Geneva Motor Show: Social media #bigfail

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2014/03/11 · 19 comments 39,390 views

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CLICK on IMAGE - Bentley - polite, helpful, approachable - building brand and reputation at Geneva Motor Show.

This blog entry focuses on two issues:

  1. Does social media play well at a car show?
  2. How big a difference can staff make?

For this article, we went to the Geneva Motor Show / Genève Salon de l’Auto last week, and put brands like Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, McLaren, Maserati, Mercedes, Peugeot, Suzuki, Tesla, Volvo, and many more to the test. Read about our findings below.

Keywords: Bugatti, Bentley, BMW, content marketing, engagement, DrKPI, Ferrari, FordStore, KPI, Land-Rover, marketing buzz, measurement, Mercedes, Mini, ROI, strategy, Volvo, #SIAG, #SocBiz, word-of-mouth marketing.

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How do these brands interact with the public?

Ferrari is considered the world’s most powerful brand, but my son considers it totally unattractive. Why? Well, when he wanted to inspect those fancy pieces of road equipment he was told by the Ferrari guard that access is granted, “by invitation only”. My son’s reply in broken English – “I am a kid, how could I have gotten one?” – left the Ferrari employee speechless. But instead of recovering and letting him in while I waited, he just mumbled something about “sorry.” My son’s reply: “I don’t want to be a fan of a car that treats kids like this. It sucks…”

And if you thought Ferrari was the only one with bad social skills, you would be wrong: Bugatti is quite similar. The VW brand has lots of people standing around – both men and women – but nobody is approachable for a kid to ask any questions. Bummer.

CLICK on IMAGE - Bugatti - no access for John Doe here...
Interesting read:  Foy, Henry (February 19, 2014). Exclusivity helps Ferrari roar away. Financial Times, p. 14. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from

Check your messages or serve clients? Pick one.

Another challenge is smartphones. While most booths have staff, they are generally busy texting with their iPhones, as we found at Koenigsegg Automotive AB, a Swedish manufacturer of high-performance sports cars (also known as hyper cars). The lady was barely willing to look up from her screen to answer my son’s question with, “We only sell Koenigsegg fan items, no catalogues.” My son was not amused, but politely thanked her – and she went back typing.

What about others? Some companies are much more responsive, polite and helpful. Mercedes-Benz and Smart did very well, based on my son’s evaluation criteria. They were approachable and took their time. So did Jeep and others.

What surprised him was how differently brands of the same group did things. While Jeep did well in my son’s eyes, Ferrari failed at approachability – both are part of Chrysler Automobiles NV.

Skoda tried hard, Bugatti failed, while Bentley again excelled – all part of Volkswagen. Bentley amazed my kid because the tall guy took the time to show him a few neat features, let him try out things, sit in the cars and so forth. The place was full of people, but he took the time and when asked explained:

“I am here to help people learn more about our cars. For me this means taking the time to share with you the unique features and other things our cars offer.”

He got bonus points with my kid by explaining a few things about how the logo differs on two cars they exhibited, and how he could distinguish a V8 from a larger Bentley engine (tip: check out the exhausts, they differ in shape – one is like an eight…). What did my son do? He helped spread this information the next day by telling his pals during half-time of an exhibition soccer game he played. To me that is classical example of word-of-mouth marketing happening off-line.

Bottom line: This illustrates that producing great cars does not mean companies are wonderful when it comes to interacting and being social with potential clients (e.g., my son). Those brands that stumbled at the Geneva Car Show (e.g., Koenigsegg and McLaren) were far outclassed by others (Smart, Mercedes, Bentley, Skoda, etc.).

But what about social media?

CLICK on IMAGE - Nimrod Avanti Rosso - no access for John Doe here...

Geneva Car Show and social media

Many tried to do something with social media. For instance, Land Rover offered that old standby of taking a ‘selfie’ and posting it to one’s Facebook account or emailing it to friends. But in the 15 minutes we spent there, not one person took advantage of this offer to produce yet another ‘selfie’.

Then we went and explored the FordStore that was proud to state on one of its brochures:

“Share your thoughts for a chance to win some great Ford prizes – just ask the Social Media Team for more details!”

