The automotive industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. The marketing aspect was as simple as selling a well-built car and then provide a decent after-sales service. But after a short time, buyers became more sophisticated and as a result auto manufacturers had to develop more effective marketing strategies to succeed in a highly competitive world (Heath, 1997).
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Customers are no longer interested in one type of car; they demand to have choices such as cars with different features and cars that are energy efficient. Auto-manufacturers had to hire consultants to understand what the market is looking for. These consultants help them understand the target market and provide insights that could help develop products that can make the company profitable (Hutt & Speh, 2010, p.64)
The purpose is to anticipate the needs of the consumers and then develops a car that can provide the best comfort using the best technology at a competitive price (Hutt & Speh, 2010, p.64). Therefore, auto-manufacturers will grab every opportunity to market their cars and as a result they are more than willing to participate in a prestigious event like the Geneva Motor Show.
The purpose of this essay is to examine the benefits of PR and RM when it comes to the promotion of an international event. At the end of the essay it will be pointed out that the PR and RM activities evident in the Geneva Motor Show was considered effective.
The success of the Geneva Motor Show can be attributed to the organiser’s expert use of Public Relations (PR) and Relationship Marketing (RM) strategies.
The best way to appreciate public relations is to view it from this perspective: “Public relations creates awareness, educates, and influences public opinion, promotes and protects reputations, and guides organisations to communicate change and to re-examine the values and ethics of their operations” (James, 2006, p.2).
A related concept to PR is relationship marketing. It is also about communication but relationship marketing is more than informing the public and its logical base can be understood through the following definition: “Communication adapts the relationship that is required for the committed trading that is necessary to produce mutual enrichment” (Varey, 2002, p.47). The following pages provide an overview of the event and detailed assessment of how the organisers utilised PR and RM strategies.
Before going any further it is important to have an overview of the event, “the Geneva Motor Show is held annually at the Geneva Palexpo convention centre and is organised by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles” (Motor Trend, 2011, p.1).
The purpose of the event is to provide a venue for exhibitors such as carmakers, manufacturers of automotive products, car tuners, and car dealers to showcase their various products and services. But the true stars of the show are the production and prototype cars that came from the factories of legendary carmakers like Lamborghini and Ferrari to mainstream automakers like Ford, General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, Honda, Fiat and others (Biztradeshows, 2011).
The secondary purpose of the event is to provide a neutral ground for various stakeholders of the automotive industry to gather and interact with each other. There are at least five major stakeholders in this event and they are: a) carmakers; b) car dealers; c) sellers of various automotive-related products and services; d) the consumers; and e) media practitioners from both mainstream and alternative media. The carmakers provide the main draw of the event; their presence creates an atmosphere where all the stakeholders can benefit.
The dealers on the other hand take advantage of an international event to meet with a significant number of customers. The entrepreneurs selling various products and services related to the auto industry have the same mindset for this is the time to to connect with customers that came from different parts of the globe.
The consumers are attracted to the event for obvious reasons because they wanted to take a look at new models and prototypes. They are also there to take advantage of great deals and to initiate the first of many steps in acquiring their new car and accessories. The media practitioners are aware of the significance of the event and that there are many people all over the world eager to learn more about new models and prototypes and therefore they serve as information gatherers to satisfy the needs of their viewers, listeners, and readers.
There are many reasons why this international event is so successful and attracts a significant number of exhibitors. For one, this annual event is well known all over the world because it made its debut in 1905 and as a result “it has exhibited almost all cars that have an internal combustion engine” (Motor Trend, 2011). It is not only popular but it has become a reliable partner when it comes to showcasing “prototypes, new technology, international deals and rebates” (Motor Trend, 2011, p.1).
Another major reason for its success can be understood by looking at the following statement: “With no home-grown auto industry to call its own, Geneva is neutral ground for the world’s carmakers to convene and display… almost all of the world’s major brands were exhibited there and many of Europe’s noted tuners showed their latest high-performance efforts also” (Popular Mechanics, 2004, p.4).
