Behind the scenes of the Lotus Evora launch

Taking photos of Lotus Evora in motion

Taking photos of Lotus Evora in motion

Go behind the scenes of the Lotus Evora launch, courtesy of Lotus Engineering:

A product launch is always a challenging activity, whether it is a new insurance policy, cosmetic
product or, of course, a new car.
A launch which positively engages and reaches the key audiences of the press, dealers and, of course, the end user, is vital for the success of the product. Marketing experts have said that two-thirds of all products fail within the first two years. While the reasons for the failure could be many, such as the wrong product for the market, competitor retrenchment or price, part of the mix, and the subject of this article, is launch strategy and execution.

It is not an exact science to launch a new product, nor is it formulaic, but what we have learned at Lotus is to completely understand your niche. Lotus does not have huge marketing budgets to launch new products but still delivers a disproportionate share of media coverage around the world. Part of this share of shout, of course, is due to the fabulous products that the media do enjoy writing about, but part of this is how Lotus has pretty much perfected the niche vehicle launch model.

The key part of a launch of a niche vehicle is not to do a ‘big car launch’ for a vehicle that will only sell in the small thousands of units per year. So here is a quick description of a launch for a niche vehicle, a general format that has worked for Lotus in the past and has worked over the past month while launching the all new Lotus Evora.

First of all, the most relevant media need to be identified to assist in communicating the key product message: perhaps a selection of freelance journalists who together have plenty of global outlets to take the story, or a magazine that has a global reach via the internet or publishing partners around the world. Of course the nationally important magazines around the world must not be forgotten – they are the opinion-formers after all!

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Secondly, as the niche vehicle will be sold in limited numbers, there is little point having an extensive press car fleet, so to be able to get the media through the handful of cars, the launch will normally take between two and four weeks – when each day somewhere in the region of eight to ten journalists get to drive the car on a preferred selection of roads and environments. By keeping the daily numbers relatively low, the journalist is put into a unique position where he or she has extensive access to the car, to the people who created it and to be able to remain for as long as they wish in the car during the day. This is very important as there is nothing worse than hurrying along a member of the press, especially when the vital photographs are to be taken; the magazine will want to take the most stunning photographs of the car – this helps them to sell magazines and differentiate themselves from the others on the newsstands. In addition, by keeping daily numbers low, specific requests can be catered for, perhaps special interviews, different locations for pictures, and, of course, there is more intimate time to communicate the all important product messages!

During the drive activity, the length of the drive is vitally important: too long, and the journalist will worry more about getting to the destination or taking the all important photographs than assessing the capabilities of the car; too short and the full product experience would not be gained. Some brand launches are centred around a 400km drive in a day, so it is best to choose shorter than longer when it comes to the drive route – certain parts can always be revisited!

Finally, as some of these members of the press are coming from all over the world, why not take the opportunity to introduce them to the rest of the organisation, whether it is other products, key executive staff, or even a complete ‘brand immersion’ to take in the history, the achievements and, of course, the future (within reason of course!).

These additional opportunities are best suited to a headquarters or facility-hosted event, as if there is the capability to do it, then wouldn’t it be a shame not to show the long-travelled journalist just a little more?

All, new car press launches are not regular occasions at Lotus, with the Evora being the first all new car for some 13 years. This made the recent Evora launch all the more important and exciting for all involved.

Taking place at a luxurious baronial mansion on the shore of Loch Lomond, a maximum of eight journalists per day came to Scotland to experience the worlds only mid-engined 2+2 currently in production.

For the journalists that were travelling from further afield, they were given the full immersion into Lotus prior to the visit to Scotland with a trip to the Hethel headquarters, where they experienced the full range of exciting niche products, while also observing the Evora production line for the first time, and speaking to some of the key personnel involved in the development.

There were two drive routes, both delivering breathtaking views while offering long sweeping corners and narrow tight bends illuminating the true character and flawless ride and handling of the Evora. The journalists were also offered a navigator for their route – perhaps a project engineer or even an executive – thereby empowering the media event to all areas of the business, and creating a mutual professional rapport.

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Having a high number of technical experts on hand, reliving their experiences of the programme, is one of the most critical aspects of the launch. It is every bit as important for the technical excellence of the car to be covered as it is to cover the strategic importance of the car to the business. This suits Lotus perfectly as we have an extremely high number of technically focused, forward-thinking, enthusiastic engineers who work across many areas of the many projects Lotus Cars or Lotus Engineering is involved in.

These engineers, working on some of the most technologically advanced projects in the automotive industry, know exactly what it takes to complete a whole vehicle project in a short period of time (27 months in the case of Evora), while ensuring the car is mechanically progressive and positions itself at the cutting edge of technologies.

After comprehensively experiencing the Evora on some of the finest ‘Lotus roads’ in the world, the evening reception gave the journalists more of an opportunity to quiz the key development personnel on how they have made this vehicle such a roaring success! These discussions predictably continued long into the night in fantastic surroundings on the shore of Loch Lomond.

The event was great fun, not only for the journalists but also for the staff involved – launches are not easy things to execute but for the nonpress and sales areas of the business, to be involved demonstrates the effort and the work that goes into these activities.

So was the launch successful, Yes; and the proof of a carefully chosen location was imprinted by Tim Pollard at Car Magazine who said:

It’s proving quite addictive on these remote Scottish roads crisscrossing Glen Coe and Loch Fyne. The landscape is jaw-dropping, with mountains rising either side of the road and that inescapably Scottish palette of fern, rock and scree for as far as the eye can see. It’s a spellbinding backdrop to our road test. Lotus really has struck a rare seam of creativity with the Evora. What they have created is a brilliant new 2+2. Hethel: we applaud you.

Was the launch success due to the launch itself? Clearly not directly – the Evora is a cracking car – but it all helps, when it comes to a niche vehicle launch.

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