The best car communities offer much, much more than an eye-catching social media channel.
These communities are likely to embrace member-only access to offerings including apps, magazines, events and forums – all part of a multi-strand approach to create and offer quality content that gives real meaning to the individual’s engagement and provides a sense of satisfaction that keeps them coming back to the brand: a virtuous circle, if you will.
Best Car Communities
More generalist luxury car communities have also emerged in the last few years, including the recently launched and super-exclusive Hypr. These offer communities built around the opportunity to drive a range of luxury cars and supercars and some, like Auto Vivid, also offer services such as driving and lifestyle events and supercar driving training.
These clubs are focusing on building a community around their own brand, rather than a specific automotive marque. However, there are a number of car communities from motor brands also in existence.
There are a number of benefits to community from loyalty to word of mouth, which we explore in our report The Power of Brand Communities and touch on in our most recent report, Driving Success: The Value of Print to the Luxury Automotive Community.
But don’t take our word for it, one of the world’s most famous communities Reddit, recently mapped their impact on consumer journey through their online forums.
There are a number of car brands with distinct but very different car communities offering different benefits and initiatives which we take a deeper look at here.
Luxury car brand communities with a print magazine: Porsche Club GB
Archant Dialogue client Porsche Club GB, the second largest official Porsche Club in the world, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2021. Its print and digital magazine, Porsche Post, is a key membership benefit, blending news, test drives of the latest models, motorsport, interviews, Porsche’s history and Club members’ own stories.
It’s a great example of a publication that achieves the tricky balancing act between content marketing (sharing information in an inspiring way that leads people towards desired actions, e.g. a behind the scenes feature on a Club-run trackday that encourages members to sign up – and pay for – for a future event) and community content (engagement that meets the need for that all-important sense of belonging, such as reports from the Club’s Region and Register groups). The value of the magazine was further emphasised during the COVID-19 lockdown, as the Club’s George Woodward told us.
“We were able to draw from a back catalogue of assets and repurpose copy from magazine features earlier in the year. We posted the incredible imagery on social media to ensure Club members continued to enjoy a stunning supply of Porsches in their timelines.”
The Club’s 2020 membership survey found that 83 per cent of respondents valued the printed magazine – the highest rating of any of its membership benefits and surpassing the 81 per cent who value the association with Porsche itself. All of which suggests that Porsche Post is successfully hitting the sweet spot in creating content for a luxury automotive brand community.
Luxury car brand communities using tribal marketing: BMW on Instagram
When is a brand community a tribe? Or vice versa? In marketing terms, a tribe tends to be looser and more unstructured than a brand community, more focused on a general interest (luxury cars) than a specific (a specific brand of luxury car). It’s likely we all belong to several different tribes but are a bit pickier about our brand communities.
Tribes provide a foot in the door to recruiting someone to a brand community – turning that loose alliance into ambassadorship for your brand. Take BMW: the company’s official Instagram account has a whopping 27.9 million followers, a pretty large tribe by anyone’s standards.
An Instagram conversation like the one that goes on here is part of a much broader conversation that embraces aficionados of cutting-edge design, photography as art and living (or aspiring to) a general luxury lifestyle. It’s not so much about telling followers BMW is wonderful: it’s more a case of showing them.
Many of those millions who follow BMW aren’t necessarily interested in buying one – at least, not right this minute. Tribal marketing for luxury automotive brands like this is more about planting a seed. It might take time to come to fruition, through word-of-mouth advocacy, brand loyalty and one day, perhaps, a BMW purchase.
Read more about tribal marketing and brand communities.
Luxury car brands with a brand community
Whispers, the Rolls-Royce members’ club Rolls-Royce, which launched Whispers at the start of 2020, styles this brand community the “most exclusive members’ club in the world”.
The ticket to admission? Ownership of a new Rolls-Royce. What do you receive in return?
Over to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars…
“Whispers is completely unique. It is a digital gateway to a fascinating world beyond, where the exceptional and the extraordinary come together and are tailored to meet the demands and tastes of our eclectic and highly valued community of clients. Whispers offers transformative experiences, rare and desirable products, whimsical treasures and exclusive Rolls-Royce previews that are curated by Rolls-Royce and delivered directly to the fingertips of our global community.”