My son made two attempts to get the social media team’s attention to no avail. They were sitting behind their counter staring into their screens and monitoring the social media channels (i.e. mentions on Twitter)…

CLICK on IMAGE - #bigfail: #Ford #socialmedia team at #SIAG. #SocBiz 101: Staring at computer is not being social, talking/serving client is.

I wanted to see if their monitoring work was up to standard, so I put them to the test and tweeted about our lacklustre experience some time later (see above). Unfortunately, they failed to even catch our tweet and the re-tweet by @WEFdavos. Yes, we used the right hashtags, etc. to make it easy for Ford’s social media team to find the tweet(s).

CLICK - more information about: Gattiker, Urs E. (2013). Social Media Audit: Measuring for Impact – ISBN 978-1-4614-3602-7If I knew the person responsible for Ford’s Social Media team I would send them a copy of my 2013 book (see right). For next year, I am convinced that Ford needs to set some objectives for having a staff of up to five hang around the social media desk. What are they supposed to accomplish? How will we measure their success or failure? What is quality performance? And much more…

Being a social media officer is one thing, but acting unsocial at a car show is a sure indicator that something is not working well for the brand.

Bottom line: Ford’s social media efforts failed. Judging by the line-up, however, the old standby of offering clients a decent cup of coffee was a success. Incidentally, having somebody clear empty coffee cups while listening to their mp3 player was another example of how Ford struggled to be social.

Interesting readCoca-Cola’s social media efforts

Rest assured Ford will do better soon!

Source: Geneva Motor Show: Social media #bigfail

How do you foster engagement at a trade show booth?
Did you recently encounter an excellent use of social media at a car show?

Thanks again for sharing your insights – I always appreciate your very helpful feedback.

Urs E. Gattiker, Ph.D. - CyTRAP Labs - ComMetrics.

The author: This post was written by social media marketing and strategy expert Urs E. Gattiker. His book, Social Media Audit: Measure for Impact, appeared in 2013 from Springer Science Publishers. His latest book about social media fashion with passion will appear in March 2014 – grab your pre-publication 25 percent discount with free shipping now.

  • Stan Albers

    Hi @WebUrs:disqus,
    using your son as a scout here proved helpful.

    “It´s the relationship, stupid!”

    seems to be the result of his studies. If your relationship with your customer or client is good, you can afford lots of faults – if your relationship with him or her is bad or absent, you can afford nothing at all.
    What I learned about social media here (besides that social media always relate to a sovereign practice – but I already knew that) is that you cannot:

    – cannot put social media in scene,
    – plan social media´s performance the way the companies here tried to.

    Social media are way too spontaneous for that.
    Urs, keep up the good work!

    •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear Stan
      Thanks so much for replying to my blog post above. Yes, the Geneva Car Show is a great example on how various things can work or fail, such as

      – social media is not to be put into the scene, focus on client instead,
      – planning is great but social interaction with the client matters more than the virtual space.

      Below is another example from #Jeep. Whilst the letter came on Monday (we attended Friday), it gives general blabla on page one.
      Page 2 tells my son, because he gave his address for the brochure, that because the car is not available until October 2014 there are no brochures available yet.

      So you unveil a new car, have no brochure available yet and because you hired agency staff to man the booth, they did not know that there is no brochure to be mailed out yet.
      Too bad that Jeep did not have a procedure in place that allowed a human marketing rep. to include a general brochure instead. Another option would have been inviting me or my son for a test drive.
      A case were Fiat missed to take advantage of another opportunity to foster REAL engangement.

      Managing relationships is a challenge, as this example illustrates further.
      Stan, thanks so much for your comment. I hope to read the next one soon somewhere on our blog.

  • wklauser

    An interesting article with education values. I once wanted to own a Ferrari…

    •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

      Thanks Werner
      Maybe you should have considered buying a #Pagani (see attached foto). The staff were a bit better then those at #Ferrari but we had to be pushi to get in there as well.
      My son was lucky that a higher up lady saw him being crushed at not having been given access to this car either. So she stepped in and removed the physical and human barriers for him :-) …. but he told her:

      “why are you so difficult with kids, I may want to get this car in 10 years…. but this way, thanks for helping…”

      Yes it was an experience. What I recommend to car executives is to dress down, hopefully not being recognized that way and go and visit booths including their own with a grand child or else a nephew.
      Two lessons she will get quickly:

      1 – where does my company fail with kids regarding engagment,
      2 – of those working at our booth at the car show, who is authentic and represents our brand well, and finally,
      3 – who really cares about the brand and less about fingernails, writing text messages, staring into space or chatting with co-workers instead of customers?

