The world has changed immeasurably over the past three years. From the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic to the vast economic challenges that the health crisis contributed to, industries all around the world have been forced to adapt their marketing campaigns to changing consumer mindsets, and expectations.
This has presented clear challenges to the automotive industry. Let us therefore see how do car companies market and attract customers?
The ongoing cost-of-living crisis is already deeply impacting the world of motoring. According to automotive showroom management provider, Dealerweb, new car enquiries fell by 17.4% year-over-year in Q1 2023.
These declining new car leads come in the wake of a 30.1% drop reported from October to December 2022 in comparison to the same period over the year before.
While figures emerging from the UK show that new car sales have grown 18%, Auto Trader specifies that this boost came largely due to the adoption of electric vehicles by fleets, rather than customers.
This downturn in appetite for new motors has provided the automotive industry with an opportunity to rethink its branding, and to adapt marketing campaigns to suit the changing attitudes of customers.
The attitudes of customers had seen a widespread shift towards authenticity, and more wholesome content in the wake of the pandemic.
Automative Marketing Accommodating Customer Expectations
The world of marketing was heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The significance of the event appeared to challenge customers to reconsider the marketing campaigns that they consume.
In a 2021 survey conducted by the Edelman Trust Barometer, 88% of consumers claimed that trust is critical when deciding on the brands to buy or use, while customer service scored 85%.
This has led to a fundamental shift in how manufacturers reach their customers, and brands like Audi have responded by moving away from creativity, and towards experience-based marketing approaches.
“There has been a big shift in automotive marketing departments from communications first to brand experience first,” said Will Lion, joint strategy officer at BBH, which is the marketing agency.
BBH now caters to Audi, and Volkswagen among other manufacturers. “[They’re] asking how we make the buying experience offline, and online tighter so there is a digital physical blend,” Lion added.
Marketing Cars Finding Trust in Social Media
Another core way of building trust in their customers is through social media, which some manufacturers had been slow to adopt in a meaningful way.
Alongside organic search, social media has become an essential digital channel within automotive purchasing funnels. According to research from CarGurus, 71% of UK car buyers have confirmed that this method supports their buying process.
Furthermore, platforms like YouTube have become prevalent in car purchases, with views of ‘test drive’ videos on YouTube growing by over 65% over the past two years.
Crucially, trust can be achieved on social media through building a social proof. According to Pixability, creator-produced videos received 93% of monthly views for all auto content, as opposed to just 7% for brands.
This presents a new challenge for building marketing campaigns that can win the trust of customers in ways that traditional auto adverts didn’t attempt.
We’re already seeing this push towards social proof-focused marketing become prevalent for brands outside of YouTube, and Audi’s recent marketing campaigns featured Elaine Welteroth as a #AudiPartner, which can help to build more trust in the content produced by brands.
Car Companies Industry-Wide Push to Social Proof
We’re seeing the rise of social proof spread throughout social media marketing for automotive firms. Recently, Cars.com underwent a significant rebrand with a new advertising campaign which sought to incorporate influencer marketing networks that offer access to pre-vetted influencers.
“We’d had direct-to-influencer relationships,” but the influencer networks are a great opportunity for us to syndicate our editorial, and to bring our editorial top of mind to consumers in new, and different channels.”
Jennifer Vianello, Cars.com CMO also said “Sometimes we want to be talking about our own message, and our own expertise, and sometimes we need different voices for those messages.”
To help spread its message to wider audiences, Cars.com has partnered with networks like Influential, and Izea to help amplify the brand’s editorial content on a wider scale, and add new voices to its content.
With the importance of external voices ranging to other areas of the automotive industry, it could be that we’ll be able to locate a garage, discover maintenance firms, and find a locksmith through social media campaigns that help to build trust in the companies available to use.
Could Auto Marketing Change Forever?
This value-oriented push towards marketing campaigns on social media represents a significant change of tact for the automotive industry, which formerly focused on creativity, and the engineering qualities of the motors they produced.
Honda’s iconic ‘The Cog’ ad, created in 2003, was an extraordinary feat of creativity in marketing a new car. Whether the era of left-field car advertising is gone forever or lying dormant amidst this rise in consumer demand for value is unclear.
But in the age of the influencer, a social proof appears to be the pinnacle of value-added marketing in a post-pandemic society.