Introduction

For over 20 years, Goodwood Festival of Speed has been a key event in the annual automotive brand calendar, with over 150,000 guests attending the 4-day event every year. With a primarily male demographic (81%) and 67% owning two cars or more, there are few events with such a highly concentrated, receptive target audience for the motoring and automotive sectors.

As well as a chance for fans to see F1 and supercar races, and get close to the newest, most innovative cars on the market, Goodwood offers a valuable opportunity for the world’s leading automotive brands to create a lasting impression in the minds of a highly engaged and receptive consumer base.

As a result, Goodwood provides an invaluable snapshot of the automotive sector, and a clear demonstration of the different ways in which brands compete for space in an ever-expanding, highly competitive market.

2014 was our third consecutive year at Goodwood, providing more staff than ever before to a number of globally recognisable brands. Each time, immersive training and development of advocates for each brand proved an asset to their continued success at the event.

This paper explores the way experiential activity and storytelling at Goodwood helps to allow brands to stand out from their competitors, not only through highly developed creative concepts, but through the deployment of knowledgeable brand advocates who can engage with their fans on all levels.

Emotional vs. Rational: Levels of Experience

More than any other motoring event, Goodwood demonstrates the stratification in automotive brands in their varied approaches to consumer attraction.

In 2011, a study by TrendTracker showed that consumer attitudes towards car purchases were driven by either emotional or rational decisions; and categorised brands accordingly.

Where brands such as Mini occupy an ideal position – driven equally by rational and emotional purchase-making decisions – this graph provides a useful illustration of consumer perceptions in the automotive market; one which was reflected in the approach taken by many of these brands to consumer engagement at Goodwood.

More “premium” brands, such as Porsche, Jaguar and BMW were able to attract a wide audience simply by showcasing their products alone, proving that iconic status in the consumer imagination can be invaluable in generating and retaining a lifelong consumer base.

Put simply, for these brands, the product speaks for itself. Their legacy as covetable, ‘must-see’ cars outweighs the need to create a further attraction to draw the crowds away from their competition – with many consumers holding an emotional attachment developed over a number of years to their own version of the iconic car. From the Porsche 911 to the Jaguar E-Type. These cars hold a place in the hearts of their fans; and as such, their presence is, in itself, a reason to engage with the brand.

On the other hand, those brands described by TrendTracker as “volume” – perhaps more aptly described as whose purchase was a result of a decision made somewhere between experience at this year’s Goodwood Festival.

After all, exhibitor space at Goodwood is anything but cheap – the cost of designing, building and running a stand at the event costs some brands as much as £1m; and from concept to implementation, involves an extremely high level of investment across all levels of brand and agency partnerships.

However, the unique environment Goodwood presents – taking place on a landmark site for motor racing, surrounded by both car marques and iconic models from all points in automotive history – is an ideal place for consumer brands to engage in a form of experiential storytelling.

The products, of course, play a large part in this story – with iconic models positioned alongside high-concept, futuristic designs – but the creation of an experience which ties into the core brand message in a meaningful, unique way – resulting in a genuine connection between visitor and brand.

For the automotive sector in particular, this is a great opportunity – ranked 8th in an Aesop poll on brand storytelling, the industry as a whole should capitalise on events in which brand narrative is the key focus. This environment – which attracts consumers from the sector’s core demographics, as well as their established fans – presents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to create a finely-tuned, powerful and memorable new narrative.

In other words, at Goodwood it is possible for brands to both support and challenge the ways in which they are perceived by engaging with their brand history, presenting new models and innovations, and developing an immersive experience around the brand to draw in interested consumers – and at the 2014 event, brands across the automotive sector demonstrated just how powerfully this could be done.

Brand Advocacy and Fandom

What makes Goodwood such a core feature of the automotive calendar is the vigour with which motoring enthusiasts and tentative buyers alike flock to the event. The spectrum of knowledge consumers bring to the festival means that brand advocacy, and an in-depth understanding of both the product and the consumer base, is absolutely fundamental for every member of staff, at each stand.

Indeed, for premium brands and those more familiar to consumers, the unifying feature has to be knowledgeable, engaged and passionate staff, who can speak to consumers on their level – be that as a curious passer-by, or a lifelong fan.

The growth of influencer marketing over the last decade, explored in Amplify’s excellent short film on FanCulture, has proven the power of brand advocacy across the whole industry.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the world of experiential. The success of a campaign can depend entirely on the way in which brand ambassadors deliver their own experience of the product – with their enthusiasm and passion often proving integral in influencing a consumer’s feelings about a given product.

At Goodwood, the stakes are raised higher by the knowledge brands have to assume their guests bring to every interaction that takes place. Staff need to allow for the fact that every time they greet a guest, they could be speaking to a fan who has loved the brand for twenty years or more; and as such, their knowledge has to be en pointe across the board.

In addition, they also need to combine a variety of brand narratives, from the messaging around the live activity, to the long-standing brand messages that inform it – along with a focus on the unique needs of the consumer and their relationship to the product on show.

The high level of footfall, and a dwell time far longer than that offered by many other consumer interaction events, working in tandem with the receptive consumer attitudes offered outside of the traditional showroom environment, offer a fantastic opportunity for brands taking part in the festival.

Fundamental to this opportunity, however, are the right people advocating for the brand – people able to attract and really communicate with their guests, seamlessly integrating themselves into the brand itself.

Conclusion

Goodwood Festival of Speed is an important event not only in the automotive industry calendar, but also as a showcase of the experiential and promotional industry as a whole.

With exhibitors from a huge range of brands, from McLaren to VW, and over 150,000 visitors over the course of the event, Goodwood allows consumers a unique opportunity to see brands at their very best.

The ways in which brands approach Goodwood, however, highlights the diversity of the automotive market – and the important part that a strong history can play in the development and implementation of live activity for each brand.

With the very nature of the event focused on creating an experience, the brands that truly shine at Goodwood are those who manage to successfully combine a high-quality product with an immersive experience – and who utilise their position both as rational purchase, and emotionally evocative product.

The extended dwell time offered by the event allows brands to engage in storytelling – whether as a way to reinforce their brand, as Peugeot presented with their 125th anniversary celebration; or to show the way in which their brand is moving forward, demonstrated by Ford’s core messaging around their upcoming activity at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

This storytelling also extends to the consumer – and by engaging each visitor in a narrative which they, too, want to be a part of, be that through nostalgia and fun, or a futuristic experience, brands are able to bring to life a wealth of marketing tools.

By tapping into broader narratives around leisure and prestige, and creating a highly personalised experience through the deployment of well-trained, passionate brand advocates to interact with interested consumers, Goodwood is a unique opportunity for brands to reassert themselves in a highly competitive landscape.

In short, Goodwood is about creating, or building upon memory and imagination. Few industries offer such an opportunity for brands in their sector to place themselves directly in front of consumers and have a genuine impact on their perception; and by combining a strong brand heritage with innovative experiential activity, many of this year’s most-talked-about brands were able to do just that.