When luxury car fans visited Infiniti Pavilion at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance auto show in California last week, they got an armband that could transform their emotions toward the vehicles into different color lines on a 44-foot-long LED screen.
The armbands were connected to different sensors that were installed on the cars and throughout the Infiniti Pavilion. Those sensors were able to track individual biometrics like muscle cell electrical activities and detect specific body movements. The amount of time spent around a vehicle was correlated to enthusiasm. The thicker the line, the more enthusiastic the person was.
“It’s the first time that we measured how guests felt while they engaged with Infiniti vehicles,” said Jesse Jones, group executive producer for CP+B, which built the experience with production company Tool. “We wanted to highlight some features of Infiniti’s new models, see how people interact with them and visualize their emotions.”
The team had also installed cameras throughout the Pavilion, which could detect facial expressions to determine the mood of the entire room, and microphones to measure changes in conversation levels around the cars. The Q60 coupe had a heartbeat sensor on the steering wheel to detect how a driver felt about the car.
Matt Paddock, gm of agency Grow, thinks that Infiniti’s visualizer wall runs counter to the cynical perspective that big brands are usually hesitant to experiment or unwilling to bet on creative, ambitious digital projects.
“We’re seeing just the opposite in our work with clients, and it’s nice to see affirmation of this from others in the industry,” said Paddock.
But Craig McAnsh, CMO for experiential marketing firm Infrared, is more critical of this digital initiative. He thinks that many automakers today are trying to connect visual technologies with their vehicles, but it’s more challenging to achieve that when the car is on display only, instead of moving.
“The emotion of sitting inside the Q60 and driving it through a virtual reality experience would certainly get my emotional heart beat going. But just walking around it and having my inputs create an artistic display are less convincing and engaging,” said McAnsh. “I’m not really feeling like I’m part of the Infiniti story.”
Last year, CP+B created two virtual reality experiences, “The Dream Road” and “From Pencil to Metal,” for Infiniti at Pebble Concours. The former allowed guests to drive the Q60 on some of the world’s most exhilarating roads including Italy’s Stelvio Pass and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway. While the latter introduced viewers to Infiniti executive design director Alfonso Albaisa, who took them on a guided tour of the QX30 Concept design.
— Infiniti USA (@InfinitiUSA) August 22, 2016
Meanwhile, McAnsh doesn’t think that this visual installation has resonated much with attendees based on Infiniti’s Twitter video that features guests wandering around. “Perhaps, if the digitally created expression of a visitor’s personal emotion could have been captured and shared socially, the overall sense of consumer engagement would be greater,” he said.
This year Infiniti ranks eighth among luxury car brands in terms of shopping interest, 9 percent up from last year, according to Jumpstart Automotive Media. Its growth is mainly driven by Q50 sedan as well as QX60 full-size SUV and large SUV.
“We’re specifically seeing luxury [auto] brands focusing on more experiential events and interactions with their audience, like augmented and virtual reality,” said Libby Murad-Patel, vp of strategic insights and analytics for Jumpstart. “Infiniti is definitely one that has upped its game by putting these experiences in front of its consumers at key events.”
Images via CP+B