Audi is bringing "product theater" to dealerships nationwide to support the brand's flagship car, the 2011 A8, which goes on sale this month.
The program includes a new showroom environment and in-store iPads loaded with demonstrations and product expositions, and a custom-built sample table containing a variety of leather, wood and paint samples available for order in the A8.
But the new A8 program goes beyond the showroom with a free downloadable app for iPad called the "Audi A8 Experience." The program uses the digital machine's gyro to simulate driving the luxury sedan and experiencing its sensory technology virtually.
The app combines virtual-driving experiences with rich-media content on such in-vehicle technology as pedestrian-motion detection, Audi's LED lighting technology, engine efficiency, Audi Quattro AWD, Audi night vision assistant, the car's MMI touch pad and Bang & Olufsen sound system. The app, which is free at the iTunes store, also lets users customize a vehicle and then connect to AudiUSA.com to see the finished product.
This is not the first time Audi has used mobile Apple platforms to extend branding and talk about its vehicles. The company has had several iterations of the A4 Driving Challenge, and iPad has had the media platform for live streaming of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer.
"In the past, what we have done has tended to be around gaming and consumer engagement," Jeri Ward, general manager of marketing strategy, tells Marketing Daily. "But this app with A8 is really hitting a different place in the customer shopping cycle: it's aimed at the lower funnel where consumers want to engage with a vehicle on their own time so when they get to the dealership they will have experienced the car."
Ward says the company developed the application because it was the right platform to explore the more technical features of the vehicle. "When we were thinking about how to communicate to consumers, we realized that there is a lot of technology in this car -- night vision, pedestrian sensing, for example -- that you can't experience in a test drive.
"We have over 10 minutes of content and iPad lets us combine video with modules that bring the technology to life. So with MMI Touch, we use video to coach consumers about how to use it and then can demonstrate how it works." She says that to demonstrate Audi's Quattro AWD technology, the company pairs video with an interactive demo that uses iPad's accelerometer to let consumers "drive" the car in AWD mode.
"It allows us to tell a deeper story you couldn't tell with a brochure," she says. "We have seen study after study that our customers are Internet savvy and technology-rich, so communicating about this vehicle on platforms like iPad hits the sweet spot."
Ward says Audi is promoting the app at its 117 or so flagship dealerships, which represent about 80% of Audi total sales, and on AudiUSA.com. "Apple is promoting it within iTunes store as well," she says.
The plan is to do similar programs for other Audi vehicles, but not without considering where iPad and mobile technology is going and the differences between Audi vehicles and target consumers. "I would say that we are not going to stop here, but the space is evolving, so we need to keep pace with technology and deliver content that is relevant to consumers."