      That would probably do much more for an improved customer experience at such shows than any marketing study.
      Absolutely refreshing.

      Thanks Werner and keep up the good work for

  •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

    Dear Mark Mark Leinemann | MR. WOM

    Thanks so much for this comment. I particularly liked:

    …shows how easy you can generate Word of Mouth (WoM) by appreciating your customers and giving them interesting and detailed insights about a product.

    Another great one to show your customer how much you appreciate her is to respect her rights for things like privacy and data protection. The example below just arrived in the mail today.

    I had not noticed how smart the Mercedes-Benz staff member managed my son’s request for a brochure. She filled it out for him based on his information BUT check the box:

    – no further mailings

    Hence, he got his brochure but as the letter below shows, was not included in the database for getting further mailings.
    Of course, he was slightly miffed about this because he would have loved to get more. As a parent I was pleased, however, how smart the company had handled this situation. After I explained it to my kid, he understood and said:

    “Dad, next year we fill in your name and make sure they do not tick this box. All you do – pass it on to me when you get it in the mail.”

    My son has passed on this episode once again to his friends and I am sharing it with you Mark and my readers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Gaby

    Wow, the FORD issue has the potential for a shit storm ;-).

    The beauty about the internet is that we do not have to travel yet still can be in other places. So I really don’t know what FORD thought when sending a social media team to a trade fair.
    Fairs are all about:
    – personal encounters,
    – meeting people,
    – bonding and about
    – chatting.

    If these things could be done through social media, we wouldn’t need trade fairs anymore.
    So at least they could have hidden these guys somewhere behind the scenes or give them a camera and do live updates from the trade show, rather than just doing their “normal” job which they usually do in their office.

    I would like to ask FORD: Where do you sell most cars: online or offline?

    Problem: How do I have to raise this question: On Facebook, Twitter, their blog or on another platform?

    asks a puzzled


    •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

      Hi Gaby

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I love your list:

      Fairs are all about:- personal encounters,
      – meeting people,
      – bonding and about
      – chatting.

      And of course you are right, if we could do this all through social media why have a trade fair. In fact, there are more exhibitions and trade fairs happening these days then ever before. An indication that social media cannot really deliver on this score.

      I am not sure if sending a message to @DiscoverFord:twitter or @EntdeckerFord:twitter will even make a difference . Neither using the offical hashtag for the Geneva Car Show => #SIAG nor using the Ford’s hashtag for Geneva #FordGeneva got a reply

      They are probably busy hitting their keyboards, watching the tweets scroll by on their screens and talking to each other, instead of clients. C’est la vie.

      As my son said:

      “Ford is not friendly…. why do they stare into their screens instead of talking to me?”

      By the way, today my son got a letter from Mini suggesting that he stop by for a test drive…. means I have to do it. He insists. One way to get the parent to test a new product, reach out to the kid :-9

      @Kommboutique:twitter, thanks for sharing.

      • Gaby

        Your son is so smart!

        The letter from MINI is superb. I could use it as a good example for the online workshop I am about to launch. Because one little exercise is about how to (not) sell a car.


        •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

          SUPER GABY
          Glad to hear and please use it with a link to the blog.

          Yes it is a neat example. He got the brochure he wanted and know getting a chance to go for a test drive…. for a kid the ultimate thrill….
          For dad… NOT :-)

  • Kaspar

    Hi Urs,
    Thanks for sharing your opinion on Ford’s social media efforts at the Geneva Motorshow. I’m with Ford in Switzerland. And I can tell you: criticism well taken! I’m sorry that your son was disappointed because he didn’t get a response from the social media team.
    I’d like to add a thought: We have two teams on the stand to communicate with people: The social media team is in conversation with people from around the world who are not visiting SIAG. But YES, they should interact with people who want to talk to them. We will do better.
    Then there is a team of approx 35 hosts and hostesses. And they interact all day with the people who are on the stand. And I am absolutely sure that they would have shown your son any car he wanted to see. Because that is exactly what they are there for. Unlike other brands, we invite visitors on our stand to take a close look at all cars.

    Let me know which vehicles your son wanted to see and I will arrange something.
    Best regards,

    •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear Kaspar

      Thanks so much for taking the time for replying.

