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Bentley tries its hand at digitally revealing its redesigned Continental GT

By Rachna Sundaram

On Sept. 7, 2010, Bentley unveiled the newly redesigned 2011 Continental GT model on its website. Apart from a teaser clip, the first redesign of the legendary sedan could only be viewed during a one week-long web unveiling (accessible from here). The actual car will be shown during the 2010 Paris Motor Show next month.

2011 Bentley Continental GT

Starting on September 7, the public reveal of the 2011 Bentley Continental GT was hosted on a microsite devoted to the vehicle.

Although the teaser clip garnered a lot of attention for the brand and the car, the post-unveiling buzz for the online event has been barely a fraction of what it had been beforehand, judging by web search, and by additional searches on social networks. A handful of articles and tweets can be found regarding the design changes, but there does not appear to be much regarding the web-streamed unveiling event.

Bentley is not a first mover in the auto industry in terms of generating pre-release hype using digital means. Consider the recent Honda CR-Z promo on Car Town – a Facebook-based game targeted toward autofiends. Also, earlier this summer, Ford launched its 2011 Explorer on Facebook via an all-day event. Then we saw the highly successful VW GTI launch from October 2009, which was done solely via iPhone app, and 2009’s Ford Fiesta campaign, which involved 100 “social agents” who recorded and virtually shared their monthly Ford-assigned adventures involving their Fiestas.

So, how is it that Ford, Honda and VW’s digitally supported campaigns got people talking for a long time, while the buzz surrounding the Bentley unveiling died as soon as the event took place?

The answer lies in one simple marketing term: Customer Interaction.

While all other campaigns involved interaction with (potential) customers or buzz-generators, the Bentley unveiling simply featured a streaming video. Once the live unveiling had taken place, all that remained for those interested was an approximately three-minute-long clip summarizing the launch, including views of assembly of the set, shots of the interior, and of various angles of the car, with special emphasis upon its grille. As a result, almost all post-unveiling buzz for the car has involved discussion of the redesigned features with no mention of the online webcast.

Let’s quickly examine the interaction involved in the aforementioned Honda, Ford and VW examples:

1. Honda CR-Z Sports Hybrid – To promote the launch of this model, Honda utilized Car Town, a Facebook-based game where users can purchase cars and store their collections in virtual garages or use them to take road trips, participate in races and complete challenges that earn them currency/rewards allowing them to purchase even more vehicles. While virtually cruising in the vehicle, users are made aware of features such as fuel efficiency as well as the car’s ability to withstand various weather conditions. This had Car Town’s 3.5-million user base (as reported in August 2010) abuzz about the CR-Z.

Car Town

Honda's campaign for its new CR-Z features the hybrid vehicle in billboards on display in Car Town, a virtual game on Facebook.

2. Ford Explorer – Though relatively simple as compared to the other examples we are discussing, the 2011 Explorer involved an event-filled all-day launch, which included pre-event discussions with Ford CEO Alan Mulally as well as live chats with the designers, engineers, program managers and VP of sustainability, environment and safety. The campaign surpassed its goal of 30,000 fans even before the unveiling. (See related article on Mashable for details.)

2011 Ford Explorer live Facebook reveal

The automaker used the Ford Explorer Facebook Page to generate excitement in anticipation of the all-day vehicle reveal event on July 26, 2010.

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Tags: bentley, continental, digital, fiesta, gt, gti,, movement, rachna, racing, More…real, reveal, sundaram


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