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The success of the event is also seen in the way it caters not only to the dealers and manufacturers but also to the consumers. Consider for instance that the event helps display various types of accessories like “tyres, fuels, lubricants, mechanical and electronic” and as a result “there will be a lot of fun for the motor car lovers and they will also know about the latest models” (Biztradeshows, 2011, p.1).
In other words, the Geneva Motor Show enables the flow of communication from manufacturers to consumers and vice-versa. It can be argued that this particular international event has the capability to bring business people closer to their target market.
An overview of the Geneva Motor Show would reveal that its success can also be attributed to the use of public relations and relationship marketing techniques. These are concepts that go beyond traditional advertising strategies. The end goal of advertising is usually to sell something; however, the overreliance on advertising can mean that other aspects of the organization can be overlooked (Henslowe, 2003).
The definition of public relations highlights the fact that PR is all about creating awareness about the brand but there is more to it than advertising. In advertising the company creates focused messages about a particular product produced by the company (Bivins, 1999). However, when it comes to PR the main goal is to educate the masses with regards to the value of the company, even beyond the products that it sells (Hougaard & Bjerre, 2004).
PR is a powerful tool and can help shape public opinion regarding the company. PR can also be understood as a defensive strategy whenever negative comments about the organisation have been circulated by competitors or critics (Smith, 2002). However, the beauty of true PR work is not only seen in the selfish considerations of business leaders but it can also be understood as a tool to gauge how the organisation gives back to the community through corporate social responsibility.
In the case of the Geneva Motor Show, PR was used to make the whole world aware of the existence of the event. PR was also used to present the event in the best possible light.
The organisers made sure that by attending the event, all the stakeholders would benefit and that it is to their loss if they would ignore the annual gathering of motoring enthusiasts. The result of such moves did not only increase the value of the event but also to make sure that influential carmakers and important customers would come visit Geneva, Switzerland at that particular time of the year.
Relationship marketing is also a major reason for the success of the Geneva Motor Show. It has been made clear that RM is not just about communication or the use of communication to manipulate the consumers to doing something in favour of the corporation (DeYoung, 2011).
A key feature of relationship marketing is the creation of exchange channels as stakeholders develop business relationships in order to achieve a common goal (Shajahan, 2004, p.30). In the Geneva Motor Show the organisers created an atmosphere conducive to mutual enrichment. Now, it is time to examine PR and RM in depth by attempting to understand PR and RM activities within the context of the event.
With regards to the use of PR, the Geneva Motor Show was advertised using various types of mass communication media including “print, blog, reviews in websites, news, video, photos, and galleries that can be accessed in the World-Wide-Web” (Harrison & Pulman, 2011, p.1).
It can also be accessed through traditional mass communication media such as TV and newspaper. It is a massive bombardment of information and the fact that a great number of people love and appreciate cars, the ripple effect of that various marketing activities can be felt on a global scale.
Prior to the event car enthusiasts from all over the world can easily notice how the organisers used different communication strategies to connect with their target market. The first major achievement of the organisers is to capitalise on the prestige of the event. An event that has been in existence for the last 100 years is already considered a tradition for car enthusiasts.
But the organisers did not simply rest on their laurels for they expertly use their influence to work with various mass media practitioners from print, TV broadcasting, blogging and other forms of electronic journalism. By harnessing the power of traditional mass media agencies and Information Technology type such as social media networking and live blogs the organisers made sure that they widen the net so to speak.
The power of public relations was carefully utilised to educate and influence. A new generation of car enthusiasts are not only going to be made aware of the existence of this particular international event but they would also be educated about the importance of such an event and why it has to be held in Geneva, Switzerland. Finally, the organisers were able to influence the opinion of the general public regarding the value of the event in the motoring world.
Another major reason for its success is the effective use of relationship marketing strategies. Relationship marketing is a major feature of this event and it begins in the way the organisers trumpeted the history of the Geneva Motor Show. The organisers worked closely with the members of the press and bloggers to highlight the fact that the event made its debut in 1905.
The mere mention of the year when everything was started is enough to generate a level of trust regarding the company behind the event and the event itself. It has created a perception that the organisers can be trusted because they were able to successfully stage an event for many decades.
After enhancing the value of the event and increasing awareness about the Geneva Motor Show the organisers simultaneously created an atmosphere that brought all of the major car manufacturers and dealers to one location.
