What Happened: The automotive industry got a kick-start on the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when Audi announced that its new self-driving car, the Audi A7, would be making a 560-mile trip to CES in Las Vegas. Although there was a person in the car at all times – the car is not able to navigate city streets on its own – the journey highlighted the new technology while drumming up tons of conversation and social media engagement. Audi is not the only company to bring the self-driving technology to Sin City. Mercedes-Benz also is taking a deep dive by creating a self-driving vehicle, which looks so little like a car that they call it a cocoon. Mercedes’ vision for the vehicle was geared toward future roads populated exclusively with these “cocoons on wheels.” There is clearly a new division of the auto industry beginning to take shape, as automakers such as BMW also enter the space.
What This Means for Brands: This new automotive tech trend creates two apparent opportunities for brands. The first is the “wow factor” of the functioning technology. Audi gained a significant portion of the pre-CES share of voice because of its stunt, as it allowed anyone with a Twitter account to follow along the A7’s journey to CES. Similar to athletes or daredevils breaking records (swimming a great distance, skydiving from a certain height, etc.), these vehicles are doing things people literally have never seen done before – and there’s brand value in that. The cars of today are equipped with technology and capabilities that were once – not too long ago, actually – featured in sci-fi shows. Making these fantasies come to life gives consumers a renewed sense of curiosity and true appeal to get their hands on the wheel (or not). The second opportunity is in the infrastructure that will ultimately develop around these cars. Whether it’s an energy source or new roads exclusive to self-driving cars, brands have the opportunity to envision the infrastructure and build it throughout various markets. Taking hold of the opportunity in infrastructure will allow brands to truly usher in a new era of automotive technology.