Auto Industry Slowly Unlocking New Ad Strategies

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While auto marketing is quickly changing, TV and radio commercials still feel remarkably stale and undifferentiated…locked into 1980s paradigms. Ads shouting weekend and holiday clearances are ubiquitous. Yet, new auto marketing realities are shattering the many outdated notions behind car shopping. Consumers can check to see what other people in their area are buying and how much they paid for it. They can buy their car directly from the manufacturer, bypassing the middleman entirely. And with sites like Carvana, buyers don't even have to leave their home. This company lets buyers browse used cars and narrow down their choices from Carvana's online platform. If buyers want to take the cars for a test drive, Carvana has a concierge service to drive the cars to the customer's home so they can make a final decision, and in some cities new cars can be picked up from a vending machine – a large vending machine to be sure – but yes, a vending machine. And Ford now offers new car pick-up from a kiosk.

With 85% of all sales influenced by some type of internet search, website design and active online analytics are critical components of an auto marketer's success as consumers educate themselves before entering the actual purchase process. Potential car purchasers configure their ideal car or SUV long before they step foot on a lot. Tools like Google Analytics and several custom analytics programs are proving to enable manufacturers and dealers to interpret the wealth of digital data and drive higher profit margins. Transparency and direct-to-consumer options are making buying a vehicle less mysterious, less dealer-controlled, and a lot more straightforward. It’s not a mystery why advertising remains locked into traditional models: advertising is perceived as a driver of awareness and interest, mostly unrelated to bottom-of-funnel transactions. That’s a missed opportunity. Slowly, auto manufacturers are unlocking opportunities to integrate direct-to-consumer commerce with advertising.

Refreshing a Brand by Refreshing Ad Messages

When Chevy saw their brand was starting to become associated with the old and the forgotten, they didn't think twice about refreshing their image. Today, their ads focus on real people who drive their vehicles and why they love them. They highlight safety and style awards that have managed to keep their brand relevant even as decade after decade goes by. One successful attempt to appeal to millennials saw Chevrolet hire celebrities like Olivia Wilde to head into college classrooms and take over for the day. They used YouTube to live stream the events so everyone could participate. 

VR and AR in Advertising 

Virtual and augmented reality make it possible for customers to experience a vehicle from wherever they are. Porsche has already experimented with this technology, making it possible for U.S. customers to have a VR Experience in their Panamera 4 3-hybrid. Customers who used it either had access to the VR App or used one of the 5,000 branded Google Cardboard viewers. In the first month, Porsche had more than doubled their virtual test drives over physical drives. Considering the U.S. has just under 190 dealerships across the country, the company considered this advertising strategy a success.  

Finding the Fun Factor 

Volkswagen encouraged people to skip an escalator in Sweden by turning the nearby staircase into a piano that played notes when pedestrians stepped on it. They managed to turn a mundane activity — trudging up and down the stairs — into something that practically everyone wanted to try. There's always a new angle for marketers to exploit to force car buyers to see their vehicles in a new way. 

New Tech Options 

In September, Amazon announced that one of their new devices would be Echo Auto, or Alexa for the car. Drivers had the option to integrate Alexa into their cars prior to this announcement, but this product is the first from Amazon designed specifically to add the virtual assistant to vehicles. Major automakers, like GM and Hyundai, are already taking advantage of Alexa so that drivers can remotely manage their car and access their smart home functions from their vehicles.

Tesla recently released a software update enabling their in-car display to show approaching motorcycles. It's also changed the shape of which vehicle is approaching, so drivers see a different image if it’s a motorcycle, SUV, or sedan. In addition, Tesla also considered the fun factor for this release, allowing drivers to play Atari games from their in-car displays.

Updating the Audio

iHeartRadio has recently partnered with Kia, Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover to make their streaming radio services accessible to more drivers. iHeartRadio has 40 million registered users and can already be found on various vehicles (including Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Toyota). They've also partnered with Bosch SoftTec, a manufacturer of infotainment platforms for cars, allowing drivers to have access to enhanced audio technology. 

Sources:  Digital Marketing InstituteHubSpot Blog

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