3 Ways Storytelling Fuels America’s Largest Monthly Car Show (and How You Can Apply Them to Grow Your Business)
What do Kenny Rogers (a retired Major League pitcher), Michelle Beck (a small-town vocational teacher), and Magnus Walker (a famous fashion designer), have in common?
They all share a passion for automobiles.
And because of that passion, they’ve restored and showcased vehicles at America’s largest monthly car show, Caffeine and Octane.
“People are so different,” says Bruce Piefke, the entrepreneur behind the show. “But cars bring them together. For me, that’s what makes the show great—all these stories where people connect.”
And he’s used these kinds of true-life-car-love stories to transform the once struggling event into—not only one of the most lucrative car shows in the U.S.—but also a thriving media brand.
Here are three ways Piefke uses storytelling to fuel Caffeine and Octane’s success and how you can apply them to grow your business.
1. C&O Tells Stories That Are Bigger Than the Brand
Many people look at a car show and see a parking lot full of Porches, Lamborghinis, and GTO’s. Then they talk about those vehicles in terms of models, makes, years and engines—it’s all about stats and details.
But when Piefke took over Caffeine and Octane, he didn’t just notice the cars. He also noticed the emotional connections people made with them.
For example, there were many stories of people coming to the show with hopes of seeing the car they first learned to drive. Because they wanted to reconnect to those magic years.
“People connect with cars like music,” says Piefke. “When you hear a song that you listened to when you were 16—when you got your first taste of freedom—it puts a smile on your face. It’s the same with cars.”
Piefke was drawn to these stories, and he knew others would be, too. So, he began to weave these types of human-interest stories into the fabric of the Caffeine and Octane brand. And as he did, the brand grew more than he ever imagined it would.
Here’s a snapshot of Caffeine and Octane three years ago, when Piefke first acquired it:
Compare that to what the brand looks like today:
Tell stories that are bigger than your brand.
Go beyond specs. Dig deep and find out how your product or service connects with prospects—aka humans—on an emotional level.
2. C&O Tells Strategic Stories
Piefke knew that to successfully monetize Caffeine and Octane, he needed to add more value for the show’s sponsors.
Getting them in front of 3,000 people for three hours every month wasn’t enough.
“I needed to be able to tell sponsors, ‘Yes, we have this incredible event, but we’re also in touch with these people every day,” he says. “So, I went to work on the social media side of the business.”
When he took over, Caffeine and Octane’s online footprint was virtually non-existent.
“The website wasn’t working very well,” Piefke says. “We had a Facebook page. We had Instagram. But there was very little online presence.” Because the show’s previous owners didn’t have time to build one.
They would post things like, “Hey, don’t forget there’s a show tomorrow,” or, “Wasn’t that a great show?” But that was it.
Piefke’s efforts were much more intentional.
Instead of hopping on Facebook to share reminders and afterthoughts, he used the platform to strategically connect with car enthusiasts, exotic car owners, and car clubs. Then he consistently tailored content that would interest those groups and shared it with them.
For example, if a guy came to the show with a $500,000 Lamborghini, Piefke would share a picture of it with exotic car lovers. Then they’d share it with their followers, and the traffic from the post would snowball.
This worked so well that he also started posting on Instagram, YouTube, and even Twitter.
And his strategic outreach has created a very healthy social media following for Caffeine and Octane:
Not bad for a regional car show.
Treat social networking sites like the marketing megaphones they are—not like bulletin boards where you post occasional announcements.
When you tell stories that resonate with your audience (and publish them consistently), your audience will amplify those stories. And you’ll accomplish your business goals faster.
3. C&O Tells Authentic Stories
“My brand is authentic,” says Piefke.
And he strives to stay true to that vision of authenticity in every aspect of his brand story—from social media posts, to the merchandise he sells.
He’s worked especially hard to make the television show a genuine reflection of the live event. “I did not want made-up drama,” he says.
So, he serves up true stories that highlight the ways cars create relationships between people. And in doing so, he creates authentic relationships with his audience. And he even reaches people who might not otherwise watch a show about cars.
“I hear it all the time,” Piefke laughs. “This is the only show that my wife will watch with me...”
Keep your stories true to your brand and your audience. Authentic stories build authentic relationships. And relationships are the key to any business’ success.
Holly Hughes-Barnes is a business blogger and brand journalist. She writes blog posts, case studies, and ebooks that build trust, bring in leads, and make more sales for B2B companies. She lives in TN with her husband and son, a nearly-blind dog, and a totally naked cat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
"Put yourself in a position, treat people right, and maintain your reputation. You never know what opportunities will come from that."
When Bruce Piefke took over a monthly Atlanta car show from Auto Trader magazine it was generating more in expenses than revenue. In three years Bruce grew Caffeine & Octane from 3,000 to a record 20,000 attendees in a month. He signed on some big sponsors and spun off a hit tv show. More...
"I've had my share of wrecks. I've broken bones. I've had my ego bruised many times."
Entrepreneurs naturally want things to go fast. In this episode of Main Street Hustle we meet an entrepreneur who really knows how to go fast. Elaine Larsen - a two-time Jet Dragster World Champion tells us that in racing and in business the faster you go, the safer and smarter you have to be. For Elaine and her co-owner husband Chris, this means setting strict workplace rules and putting each employee through a rigorous training program. Everyone at Larsen Motor Sports knows everything there is to know about the race car, about safety, and about being a brand ambassador. More...
"This is the dream. Brewing beer. I work for myself."
For years, Chris Coyle was brewing beer at home for friends and family. In 2013 he stepped out of the garage to open his own brewery and taproom. With no experience in business, no experience running a bar, and no experience brewing beer on a larger scale, Chris and his wife sold off what they could and got to work opening the New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company. What they didn’t know is that a Federal Government shutdown would keep them closed with no money coming in for two months. more...
"The hustle is real."
In this episode of Main Street Hustle we sit down for coffee with Kristan Serafino, a celebrity Hair Stylist and mens grooming expert whose client list reads like a who’s who of Entertainment A listers. Now, Kristan won’t divulge her clients names but a simple search of her instagram feed or a review of her online portfolio shows her work with Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Craig, Matthew McConaughey, Shawn Mendes, Norman Reddus, Kelsey Grammer and Michael J. Fox, just to name a few. Her work has appeared on the covers of just about every fashion magazine including GQ, Esquire, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Cosmopolitan. She’s been an on air guest at QVC and a brand spokesperson for a line of beauty products. You can follow Kristans work on instagram and twitter @serafinosays. More...
"It wasn't like I was trying to make a company.
I just wanted to test having a race."
After finishing a half marathon, avid runner Nick Zivolich wondered if he could produce an endurance race that would be just as big and professional as the corporate races without the exorbitant entry fees. His races would be accessible to all levels of athletes. At the time, this former high school track competitor wasn’t concerned with building a business so much as playing big with a hobby he’d had for years. So he followed his gut on how to best reach his audience, killing just about every rule in the book. It worked out pretty DAMN well and The Best Damn Race had runners scrambling for tickets on Day 1. More...
"People thing the band rolls into the place, plays a show, and then everyone is swirling martinis aftewards."
In this conversation, we learn how the band jumps from playing small jazz gigs in New York to touring performing art centers around the world, and what you can learn from an airline pilot about being a good band leader. We pick up the conversation backstage at The Lyric Theater in Stuart, Florida. More...