Meet this month’s ‘foiler – Leah Haran, senior vice president of client services at Airfoil. She drives marketing communications strategies for technology innovators including Microsoft, eBay, Parrot and Brookstone. Before joining the firm, she was all about cars (and trucks, to be fair). She went from covering the automotive marketing beat at Ad Age to managing corporate and marketing communications initiatives for General Motors, Chrysler, OnStar, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saturn and Cadillac.
As someone whose career path has wound through both the automotive and technology fields, Leah understands today’s intense collaboration between the auto and tech industries and brings a unique perspective in counselling Airfoil’s automotive tech clients. This is why she’s perfectly positioned to discuss what it all means.
Q: With the Consumer Electronics Show behind us, what implications does the event have in terms of the convergence of the automotive industry and consumer technology industry?
A: These industries must work together and learn from one another. This merging of technology and automotive presents quite a challenge given the differences in corporate cultures, business practices and product development cycles. And, at the end of the day, it is all about the consumer demand. Consumers want technology integrated into everything and that demand is only increasing. The automotive and technology industries work together with the goal of delivering the best customer experience possible. With ties to both industries in Silicon Valley and Detroit, Airfoil is in a unique position to help.
Q: How does Airfoil leverage its position to help OEMs and suppliers navigate the changing landscape?
A: We use our expertise in both automotive and technology to help our automotive clients craft the right narrative and shape market perceptions. Take eBay Motors, a platform that at the time was visionary. During the initial launch there was a lot of skepticism about buying and selling cars online. In shaping the right perception, we were able to help propel eBay Motors to become a top automotive site, where a car sells every 2 minutes.
Q: Consumers are inundated with the idea of “autonomous cars” or “automated driving.” How do or should OEMs and suppliers continue to tell this story to differentiate themselves from competitors?
A: Automated driving technology presents a real opportunity for OEMs to attract a younger audience. Millennials – people born between 1982 and 2002, many of whom are in the market for cars today – are putting off activities that interfere with their need for continuous connectivity. In fact, many of them drive less than previous generations, putting it off due to costs and even fear. There’s potential to position autonomous car as the future of driving and appeal to this generation’s need for accessibility, value and safety — their own personal transportation pod.
Q: What makes you most excited about the automotive industry?
A: We help OEMs and suppliers see and tell the story from the customer’s eyes. Of course, it’s got to be rooted in authenticity, with a unique voice and perspective. But now you have to tell it in real time to stay relevant and have an impact with the customer. In the digital space, OEMs have created blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. While the strategy is good, the content goes through a lengthy approval process. It’s too generic, too managed, too filtered, and often too late. Sure, in real time interactions you may make mistakes, but they’re mistakes that often become real opportunities for our clients.