      I appreciate you stepping in and trying to set things right with my kid. But before I reply to that let me say two things:

      1) While I accept that your people are supposed to monitor social media as social media officers, the brochure says that one should contact them to hear more about prices (I marked it in the screenshot below for you to see).

      The are prominently placed in front at the Geneva Ford exhibition stand so you would expect clients to do what they read in the brochure. But it failed

      2) You state above and I quote:

      “The social media team is in conversation with people from around the world who are not visiting SIAG.

      I appreciate this very much but why do they then fail to either
      a – monitor social media properly to be able to reply, or else
      b – choose not to reply in the hope the problem goes away.

      I herewith offer the person responsible for Ford’s Social Media Marketing for SIAG a free 2-hour workshop on how to use triage whilst monitoring social media during a congress or an trade fair like #SIAG

      • Kaspar

        Dear Urs,
        Thank you very much for your feedback and your offer. We are taking criticism very seriously, I will feedback to the responsible persons and I will forward your invitation to the social media team.

        As I’m based in Wallisellen I’m serious about showing your son the cars he missed in Geneva.

        Have a great weekend

        •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

          Dear Kaspar

          Thanks so much for your reply YES my son is seriously considering your offer :-) So I will be in touch with you since we have already communicated via eMail.

          What surprised me is that we again sent out a Tweet using hashtags #FordGeneva #SIAG. Once again, no reply: Monitoring #bigfail – view here:

          #SIAG #FordGeneva – Ford is broadcasting from the floor – not engaging (just click this text to see search results)

          So what about the links that are being sent out by @Ford_CH:twitter and other accounts. For instance, @FordSpain:twitter sent this tweet 4 times, each time to its 26,000 followers. And the statistics tell us that about 70 people clicked on the link ….. reaching out to 100,000 people (4 x 25,000 followers the account has) = 0.07% engagement rate?
          If I put a positive spin on this, there is room for improvement, is there not?

    • Stan Albers

      Hi Kaspar, hi Urs, just my two cents here:

      “We will do better” is a promise, no proof. But your promise before failed. So, you are not in a position to promise now. “We do better” would have been the right thing to state here, combined with a picture showing right that.

      “I will arrange something” does not sound good. It sounds as if it is not really important to you. But it better should. It sounds as if you want to ease Urs and not his son. But you won´t ease Urs if you don´t really ease his son.

      Generally speaking I would say, defending statements are not the right way to react to critique. Deliver, don´t defend.

      But, as we´re all here to learn, it is so nice of you to share with us. Cheers!

      • Kaspar

        Hi Stan
        Thank you for your feedback. We have to wait for the next motor show to deliver as SIAG is coming to an end these days. So yes, it’s a promise. Rest assured, we are taking criticism very seriously and we want to improve.

        As for my offer to Urs’ son: I just told Urs by e-mail and in my reply that I mean business.

        Have a great weekend,

        •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

          Super Kaspar,
          My son has decided to take you up on your offer and check out some Fords, especially, the Ford Mustang.
          Not a big surprise considering how he was walking around that car at the #SIAG – Geneva Car Show.
          So we will have to work out the details but he is thrilled.

        • Kaspar

          Hi Urs
          Sales oft new Mustang start 2015 in Europe. So your son needs some patience. Nevertheless if he likes Mustang, he should come to Birrfeld Airport on August 30. There is an anniversary event planned with hundreds of Mustangs from 1964-2014. Save the date, I’ll stay in touch.

          Enjoy the weekend

        •*/*/*/FTindex Urs E. Gattiker

          Dear Kaspar

          Thanks for letting me know this important information. I talked to my son about this event and we marked it in our calendar. He is thrilled …. which means his dad is happy too :-)

          So I wait to get the information for this event from you via e-mail as discussed.

          We will definitely take the time to attend this event.

          Thanks so much for replying on a Saturday morning – shortly after 7 am to my earlier comment. Impressive.

          Have a wonderful weekend and my son and I hope to meet you soon in person.



        • Stan Albers

          Hi Kaspar,

          I have been out of town – please excuse my late response.

          It is nice to have your answer here. People tend to think, social media is easy, but it is not, it is in fact a rather qualified matter. That is what we all are into here.

          I hope we “meet” again here. Have a good week!


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