- Mitsubishi Motors North America launched a direct-to-consumer (DTC) test drive program that combines experiential marketing with hyper-local targeting, according to a company press release.
- For the Small Batch Drive Experience, social listening, artificial intelligence (AI) and geotargeting are used to identify gatherings of consumers who match the buyer profile, such as at cultural events, coffee shops or retail stores, and then pop-ups are set up to offer them test drives.
- Cars available for test drives include the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Outlander Sport and the Outlander plug-in hybrid, with participants receiving a Mitsubishi Adventure card redeemable at participating local shops. The pilot launched on Aug. 28 in Los Angeles and will later move to San Francisco and New York City. Mitsubishi is working with BirdDog on the targeting and pop-up tour.
Mitsubishi's test drive pop-ups underscore opportunities for disruption in the car buying experience, which has remained largely unchanged while the internet, personalization technology, smart products and mobile transactions have rewritten the rules for shopping in many other categories. In the press release, Mitsubishi describes the pop-up test drive effort as a "first-of-its-kind tour" combining experiential marketing and advanced targeting tech.
The push is an extension of the automaker's Small Batch initiative, which seeks to "reinvent every aspect" of Mitsubishi Motors in the U.S. and every customer touchpoint, per the company. With a 0.68% U.S. market share, the car brand — under recently appointed marketing head Kimberly Gardiner — is attempting to re-cast the brand as a highly crafted automaker that embraces the innovation of DTC marketing.
Mitsubishi's new Small Batch Drive Experience is one example of how the automaker is reimagining its marketing, in this case through the use of targeting and intelligence technologies that are more commonly employed to find the right viewers for online ads and content. The difference is that, here, the company is coupling those finding technologies with a pop-up experiential approach that offers a real-world experience of test driving a car to select participants who meet the target customer profile.
In another example of the new approach, the company launched an ad strategy in June that celebrates its role as a challenger brand.
Electric carmaker Tesla has been a leader in taking a DTC approach that seeks to make an end-run around the traditional — and expensive — dealership approach. Rather than sell through conventional showrooms, Tesla utilizes showrooms in small shops or even delivers the cars directly to customers. The showrooms only serve as demonstration outlets and don't sell the vehicles directly, largely because of dealership protection laws in some states.
Yet Tesla is more of a DTC brand than any other carmaker, and Mitsubishi appears to be trying out that same route.