The Futurist: Get ready for a digital dawn

The past few weeks in any marketer’s book has been a blur. It is not every day that you launch a new ultra-luxury Rolls-Royce model. Furthermore, to launch it online for the first time was a novelty.

Yet, back in the 1900s, founder Charles Rolls broke the mould by not using posters or advertisements to sell his cars. Customers had to “experience” them, after which they would be “sold” on the quality, refinement and excellence in engineering.

Fast forward to the present. The average age of the Rolls-Royce customer has dropped from 53 to 45 in a matter of only five years thanks to our advanced luxury saloon Ghost and the fastback coupé Wraith, the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever built.

Our customers are global citizens, almost entirely online and mobile. Digital engagement is a “need”, not a “want” – we call this phenomenon “online oxygen”. For us to remain true to our promise of being customer-oriented and effortless, we have to embrace digital.

We currently have one of the largest followings on social media of any luxury automotive brand. We are present on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, for example. Since the beginning of this year we have quadrupled our Instagram following to more than 400,000, and we see further qualitative growth.

But more than social media, the reason we focus on digital is because we see this playing a strategic role in the future of marketing for Rolls-Royce.

Our approach to digital innovation is not new to the brand. Some six years ago, we had already incorporated digital into our marketing as a matter of course. We made available a Rolls-Royce phantom app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch to experience the fascination of our bespoke offering in a truly immersive way.

Clients and Rolls-Royce enthusiasts can design virtual models with unique paint and interior trim combinations. When you have a palette of 44,000 bespoke colours to choose from, you need to let a customer experiment! Using the device’s camera, customers can capture, for example, the colour of a favourite nail varnish then apply it directly to the exterior of their “virtual” Rolls-Royce.

More recently our efforts to go digital have accelerated. At our “Inside Rolls-Royce” public exhibitions around the world, the “Inside Rolls-Royce App” used the latest Beacon technology to unlock interactive content as visitors moved through the multi-sensory installations.

It transcends the boundaries of “physical” and “digital”; it becomes a “phygital” experience. It engages visitors in a completely different way, but is also effortless to operate, which is one of our brand’s key values.

Earlier this year at the global debut of Wraith “Inspired by Fashion” in New York, we used Periscope, an app that allows live streaming and interaction in real-time. We are embracing the digital age, weaving our business into technology and vice versa. We are constantly challenging ourselves to break new ground to engage our audiences.

Most recently, we launched the new Rolls-Royce Dawn in a pure online campaign. After a staged social media blackout 24 hours before the launch – with the tag line “It is always darkest before the … Dawn” – thousands of journalists across the world watched a live online streaming of our chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös and renowned personality Jodie Kidd presenting this seductive convertible in all its luscious glory.

History has spoken – we trended number one on Google’s global news trends – the highest business-related trend for the day.

What’s next? In the ultra-luxury segment we recognise that customers are extremely discerning individuals and therefore we need to deliver equally unique experiences.

An example is our recently re-engineered website. It is designed to be mobile first, fully responsive and focused on engagement. Incorporating an element of a luxury journal, it will not just be a website about cars, but the “hub for luxury”. For us “Rolls-Royce is a luxury brand that happens to make cars”, rather than the other way round.

In short, we are an ultra-luxury brand entering a new dawn (pun intended), and we invite everyone to be a part of this exciting experience.

The writer is Marc Mielau, general manager of global marketing at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.