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Car Marketing Wars: How Automotive Brands Rely on Innovation to Win New Customers

Marketing in the automotive industry has undergone many changes in the 21st Century. As consumer priorities continue to change in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more manufacturers have sought to focus on experience by utilizing more cutting-edge technologies.

While marketing campaigns of yesteryear had been focused on attention-grabbing gimmicks such as Honda’s ‘Power of Dreams’ campaign, or Mini’s ‘Mini Adventure’ television adverts, marketers have been required to take a more measured approach to appeal to modern consumers.

As UBS reports that new car supply is set to outpace sales by as much as 6% in 2023, leaving an excess of some five million vehicles on the forecourts in the US, it’s clear that marketers need to win more than just the attention of consumers to ensure that new vehicles are viewed as more desirable than those of competitors.

With this in mind, we’re seeing more trends emerge surrounding new innovations, and a commitment to adding more brand value by focusing on promoting more positive customer experiences within their vehicles.

Building Brand Value After the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic forced car brands to rethink their approach to marketing. Supply chain squeezes, shifting consumer perspectives, and the threat of the health crisis combined to push manufacturers to focus on building brand value, as opposed to prioritizing recognition or highlighting areas of outperformance among models.

There was still time for brands like Suzuki to create more quirky ads that call back to the days of Honda’s Power of Dreams marketing push in their ‘Good Different’ campaign which premiered in 2022. However, the whole approach was demonstrably more geared towards wholesome content, featuring light-hearted knitting scenes and guiding customers through purchasing their first car.

Alex Key, senior marketing communications manager at Suzuki, noted that the campaign “isn’t to get someone to walk into a dealership tomorrow. The fact that the stock isn’t there doesn’t really matter, the play is much bigger.

Key references the ongoing supply chain issues faced by manufacturers as an opportunity to foster better brand value. “The effect will start to matter when we come out of the chip shortages.”

Likewise, Japanese firm Toyota also sought to build brand value by creating a campaign that focuses on a more narrative-based format where characters tell stories about how different Toyota cars have changed their lives.

The campaign, which was worked on by agencies Saatchi & Saatchi, Burrell Communications, Conill Advertising, and Intertrend Communications, seeks to build a more emotional engagement with customers, highlighting a widespread push toward upholding brand values in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as a priority.

The pandemic years have also fundamentally altered how brands communicate with their customers, and this has paved the way for more car manufacturers to adopt emerging technologies as a more effective means of promoting their vehicles in recent years.

Marketing with Reality Technology

German manufacturer Audi opted to utilize extended reality (XR), which combines both virtual and augmented reality qualities to generate immersive experiences for users in the development of Holoride.

This technology helps to improve the customer experience by offering XR visualizations for passengers in a car which change based on the vehicle’s movement.

“We took relevant data points like location, speed, steering, acceleration and braking – and matched these with artificial environments. By doing so, we not only created a perfectly motion-synchronized journey through virtual worlds, but something radically new that entertains backseat passengers in an unseen way,” explained Nils Wollny, co-founder of holoride.

“Due to the haptic feedback of the real drive, the virtual experience feels incredibly realistic and more intense than ever before.”

In 2021, BMW announced a joint research project with Meta, which was geared toward how both AR and VR could enhance the passenger experience in vehicles.

Meta claimed that the use of reality technology in vehicles could “could revolutionize travel in cars, trains, planes and beyond, unlocking new forms of hands-free communication.” The implications could also improve customer experience in terms of maintenance, with AR capable of identifying windshield cracks and running windshield repair tutorials, for instance.

From a marketing perspective, the use of AR/VR in vehicles for passengers can help to add better brand recognition inside motors, while promoting a commitment to customer values outside.

This infusion of technology alongside the mundanity of repetitive journeys is a fresh example of how Audi is seeking to utilize XR to promote a more enjoyable customer experience.

Mercedes-Benz is also an example of a German manufacturer that’s been fast to adopt reality technology to bolster its marketing. The firm offers augmented reality-based smartphone apps that work by scanning a QR code to generate AR visualizations for new models in different colors and various information about different vehicles.

In a post-pandemic world where work-from-home has caused more customers to remain at home for longer, reality technology can help to bring prospective customers closer to new vehicles than ever before possible on a remote basis.

Will Generative AI Become the Next Automotive Marketing Tool?

In the battle to promote superior customer experience within the automotive industry, generative AI promises to be the next frontier for competitive brands to showcase their values.

With the ability to tap into big data and analyze far greater volumes of customer profiles, including individual behaviors and preferences, generative AI can offer more personalized experiences for drivers.

This could manifest in more adaptive infotainment systems and user interfaces, as well as custom driving modes that can help to optimize the driving experience.

These customized experiences could herald a new era of adaptive marketing campaigns that can highlight individual car qualities and features that are statistically more likely to appeal to the individual browsing online.

Fundamentally, generative AI can help marketers to alter their approach from appealing to the largest cross-section of targets to appealing to each lead on a personal basis.

With competition heating up to continue making sales in a cooling new car market, we’re likely to see more advanced tools arrive in automotive marketing battlegrounds. Car marketing wars in the 21st Century are only set to become more innovative.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Dmytro Spilka .

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