their own relationship with the new Lincoln Navigator and with the brand,” said Guerineau. “The originality made the event stand out.”
Hsu added: “The immediate satisfaction of the guests was very visible. The comments collected on-site were positive and the media coverage following the event was stunning.”
By 1pm the following day, 85 media clippings had been collected with an advertising value of RMB2,183,500 (US$350,000). There were 8 million live-streaming views, and the conversation volume around Lincoln reached 37,891.
On social media, Lincoln China official accounts and KOLs attracted 6,086 new fans, generated 44,058,305 impressions and 105,710 engagements both on Weibo and WeChat. The Weibo trending topic made 201,504,000 total impressions and 113,000 total engagements.