Howard Wilmot
Howard Wilmot 17 July 2020

Five Key Messages For Automotive Marketing

The car industry is famed for its high-end glossy approach but when looking at the data, what's really needed for automotive marketing is quite simple. There are five key subjects car audiences really respond to and talk about.

When we think about automotive marketing, most people will think about the highly expensive car advert with its star taking on a picturesque terrain or European city. 

It’s become almost as cliched as the perfume advert, but that shouldn’t be the case. We know that different audiences respond to different messages particularly in the digital space, so targeted content is necessary to reach potential consumers at the right time on the right channel. 

Dialogue’s recent research conducted with data insight partners Pulsar, revealed the key automotive marketing messages that helped consumers make decisions about their car purchases. 

Here are the top five trending topics across automotive conversations in the UK. 

Automotive marketing message #1: Price

Price and discussion around costs are naturally a key conversation topic among potential car consumers. Across the year, almost 100,000 people were talking about the cost of cars; everything from car insurance costs, the cost of air pollution to the NHS, how the current cost of fully electric cars prevents them being mainstream and cheaper alternatives to driving.

Many car companies offer 0% finance options and other monetary incentives, but they all sound very similar and ultimately get lost in the noise. 

However, Renault Ireland took on the apparently prohibitive cost of electric vehicles with their Renault ZOE Challenge advert. It featured ‘real’ people with their real-life car problems being addressed by the Renault ZOE. Though the advert did not claim that the car itself was cheap, it highlighted the running cost savings over time when compared to traditional combustion-engine vehicles. 

The consumer could see themselves in the advert with a major cost concern directly addressed.

Automotive marketing message #2: Safety 

The conversation here focused on not only the safety of the car itself, but ‘safety’ as it relates to them as individual consumers. For example, people who identified as animal lovers were concerned about people hitting animals while driving, leaving their animals in a car, and people abandoning/stealing animals at garages. 

The importance of this? Pets can act as a way to sell to this audience. This is backed up by a Think With Google report (February 2018) on trends within the auto sector, which found in the US users were searching for car seats, covers, hammocks, seat belts and steps for dogs.

Subaru have already targeted this audience in their automotive marketing with their ‘Dog tested’. Dog approved® campaign, backed up with extensive resources on their website detailing the exact pet safety specifications included in their cars.

For two-legged car consumers, Audi Q8’s impressive list of its safety credentials illustrated with easy-to-understand graphics (because ‘adaptive cruise assist’ could mean a few things) and the tagline “Looking out for you” really drives their safety message home.

Automotive marketing message #3: Tech 

There were two clear conversations happening here: 

• The testing of self-driving cars by Tesla, Amazon and Uber.

• The fact that Tesla cars are the only brand in recent history to provide significant technological advancement in the consumers’ eyes. 

There’s a reason Tesla has cut through the noise in automotive marketing. The brand famously doesn’t spend any money on traditional advertising but focuses on organic reach through its social channels. This means it has the time and space to share every innovation, whether it’s their cars’ software updates, new and attractive solar roof tiles, better batteries or one of their cars hitching a ride on SpaceX. 

By constantly innovating in different spaces and sharing their work, it’s almost as if social media followers are right there in the science lab with Tesla, which gives the impression it is the most technologically advanced car brand out there.

Automotive marketing message #4: Fun 

For a segment of the population, fun is of utmost importance and a key topic associated with car brands, reflecting the well-worn advertising message around the lure of the open road as an emotional pull.

This is perfectly encapsulated by Porsche’s 2020 Super Bowl advert ‘The Heist’. The advert features workers from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, fighting over which Porsche to drive in a race. There’s comedy in the new guy being given a Porsche tractor and there’s still ample opportunity for sweeping open road shots, with the backdrop made up of beautiful locations such as Heidelberg, Heppenheim and the Black Forest. As the description says: “The story gives a visual history of iconic Porsche cars that share a common sports car soul.”

Automotive marketing message #5: Environment

Unsurprisingly, Tesla is the brand that dominates the conversation again here due to the aforementioned technological research and advances, all of which make the world more environmentally friendly. 

Interestingly, winning over cyclists could be key in terms of marketing electric vehicles. The cycling community talks about air pollution and fighting the use of fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming. But it’s the tech angle that’s of most interest as they believe electric vehicles should be a priority for car companies to develop and also think self-driving cars are a big positive.

Aside from Tesla, Audi’s 2020 Super Bowl advert targeted environmental concerns. It featured Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams driving through an apocalyptic scene of rusty, gas-guzzling cars in the all-new Audi e-tron Sportback while singing Disney’s ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen (the message being that we need to let go of the petroleum past).

How to be Effective in Automotive Marketing

Dialogue’s report has highlighted what’s required to succeed in automotive marketing: the brand needs to identify and understand its audience and provide them with relevant, personalised communications. While price-driven messages and scenes of cars negotiating rough terrain are still relevant, consumers are seeking much more.

Though the conversations across all five topics are dominated by males (65 per cent on average) aged 18 to 24, more interesting for car brands are the other ‘tribes’ in the conversations and what they say. 

This may mean looking beyond the obvious and comfortable marketing techniques to the brave and memorable, or it may mean crafting different environmental or safety messages to appeal to different tribes or demographics (remember our animal lovers?).

Whatever the message, it all needs to be driven by data insight and creativity.

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