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This is a blog about a team of 6 high performance North Atlantic Audi Club driving instructors and their entry into the 24 hours of LeMONs race series. It follows the team from their application through the adventures they encounter during preparation, racing and the aftermath.

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Online Communities a Virtual Evolution

Communities in the traditional sense are a group of people who reside in the same area, share a common culture, heritage, interest or characteristics and perceived as distinct from the larger populous within which it exists. (Dictionary.com)

Today thanks to the internet and social media virtual communities are proliferating and the members of a community no longer need to reside in the same area. Social networking enables larger online communities which help people learn more about entities in the network. It has become very easy to build a community using one of many social networks. It would seem the only limitations are access to a social media network and any country restrictions of social networks- I expect the communities will continue to grow as the world becomes smaller as a result of social media.

There are many interest based communities which have been around for a while and which have evolved to meet the needs and desires of the participants. LinkedIn has many groups which allow people to connect with like minded individuals for many reasons; to learn about each other and industry trends (such as BICSI and Structured Cabling Professionals), pose questions and receive answers from the members; find local and virtual training partners (Executive Athletes and Triathlete), to connect with individuals they worked with at past companies (Ex-company groups). Some communities are open allowing anyone to participate while others are closed requiring individuals to be accepted into the group.

Facebook allows users to create groups (communities) for many purposes; to keep others easily informed of upcoming events and past happenings and to track challenges. One the groups I belong to the North Atlantic Audi Group (NAAC) promotes the clubs upcoming events and allows others to post Audi, club and other car related comments for discussion.

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Audi uses Social Media to Build Brand

In 2006, Scott Keogh joined Audi of America as their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). At that time Audi, unlike Mercedes, BMW and Lexus,  was not perceived as a luxury brand in the United States.  Scott said, “Luxury is a conversation not an ideal. It is about what we most admire and desire and that evolves as consumer preferences evolve. To change the conversation, you have to get into it, and we were not part of the US luxury conversation. It is important to admit reality- if you have a competitor, you have to look at it and determine what you are going to do about it.” Audi was well respected in Germany but not in the US and Scott set out to change that perception by reinventing themselves based on four principles and a social media marketing campaign.  (Lamb, 2012)

Audi’s Four Principles

  • “It is not what you’re driving it is what you are driving for”
  • “Shift from seeking confirmation to achieving admiration” change from he is one of us, to I want to be like him
  • “It’s ok to let them see you sweat” – stare competition in the face
  • Luxury is more about experience than products- obtain greater satisfaction by buying an experience not a material good. (Lamb, 2012)

Audi Uses Viral Marketing

Since 2008 Audi has increased brand awareness in a down economy. They have done so by utilizing “unorthodox” viral marketing campaigns; “Stolen Audi” miniseries TV and YouTube video spots and “Meet the Beckers” video’s aimed at their competition. The “unorthodox” strategy is working for Audi because Audi is perceived as unorthodox in the marketplace. (Schwartz, 2011)

Humor and Risk – from Audi’s “Green Police” 2010 Campaign

In 2010 Audi created a “Green Police” advertisement for the Super Bowl and a series of public service announcements. The goal was to create buzz via humor around the Audi A3 TDI, and bring awareness to sustainability, not poke fun at environmentalists. The ads generated a bit of controversy due to the way Audi portrayed the eco-movement. The American Chemistry Council’s plastic division countered some of Audi’s portrayal of plastics. (Koch, 2010) David Roberts, staff writer of the Grist Magazine, gave more consideration to the portrayal of the green police in the Audi ad and believes people are over thinking the ad and missing the point; “the Audi A3 TDI is green and desirable—indeed more desirable because it is green. Audi is targeting an audience which is not hard core environmentalists; they are targeting those who want to do the right thing. The intended A3 TDI message is “prosperity, pleasure and sustainability can be achieved together.” (Roberts, 2010)

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Racing App and Carticipate

Example Race Monitor information on the iPhone

RaceMonitor, by Karting Coach, is an app which is used by race organizers to provide live stats; timing and scoring to race teams and spectators. We used the app during the Loudon Annoying, 24 Hours of LeMONs race.  By toggling through the app we were able to view our overall standings and our place in class. The app also provided the unique and wacky Lemons team names, the last lap time, the fastest lap time and fastest lap for each team. There are sort functions to allow users to sort racers by position or time.  The app is currently available on the iPhone, Window7 or Android phones, they are working on a BlackBerry version. When at a track the app only works if the race organizer has selected this Race Monitor platform for providing timing. RaceMonitor provides a flyer template to enable race organizers to promote the RMonitor service. The flyer includes QRcodes for each phone to simplify the user experience in accessing the app. Scan the QR code and for iPhone it opens the App Store to the Race Monitor for downloading. For the 24 Hour of Lemons race, the race organizers used the app, they are not associated with the developer, and they use it to get the race info out. As a user of the app I think it is a great tool.

Carticipate is a rideshare application for the iPhone and social network which connects commuters.  The app enables those in need of a ride to connect to those offering rides. The app is available in the United States and Europe. This app has the ability to reduce carbon output and help people save money while providing an alternative means of transportation. This service can be used near where you live to provide a means to commute to/from work, or for the more daring to catch a ride while traveling in another city for business or pleasure. A bit like electronic hitchhiking…fun and exciting but how safe? (Briggs & Lampton). There are a few customer reviews on the itunes app site; one user was skeptical, but pleasantly surprised at how the app worked and is lowering their carbon footprint. Location-based smart phones and social networks enable this service to help people find rides on short notice.  A traffic analytic of unique visitors for the June to Sept of 2011, showed over 800 visitors. (Carticipate)

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