So Whispers ticks all the boxes when it comes to building a brand community. Alongside privileged access to brand information, Rolls-Royce makes much of Whispers as a place where like-minded people – “extraordinary people”, including the Rolls-Royce board members – can share interests, ideas, collections and products.
So not only can they network and discover business opportunities – Whispers members are the world’s most successful movers and shakers, after all – but also stimulate their minds and enrich their lives through access to luxury travel, entertainment and lifestyle experiences. That’s a brand community with solid gold bells on.
Read more about the Whispers brand community.
Luxury car brand communities and Generation Y: Mercedes-Benz
As we move deeper into the 21st century, what is the relationship of luxury car brands with Generation Y or millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, likely to be?
We do know, from our own research on brand communities that being part of an automotive community is important to more than half (55 per cent) of 25 to 34-year-olds, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of whom say it’s very important.
Access our research in The Power of Brand Communities
We also know that COVID-19 has been a global game changer. Working from home is as normal as an office commute while the urgency of addressing climate change has gathered fresh impetus from the way the world became cleaner and greener during worldwide lockdowns. For some millennials, alternative forms of car access such as car sharing or ride hailing platforms mean that owning your own four wheels is no longer a necessity or even a desire.
However, the silver lining to this cloud is that if owning a car, of any kind, becomes a luxury rather than a necessity, owning a luxury car assumes even greater aspirational value: something for luxury car brands to bear in mind when wooing millennial Henrys (High Earners, Not Rich Yet). If luxury is a mindset, then the history, heritage, values and advanced technology of the finest marques are ideal assets in the wooing of millennials, something Mercedes-Benz has been busy doing in a drive to showcase the relevance of the marque to Generation Y.
More than a decade ago, the marque set up ‘Gen Benz’, an exclusive, online market research community providing a direct link to its millennial members “as a channel for participants to engage in dialogue that helps shape the brand for the future generations of Mercedes owners.”
A more recent digital campaign whose stars included US rapper A$AP Rocky, actress Lucy Walters, actress and producer Julia Morrison, actress and director Anna Zahn, actor John Rue and photographer Alice Moitié, used naturalistic story-telling films rather than more overt advertising. Meanwhile, this year Mercedes-Benz India adopted the mantra ‘Restless for Tomorrow’ as it seeks to tap into the optimism and energy of the country’s 400 million millennials. As one commentator said:
“From being a brand that has traditionally associated luxury with wealth… Mercedes-Benz is looking to define itself afresh, for its millennial buyers. Mercedes-Benz wants the young to be ‘restless for tomorrow’ or in other words, pull the brand off their wish lists and drop it into the purchase cart.”
Read more about brand communities and Generation Y.
Luxury car brand communities focusing on loyalty marketing: Lexus
Customer loyalty is the holy grail for luxury automotive brands. Keep a customer on side and they are likely to return again and again for products and services.
This summer, customer insights giant J.D.Power released its latest U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study which rates customer loyalty on the basis of the percentage of luxury car owners who choose the same brand when trading in or purchasing a new vehicle. And for the second year running, Toyota’s luxury car brand Lexus came out on top, with a 48 per cent loyalty rate, just pipping Mercedes-Benz (47.8 per cent).
So what gives Lexus the edge? According to the brand itself:
“We do everything in our power to make owning a Lexus an amazing experience. We aim to create a first-class ownership experience, offering bespoke services designed to take care of you and your Lexus.
“When you buy a Lexus you join a family that puts a great deal of importance on loyalty.”
Customers receive an attractive financial reward they can use when renewing a personal contract purchase contract, complimentary roadside assistance for three years, the Lexus Link smartphone app giving access to essential vehicle information including the owner’s manual and maintenance management. There’s also a newsletter delivering new product news, the latest offers and exclusive invitations to events, plus generous warranties and hybrid battery cover.
Lexus says its customer service is driven by the spirt of omotenashi – the best traditions of Japanese hospitality:
“As a brand, Lexus wants to do more than meet a customer’s needs and desires; it wants to anticipate them and exceed them.”
Anticipating and exceeding customers’ needs and desires: not a bad way to sum up what the best luxury automotive brands, and their brand communities, aspire to.
Read more about brand communities and loyalty marketing.
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