How can car brands future-proof their automotive marketing
Against a fast changing business and digital landscape, content marketing agency Dialogue wanted to examine today's automotive marketing endeavours through the lens of the consumer.
The results from quantitative and qualitative research were revealed at a central London Breakfast Briefing on 29th November 2018.
Dialogue has a long-standing relationship with the automotive industry working with brands like Bentley, Harley-Davidson, Jeep, Lotus, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Saab, creating consumer facing content across multimedia channels.
Scroll down to download the automotive marketing report.
Current state of automotive sector
Today the automotive industry is facing a multitude of challenges: a record number of UK teenagers are not learning to drive (fallen 28% in last 10 years); and sharing and convenience services like Lyft, Zipcar, Uber, Deliveroo and Just Eat are increasing making some customer segments question the need for a car – especially in cities where congestion is increasing and local authorities are setting targets to reduce or eliminate petrol and diesel vehicles all together.
Couple this with the rise in UK living costs and property for Gen Z and millennials, who for the first time are less well off than their parents, you can see these are testing times for the motoring industry and that's without considering Brexit.
Brands have historically indulged in traditional automotive marketing campaigns around brand awareness, brand identity and new product launches, typically TV and radio ads run with reach and frequency or product placement or major sponsorship initiatives.
While for other sectors, digital has forced brands to connect directly with audiences for the first time via the 'new' channel of ecommerce, car brands have been slow to adopt this new opportunity.
Brand to consumer direct sales is mainly unchartered – no doubt impacted by their long-term relationship with dealerships who have historically been at the coal face of direct digital marketing and ongoing post-purchase relationships.
Note: brands have adopted social media, but arguably in a way that supports brand awareness not sales directly as such.
Below are a number of automotive marketing trends we have seen over the past year and whose value we explored within the report.
Automotive Experiential Marketing Campaigns
Experiential activities need to be part of any car brand's activity as there's always a simple necessity to showcase the product. However, the need to make experiential more memorable and – dare we say it, more 'Instagrammable' – is something that's happening across all sectors.
As a result, these real-world activities have stood out.
Bentley recently set-up a pop-up luxury restaurant for its customers on the summit of the UAE's tallest mountain, Jebel Jais to celebrate the Middle East launch of the all-new Continental GT and the Bentley Bentayga V8 luxury SUV.
Car vending machines
In China, Ford partnered with etailer Alibaba to sell its vehicles through a giant vending machine – you can even insert a coin to activate the process. When the car is delivered, you have seven days to test the vehicle and you don't have to deal with car salespeople.
Amongst automotive marketing events, Goodwood is at the top of its game and this year Aston Martin, McLaren, Ford and Tesla all staged public global or European debuts of new models this year – but also, more importantly, delivered the “dynamic launch” where the car is seen moving for the first time.
Similarly, there's nothing new about sponsorship in the car world but this year, the notion of what that is has developed.
Citroën and Channel 4 have a two-year sponsorship deal around the hit show, First Dates and its spin-off, First Dates Hotel with the brand producing the ad bumpers around the show.
So far, so traditional? But they've also created an online series to support the initiative where three couples were given blind dates at Brands Hatch ably assisted by Citroën's World Rally Championship driver, Craig Breen in a Citroën C3 and CiCi from the show served up dessert from an iconic Citroën H Van.
The music industry is opening up to car brands – and in 2018, we've seen collaborations between Paloma Faith and Skoda but also more innovatively, between Dua Lipa and Jaguar which kicked off with a performance in Amsterdam.
However, the relationship is also about technology: Dua Lipa, also used Jaguar's custom-made software to create an exclusive remix of her track, 'Want To', encouraging fans to also create personalised remixes using their own data – from the way they drive, the songs they listen to, or by tapping a rhythm on a mobile.
New Automotive Platforms
This year has also seen car brands experimenting with new digital channels and ways of doing business.
So far only Peugeot, Hyundai and Smart cars have had ecommerce sites but this year BMW and Ford embraced online sales– with the latter combining both online with retail marketing.
Ford's launch of its ecommerce website coincided with the opening of a Ford sales operation at Next homewares and fashion store at the Arndale mall in Manchester, Next being the UK's number one retailer with over 700 stores worldwide.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Brands are realising the value of AR and VR: the total automotive AR market is expected to reach US$5.5 billion by 2022 as it benefits the industry at many stages of the product cycle, including design, prototyping, manufacturing and marketing.
Audi has released an AR app that lets you place photorealistic 3D models of Audi vehicles on a surface and resize it while Hyundai, Jeep, and Volvo have also begun to use AR for virtual test drives and digital showroom experiences.
Automotive content marketing
Content marketing is still underexploited by car brands – despite it being key in helping explore the real issues and trigger points for consumers when it comes to car purchases.
Porsche partnered with a Carpool Karaoke episode featuring James Corden and Maroon 5's Adam Levine and SEAT showcased 'space' through exploring summer packing using the KonMari Method.
And of course, automotive influencer marketing is now starting to be part of the mix with Jaguar supporting an Instagram influencer's drive from California to Oregon while Mercedes Benz appears to be unearthing the most interesting partners in this space.
At a grass roots level however, there's an increasing need to put users at the forefront of any car marketing – especially around UGC or online reviews as users find this information valuable in evaluating products – more of that within our report.
While the future is inherently unpredictable, it seems safe to foresee that brands will need to fundamentally transform their offer in the near future and are starting to adapt automotive marketing as a result.
The Automotive Marketing Report
Dialogue conducted research among a UK-representative panel of 1,000 adults, 50% of which were looking to buy a car in the next 12 months, to uncover their views on the automotive sector, how they research and buy a new car and their response to how cars are being marketed.
We produced this report about car marketing not just to diagnose these problems but also to identify solutions. As a result, we've combined our findings with our experience in working with automotive brands to successfully engage consumers. We've also incorporated insights and views from senior marketing decision makers at automotive brands and automotive journalists.
The report was launched at an intimate Breakfast Briefing on 29th November 2018, in London with a panel of motoring experts including Joe Riordan from Perry's Motors dealership and automotive journalist Craig Thomas who both contributed to the report amongst others as well as Jamie Watson from social media listening company Pulsar, who work with Mazda, Honda and General Motors.
So, whether your brand is stuck in first gear, or if you just want to motor along even faster, we hope the report will help you drive into a successful future at a time of unprecedented disruption for the automotive sector.