The role of content in automotive marketing

December 6th, 2018

When we think about automotive marketing, it’s often the big ads we see at the cinema or on the TV that we imagine.

Despite the onset of digital, it would appear on the surface that nothing much has changed for the sector. While other industries have adjusted to communicate directly with their customer, establishing ecommerce offerings and by default adopting content marketing, car brands have been slow to react. Only BMW and Ford in 2018 joined Peugeot, Hyundai and Smart cars to offer a direct ecommerce channel to customers and prospects.

Of course, most motoring brands are hampered by the long production process and so can’t be as fleet of foot as other sectors. Yet there is change in the air of the sector with self-driving cars in the works; subscription and convenience services like Lyft and Zipcar multiplying, cities increasingly becoming no-car zones and in China, there are even ‘car vending machines’.

Automotive brands have historically delivered traditional campaigns around brand awareness, brand identity and new product launches but this year there has been more experimentation; Jaguar sponsoring Dua Lipa, Ford collaborating with Next; Hyundai, Jeep, and Volvo offering virtual test drives, Bentley launching a pop-up restaurant in Dubai…the list goes on.

But the bottom line is what type of marketing really impacts consumers’ decision making?

Content marketing agency Dialogue wanted to explore the needs of users when it comes to car buying and so commissioned an Automotive Marketing Report to examine the industry’s marketing through the lens of the consumer.

The key finding was that consumers weren’t as interested in cars as you may think: Almost half of adults (43%) describe themselves as ‘casual car buyers’, meaning there’s a huge opportunity for car brands to win this custom (as well as a need focus on retaining the clients they already have).

Furthermore, users don’t necessarily relish the thought of buying a car. Instead of absorbing the messages put out by car brands, users are ignoring or unaware of them; more than a quarter (26%) ‘don’t trust any car marketing’ while almost half (45%) say they haven’t seen any automotive marketing in the last 12 months.

As a result, they look to friends and family as trusted information source (26.5% opting for this, the number one response) and then online reviews (24%).

It would seem automotive advertising was found to be neither trusted nor memorable. Of course, advertising works at a subliminal level, but what the report highlights is that consumers aren’t necessarily being serviced the messages that help and support their decision making.

Some 36% of consumers described money as the key detail required before buying a car, while 30% chose safety, meaning effective advertising should communicate these points.

The report also highlighted the needs for effective content marketing; car brands need to enter the conversation around online reviews and in forums as these are of value to consumers.

But there’s also a requirement to ensure websites are effective marketing tools: 23% of consumers still trust car websites as part of the marketing mix. If you look at the results form the recent Think With Google report around trends within the auto sector – what’s also important to users is personalisation and what they can do with their cars. Yet car seats, covers, hammocks, seat belts and steps for dogs, subwoofers, car cameras and car accessories for children are all relatively ignored by car brands but are in fact, key sales indicators that can be supported via clever automotive content marketing.

To find out more about these results and consumers’ views on hybrid, electric and autonomous cars, download the full report here.

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