India: The Web Meets The Road In The Great Driving Challenge

Screenshot Of The Great Driving Challenge Campaign

Screenshot Of The Great Driving Challenge Campaign Website

On the 22nd of June, 2009, an automobile company in India, Hindustan Motors Limited,  which has a joint venture with Mitsubishi, announced a promotional/ marketing event named Mitsubishi Cedia Sports ‘The Great Driving Challenge. The innovative concept soon generated a buzz amongst driving aficionados, bitten by the travel bug.

Now, what's new about a driving challenge, you may ask. Don't we have enough car rallies and races already? But, as the the organizers of the event pointed out, this was neither a race nor a rally. It was a competitive event which married web-based (online) as well as on-the-road (reality) components to arrive at the final winners of the contest, and thereby positioned itself as an ‘online reality event’. The excitement around the event was built almost entirely through the use of social media, though there were events on ground too, such as the opportunity to test drive the Cedia Sports car.

Briefly the process was as follows:  on 22nd June, the contest was announced; it offered the final winning couple a prize money of 10 lakh INR (approx. USD 20,585).  After registering for the contest, the contestants had to solicit votes and testimonials from people they knew by inviting them to visit their profile on the competition website. Contestants were expected to share their past travel experiences through blog posts, photos, videos etc., to make their profiles attractive to visitors, who could also become active followers of the contestants, comment on their posts and also vote for them. The contest was also popularised on the various social networking sites.

On 18th July, 100 couples were shortlisted from the entire lot of more than 10,000 applicants, based on the number of votes they received and the quality of their profiles and posts. Some of the featured couples can be seen here.

In the next phase, a further shortlisting was done based on auditions, as well as jury evaluation of  blogs (content & style of presentation), photos, videos, past travel experiences, driving skills, photography skills, aptitude and suitability for the driving event etc. On 5th of August, three finalist couples a) Joseph & Namrata, b)Radhika & Bharat and c)Unny & Bindhu were selected for the actual driving challenge.

Each of these 3 couples were  then offered an all expense paid drive in a Mitsubishi Cedia Sports car which they had to drive across the country, covering minimum 3000km over a period of 10 days. Simultaneously they had to share their driving experiences online through blogging, photos, videos, sms feeds etc. Followers could also track their journey on the map. Check the campaign blog for some great posts with pictures and videos.

The final winning couple was selected based on distance covered, quality and number of posts, pictures, videos, scores given by jury as well as profile visitors. You can visit the winning team – Radhika and Bharat, here for some great posts and lovely photographs.

TGDC Radhika_Bharat

An excerpt from Radhika and Bharat's blog:

I know the whole event is called The Great Driving Challenge but it really wasn’t a challenge. We drove through Madhya Pradesh where the soya farmers were waiting for rain. We drove through Khajuraho and Varanasi where the only thing that kept us alive was the climate control air conditioner in the car. Varanasi gave us a real taste of how maneuverable the car was with its chaotic traffic and narrow roads.

Here are screen shots from Joseph-Namrata & Unny-Bindhu's Blogs:

Screenshot from Joseph-Namrata's blog
TGDC Unny Bindhu

Kanupriya at Marketing Chit-chat noted that the campaign was cost effective and highlights some key aspects:

  • Content / Word of mouth: What a better way to generate online buzz than blogs and tweets these days. To add to that the whole contest is based on the quality of content.
  • Effective targeting: This was a launch of a “sports” car and I think Mitsubishi did a great thing by taking a social media route as that’s where today’s young urban Indian is available.
  • Online and offline synergy: This initiative definitely proved that digital campaigns are not mere extensions of traditional ones. In fact in case of The Great Driving Challenge, the initial buzz was on online medium with actual execution being on ground – a perfect marriage between new age and traditional marketing so to say.

Prominent Indian blogger Charukesi who runs a travel blog Itchy Feet was a also a participant in this contest. According to her a key hook in an event of this nature is:

…the excitement of the road trip itself – being able to go on a route of your choice and the continuous blogging – keeping your followers engaged

Marketers are waiting to see how much of the buzz created in the social media actually translates into sales, which, according to numbers quoted by team-BHP seems to be very little as of now. Their feedback:

The Great Driving Challenge was a terrifically marketed event, yet it did NOTHING to the (sales of) Cedia.

Social media enthusiasts however feel that it is too early to do the numbers as these are new tools and will take some time to sink in and make their impact felt. The windfall here perhaps is that such events will popularize blogging among a larger community and more and more people will be motivated to share their stories and engage in conversations.

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