Back in 1974 when people wore flares, drove the Ford Pinto and listened to music on something called an eight track, the first car based video game was released. It was an arcade game called Gran Trak 10 and the graphics and game play were primitive by todays standards, but it was the beginning of one of the largest genres in video gaming.
I wasn’t even born in 1974, but I do remember the video games from when the automotive industry started getting involved and licensing their brands and models. The first driving game I got truly hooked on was called Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. It was released in the early 90’s on home computers, which were by todays standards still primitive. It did have split screen mode so you could race a friend, but the graphics were blocky and there were no choices for car colors. You pushed in your 3.5″ floppy disc and raced a red Lotus Esprit Turbo against white Lotus Sprit turbos.
Now we are here in the future, consoles are everywhere and to the point where video game titles overtook the movie industry for sales a few years back.
Just let that sink in a bit. People now spend more of their entertainment dollars on video games than they do on movies. They also spend more time with video games. A movie lasts maybe a couple of hours, and then gets ignored for months or years before it gets viewed again. A video game however, that can and does immerse people for hours a day for weeks or months – sometimes even a year or two until the next instalment of a franchise comes out. Driving games in particular have a long life span for people that like to play them. They are competition games for the most part and skills are developed, mastered and tested in a multitude of racing disciplines, tracks and competitive events – both on and offline.
At this point, it’s actually surprising it’s taken so long for a company to launch a car at a video game event given the voracity of car enthusiasts love of titles such as Gran Turismo and then Forza over the past couple of decades. That opportunity has been sitting there and waiting to be exploited for quite some time now. What shouldn’t be a surprise though is that Porsche did it first as they enjoy a unique place in the car market. Porsche may not quite have the exclusivity cache of Lamborghini or Ferrari, however they have the advantage of being both an aspirational and attainable brand with serious performance available for someone that sets their sights on one.
Getting people hooked on a brand young has long a solid long term marketing goal for large brands. It’s why Coke and Pepsi fought over exclusivity for their vending machines on school campuses in the 80’s . It’s also why many adults carry on eating breakfast cereals marketed exclusively at kids or automatically pick them up for their own. Those cereals don’t have to market at adults – they got them decades ago.
It’s not just sugar water and cereals that try and get kids young. Car companies have enjoyed generations of families being, for example, Ford or Chevy. Companies like Toyota and Honda have had earned the fruits of mom and dad passing on their older cars because it’s always been reliable for them. Obviously very few kids will be bugging mom and dad to buy them a Porsche with any success – we are definitely talking about a high ticket item here with a longer term payoff. Higher end companies like Porsche definitely need to take that more creative approach to build relationships to their products early on.
Porsche do already understand the importance of that early desire, and this wonderful TV advert is a great example of that. It features a kid day dreaming at school before riding his bicycle to a Porsche dealer to sit in a 911 Carrera.
With this approach to marketing in the 21st century, I do hope Porsche dealerships are training their staff to deal nicely with kids that want to check out the cars. It could well start becoming a more common occurrence.
And for the record, I do still lust after a red Lotus Esprit Turbo.