Does anyone really need a new-car smell in anything other than a new car? I wanted to find out, so I paid a visit to Intersect by Lexus recently. Let’s be clear, it doesn’t really smell like a new car. It just wants you to think it should.

​There’s been a lot written about this new permanent concept – Lexus’s restaurant-bar-space that doesn’t sell cars (although you might see a few on display). What it sells is the brand experience. Of course, they hope that down the line, you eventually buy a car… because of the way the brand made you feel. It’s all about the brand experience.

​This Concept Of The Destination Brand Activation Isn’t New

We see more of these popping up every day in NYC.  From MINI’s A/D/O workspace in Greenpoint to The Spotted Cheetah pop-up in TriBeCa and even a few years back when Kellogg’s NYC cereal bar/café first took over Union Square. Sure, they look cool and are new and original, but are they really worth the investment?

A Fundamental Difference: What Consumers Need vs. Want

Research shows that there is a difference in giving consumers what they want versus what they need. Is Lexus (and others) really giving the consumer what they need? Or are they simply giving them what they want?

Back to Intersect, rather than a partnership, it felt more like a bought and paid for advertisement, one that I, as the consumer, was even being asked to foot the bill for (along with gratuities!). Everything from the car-parts inspired artwork to the very carefully chosen books on the shelves seemed intentionally planned (no doubt by a smart and well compensated agency) to create what seemed all too obvious.

Lexus may have been trying to mold my emotions but honestly, I kept feeling like I was at the New York Auto Show (with better food, of course). We might feel some level of emotion in these environments, but we aren’t stupid. We know we are being sold to, even if it’s in a tangential way. The question I kept asking myself is what value is this bringing to my life? The answer I came up with was none.

A Better Way: Marketing Partnerships

The good news is that taking a more strategic approach to marketing partnerships can often be much less expensive and accomplish the same thing. Finding a brand partner that is already connected with your target audience can allow you to more seamlessly elicit the same emotional connections.

​And once you’ve found the right brand partner, often barter marketing can be leveraged to eliminate or reduce the upfront investment of building out your own branded space. And best of all, with the right strategic brand alliances, you will be perceived as giving that audience something new. Giving them something they need.