With more than 50 brands unveiling 100 new cars across ten halls at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, making an impact takes some doing. Guy Bird looks at three car makers’ stands that did just that
If sheer size is the way to make an impression at the huge Frankfurt Motor Show that prize would go to Mercedes-Benz which, for the past few years, has displayed its cars in a stand-alone tower, five floors high and well separated from any rivals.
Gimmickry is another approach. Fiat’s stand won on that count at this year’s show, with a giant model of its new 500 – the size of a two-storey building – that housed a monorail on which customers could ride around in life-size cars entering through an equally giant-sized wheel arch.
But the best way to hold attention and reinforce brand identity in the long term is through consistent, high-quality stand design. Here we take a look at three of the best.
German carmaker Audi has come out from the shadows of prestige rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz to challenge both head-on in brand equity terms. Iconic cars like the TT coupe and R8 supercar, together with consistent global advertising (which benchmarks Prada and Chanel), have seen the brand grow dramatically in year-on-year sales and stature over the past decade. Motor show stands are a crucial part of Audi’s communication strategy, as its spokesperson makes clear. ‘All the ideas revolve around the Audi values – prestige, sportiness and being a progressive brand,’ he says. ‘Each surface of the motor show architecture is a clear statement of the craftsmanship and quality that went into its creation. The brand strapline Vorsprung durch Technik [progress through technology] is also seen in the technical display terminals, of which there were many in Frankfurt.’
Audi’s Frankfurt stand was its largest at any show worldwide, but it cohered through a flowing-line theme in black and white, echoed on walls and ceilings. One of the most successful areas for this graphic device was the lounge for the new Audi A4 Bang & Olufsen demo car. Invitation-only customers were ushered through a glass door and up steep steps towards a black Audi A4 at the end of a lounge with a low, black ‘shark-gill’ ceiling and long bench seats on either side. ‘Each Audi lounge is tailored to fit the specific vehicle on display,’ adds the spokesman. ‘The Audi A4 represents excellent dynamics in both design and driving experience, and this is represented in the lounge’s architectural language. The moving forms flow around, and react to, the vehicle at the epicentre. Despite all this, however, the central idea for all Audi motor shows remains “The car is the star”.’
A stand where arguably the car is not yet quite ‘the star’ is that of up-and-coming South Korean brand Kia. Its new design chief, Peter Schreyer, might have recently arrived from Audi (with design hits like the TT under his belt), but so far he has only shown one Kia concept car (the Kee, at Frankfurt). Kia’s current models are more ‘value’ than ‘prestige’, so need to fight hard for attention. Visionworks’ stand, realised by Gunther Spitzley, gives the company just such a platform.
First conceived for the Paris Motor Show in 2006, Visionworks’ defining stand element for Kia is a dramatically styled, open-sided white case capable of housing two or more cars. Kia’s marketing strapline, ‘The power to surprise’, is central; 1960s- and 1970s-inspired forms and colours, including diamond- and molecular-shaped cut-out detailing with coloured inlays, combine with innovative modern furniture (Ross Lovegrove’s Love seat and Konstantin Grcic’s Miura bar stool) to create a visually striking stand. Spitzley adds, ‘The concept reflects modernity, flexibility, self-confidence, being different and a young appearance, in line with Kia’s brand orientation.’
Another important aspect to the design was the showcase’s built-in flexibility to keep the concept fresh for four years. Options include having the roof partly removed or the continuous casing cut in half or opened out, depending on show size and content. Kia’s product range, in terms of design and public perception, might not match the show stand’s aspirations yet, but this exhibit is a bold statement of intent, and one of the most unusual stands at Frankfurt.
Ford’s motor show stands have been dominated by the brand’s historic ‘blue oval’ badge colour for many years now, with heavy use of large, blue neon lighting to make up massive light walls, echoed on flooring with large circular areas lit to display various models and meeting areas. But the concept is not static, and is constantly being finessed by consultancy Imagination. For example, orange – a new keynote colour for Ford, after blue – is being used increasingly. Chief executive officer and head creative at Imagination, Douglas Broadley, is keen to explain what Ford’s stand has to achieve. ‘We encourage brands to have a conversation with the visitor via many different points of interaction and engagement,’ he says. ‘The Ford VJ experience at the 2007 Geneva show was a prime example of how technology can be harnessed to engage and entertain, while conveying primary brand communication. Digital technology can also support extensive data capture.’
Broadley adds, ‘Ford stands are also differentiated by their desire to have relevance for individual visitors. It is unproductive to view visitors en masse. We design and develop stands with everyone in mind – not just families, but the media, the industry insider, the car enthusiast and the car shopper.’