Digital Fever finally reached the automotive marketing category in 2015. The traditionally-traditional category experienced a “spending surge” on digital media of nearly 22% growth in the US, and is predicted to grow through to 2020. PC and mobile devices play a larger role in automotive consumers’ research processes with each passing year, giving auto marketers a cue to funnel more advertising spend into paid digital media. Though digital opens up new roads for auto brands to reach their target demographic, marketers don’t need to reinvent the wheel. At Gaggi Media, we believe automotive marketers need to be cautious not to veer off course as they allocate greater budgets to digital. What’s hot and new in the digital space doesn’t necessarily add value to the brand, especially considering the unique habits of automotive consumers in different target groups. Marketers will reap the best benefits of their paid digital media strategy with strategically balanced media campaigns that respond and grow with true consumer behaviour.
Talking Behind Your Back
The path to purchase for car consumers is long and methodical. Automotive shoppers plan their next purchase six months to three years in the future and research with blog content, videos and professional reviews throughout their purchase journey. They rely heavily on comparisons and user experiences to shape their opinions. Right now, consumers are going to social media networks to talk about brands, but not to talk to brands. In a Canadian study by Mintel, 73% of consumers did not interact with Hyundai and 72% did not do so with General Motors, slightly higher than all other brands the study reviewed. Online discussions focus on cost, news, features and peer opinions, and are directed by news media—good and bad press alike. This could be simply because automotive brands have been absent from online discussion until recently. Automotive brands not allocating enough budget or the right media mix to digital brand campaigns has left online discussions to be directed by other influencers.
It’s time for automotive marketers to join the conversation that’s happening without them online. Automotive marketers have an opportunity with paid digital media to build their brand, expand their presence and influence opinions in the digital space. Some automakers are already using digital to “streamline lower funnel efforts” such as locating dealerships in order to win over customers (eMarketer 2016). eMarketer’s report from early 2016 also found that US auto advertisers would spend 35% of all auto display ad spending on digital video this year, seeing video as an extension of traditional TV advertising. Digital media allows marketers to go even further; influencer marketing, video content and paid display are excellent opportunities, depending on the campaign target and demographic. As auto marketers grow their brand in the digital space, a turnkey media partner can help facilitate partnerships to develop meaningful media strategies for the automotive consumer.
Doing what Works, Even Better
The time has never been better for marketers to focus their efforts in digital. But marketers’ efforts must be just that—focused. Automotive consumers across demographics have different research habits. Young males and the Asian market are much more digitally reliant than Boomers, while some demographics experience “research-phobic” behaviour (Mintel, 2015). Digital media and mobile advertising is becoming more influential in the automotive purchase process as younger consumers enter the automotive market. That trend has already begun; a 2015 US survey by Ipsos found that 27% of respondents who plan to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next year do most of their car research on a mobile device (eMarketer 2016). But as marketers venture further into paid digital, they need to consider the strategic balance of their media strategy and what role each screen plays in the consumer’s purchase decision. eMarketer found that consumers who “primarily use a mobile device for auto research were further along in their purchase path”; 76% of those already knew exactly what car they wanted before going to the dealer (eMarketer 2016). With a strategically balanced media strategy, auto marketers can enhance campaigns that are already impactful and turn them into a full-funnel experience for consumers by adding paid digital media to the strategy.
Some automotive manufacturers are partnering their digital and traditional media today, like Toyota Canada has in their new promotion, “Towards Tomorrow By Toyota”. At Gaggi Media, we planned experiential marketing campaigns for Land Rover and MINI, where consumers were introduced to brands and could interact with them using clever out-of-home installations and event sponsorship. These strategies could only have been made better with the added touch points of paid digital media.
A Time and a Place
At Gaggi Media, we believe that strategically balanced media plans based on the unique research behaviour of car shoppers will ensure that brands will reach their target demographic in a meaningful and impactful way. Marketing dollars will work even harder for automotive brands when they are put into an integrated media strategy. Partnering digital with TV or other forms of traditional media can create a stronger, more immersive brand experience for consumers. Let us show you how.