The organisers understood the importance of a neutral ground to stage such an international event so that everyone can be convinced that their products and presentation can be viewed without bias and appreciated for what it is. There is no fear of being upstaged by another company with a strong local presence. Every car manufacturer can set-up their exhibits from scratch and this level playing field has created a deep level of trust between organisers and various stakeholders.
The creation of an atmosphere wherein mutual enrichment is possible is just one of the characteristics of relationship marketing but by focusing on that one aspect the organisers are able to bring business people and their target market together under one location. The ability to interface with various stakeholders created a level of interaction that strengthen the relationship not only of the organiser and the car manufacturers but even the relationships of customers, dealers, tuners, and various types of entrepreneurs and car enthusiasts.
From a theoretical perspective one can understand the effectiveness of the PR activities demonstrated in the Geneva Motor Show. This is made evident when viewed through the following theoretical framework: “communication, in one form or another is no longer a luxury but a necessity, because both the media and the public are today much more questioning than in the past” (Henslowe, 2003, p.7).
Based on this theory the goal of every organisation is to create a connection with various stakeholders so that they remain interested and willing to partner with the organisation. Using PR strategies, the event organisers were able to not only communicate the purpose of the Geneva Motor Show but also enhance its value in the eyes of the stakeholders.
In terms of gauging the effectiveness of marketing the event, one can use the theoretical perspective that says that businesspeople should never consider marketing to be strictly “a parametric, program-oriented function but as a pattern of total organisational behaviour” and that “interdependence, mutual cooperation and commitment between supplier and customer to be absolutely crucial” (Hougaard & Bjerre, 2004, p.41).
In this regard the event organisers used relationship marketing not only to communicate with their target market, but also establish a relationship with them. Therefore, conventional advertising is not enough, it is also important to create an atmosphere where various stakeholders can interface with each other.
In closing, it can be said that event organisers succeeded in achieving their goals. The purpose of the event is to attract exhibitors from all over the world to showcase their products and services to a global market. It is therefore important for the organisers to make sure that all the major carmakers, manufacturers of automotive products, care tuners, and car dealers would gather in one place.
The second major purpose of the event is to create an atmosphere where various stakeholders can interface with each other develop an interaction that would lead to mutual enrichment.
The analysis of the Geneva Motor Show revealed the importance of PR and RM when it comes to staging an international event. It is imperative to manage the flow of information especially with regards to how it can influence the opinion of the general public regarding the organiser and the event itself. But more than that PR and RM can be used to develop an atmosphere of mutual enrichment that increases the probability of earning customer’s favourable response and enduring loyalty.
Thus, it can be argued that PR and RM must work together. Business leaders must use PR to draw in people and then when they have caught their attention the use of RM will enable them to establish long-term relationships with potential clients.
With all the marketing strategies at their disposal business leaders are still very much aware that it is their ability to maintain a long-term relationship with their customers that can ensure sustainable results. A successful business must ensure that the customers are satisfied with a particular product and at the same time loyalty to a particular brand.
PR is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship with customers. The use of TV commercials and newspaper advertisements cannot provide a mechanism that enables manufacturers and customers to interact with each other (Gummesson, 2002). It is therefore important to use RM so that consumers will greatly appreciate the way the organisation strives to provide them what they needed.
In the case of the Geneva Motor Show the gathering of various exhibitors is for the convenience of the consumers who can interact with them in one location only. Nevertheless, TV programs and newspapers are still powerful instruments that can reach a great number of people. It is therefore important to combine the advantages of PR and RM. The end goal is to develop a level of relationship with their customers so that there is mutual enrichment.
The event organiser can improve the use of public relations and relationship marketing by providing more avenues wherein car enthusiasts can interact with representatives from car manufacturers and tuners.
The event organiser must also focus on the casual fan that may not be able to purchase expensive cars at the moment but a few years down the road they would have the financial capability to buy high-performance cars and even expensive cars displayed at the event. In this way the organisers would be able to improve on an environment that allowed for mutual enrichment. Thus, at future events these customers and casual fans can help spread the word regarding the annual event.
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