NEW YORK -- Automakers are finding new ways to use social media and digital marketing to draw attention and lure potential buyers, marketing executives said last week at the Automotive News New York marketing seminar.
Take American Honda Motor Co. The company launched a social media program this year to save at least five drive-in movie theaters. With the film industry switching to all-digital movies at year end, drive-ins must spend about $75,000 for a new digital projector or shut down, said Susie Rossick, senior manager for Honda and Acura regional marketing.
Honda's Project Drive-in is trying to raise community awareness and make sure that some drive-ins survive, Rossick said. More than 2 million people have voted for a drive-in to save on Honda's Web site, she said.
"This is just the kind of thinking we were looking for, engaging our customers and potential customers with the brand," Rossick said.
Rossick and marketing executives from Subaru, Land Rover and Lexus discussed how they are using not only their Web sites, Facebook and Twitter, but newer sites such as Vine and Instagram.
To support the Honda Summer Clearance Event, Honda used Vine, Twitter's short-form video sharing application, to extend its campaign. Customers and dealerships posted humorous videos responding to tweets with #wantnewcar. Honda received thousands of tweets.
"No one had ever used Twitter like this before," Rossick said. "It delivered our sales event message but helped position Honda as a contemporary and innovative brand."
With all of the information available on numerous devices and "the movement to multiple screens," consumers have struggled to keep up, said Brian Smith, vice president of marketing for Lexus. "You don't cut through that. You have to get their attention in a different way."
So the Japanese luxury brand tried something different this month with its Lexus Design Disrupted performance to launch the 2014 IS sedan during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Lexus Design Disrupted used 3-D holographic projection to create a performance on stage in which holograms interacted with people.
"It was designed to disrupt the perception of the Lexus brand," Smith said.
Subaru spends 50 percent of its marketing budget on TV, 25 percent on digital and 25 percent on other media, said Dean Evans, chief marketing officer of Subaru of America. Subaru's dealers also spend a similar mix on their regional advertising, he said.
Awareness is as high as it has ever been for Subaru and the "creative must be resonating" because Subaru sales will top 400,000 units this year, up from 185,085 vehicles in 2007, Evans said.
Kim McCullough, brand vice president for Land Rover North America, said the brand tries to establish a close relationship with its customers through e-mail, videos and even special travel programs: "It is our version of love."
Its owners use smartphones and tablets, so 35 percent of Land Rover's marketing is digital, she said.
The brand frequently posts content on its Web site and social media sites, she said.
For the second consecutive year, Land Rover has offered owners an adventure trip.