The old stereotype of the slick-haired, cheap-suited car dealer may be coming to an end, if German carmaker Audi has anything to say about it.
That's because this clever Volkswagen subsidiary is marketing their new electric Audi R8 by letting online gamers test drive it in a fantasy racing game.
Pixels and Policy investigates.
Virtual Vibrance, Real Recession
Audi hopes to get the jump on its competition in a sagging car market by appealing to the traditionally hard-to-reach 18-24 age bracket.
The driving game, marketed through Playstation Home, is expected to draw in potential buyers due to its novelty and the general buzz surrounding the electric supercar.
Developing a video game like Audi's 'Vertical Run' takes time, effort, and commitment. Take a step back and ask why an established car company would spend the time and money to reach outside its area of expertise for a virtual reality marketing campaign towards an elusive consumer group, all in the middle of a car-buying recession.
Audi is promoting the R8 online because virtual marketing works. Consumers are getting smarter as technology expands, and they're moving away from traditional television advertising in droves. Why? Because television advertising is a passive form of communication. If you want to get a consumer invested in your product, let them get their (virtual) hands dirty. Active marketing is key.
Audi is proud to acknowledge their virtual literacy:
"Most young people gain their first driving experience from video
games," explains Kai Mensing, who is responsible for video games and
virtual worlds in Online Marketing at Audi.
"With the Audi Space, we
can bring this target group into contact with our brand in a highly
emotion-packed and interactive environment, and demonstrate our
'Vorsprung durch Technik' with the virtual e-tron race.
An enjoyable experience will leave a product lingering in the minds of consumers. If players have enough fun in a virtual simulation of the Audi R8, they're more likely to associate the car with those good memories when it comes time to put real money down on the lot.
If Audi's gamble pays off, it could trample the competition by moving cars in a down market while other makes sit on the asphalt. The brains at Audi may well be racing to a new, successful way of marketing.