Online Marketing for the Motor Industry

An Ode to the Lemon

Lemon. For most, that is a condiment for a classic gin and tonic, for others it is the missing ingredient in any seafood dish, but for everyone in the ad-world, it is the instantly-recognised genius of what once was, and could still be, the best advertising campaign catch-phrase ever created for a car. This time capsule to the “mad men” era of advertising was the curveball that the ad world needed, it was the “different” and honest execution that advertising should be. Some would call the ad below a “game-changer” – the revolution that advertising needed, not just in the automotive industry, but also in relation to any consumer goods or services that disruptively made their way across our senses, either by print, TV or radio media.

An Ode to the Lemon  So, how has automotive advertising changed since the introduction of digital media and instant accessibility? Well, a number of brands have introduced interactive videos, like the BMW M2 360° challenge – thanks Gigi.

Others have partnered with massive gaming platforms, essentially launching a car digitally to the “PlayStation” generation before any journalist could even get close enough to distinguish the difference between the new model and its predecessor – Porsche 991 GT2 RS launch.     The use of technology and various digital platforms with an overall creative idea undeniably raises awareness for new product launches, which evidently increase interest and test- drive numbers at local dealerships. Even though the campaign below was a direct mailer campaign, the use of technology to instantly create a personalized piece of content is brilliant.     Now, the right-hand side of my cynical petrol-head brain points out that most campaigns are current recreations of global creative ideas revised for local markets. This is smart as it keeps production costs low, but often they miss the mark as the intended target market does not connect with the messaging.

So, what does this mean for local online advertising within the automotive industry?

Well, I don’t believe that anyone looking for a new car is swayed by a fancy video or rich media banners, but is rather influenced by the expansive number of reviews, online content and general information that is available through a few quick taps of their phone, or even with the activating phrases “ok Google” or “hey Siri”. ZMOT, the Zero Moment of Truth, released by Google back in 2012, is the road that automotive advertising is currently speeding towards. With platforms like Drive Tribe, YouTube and blogs, almost every international motoring journalist is independently releasing written and video content, reviews and updates daily. What does this mean? Well simply put, for every advertising campaign launched by a brand about a new product, there are already 15 written reviews, 25 videos and hundreds of Instagram or social media posts, reviews and write-ups about the new car, and that is only on the day of the campaign launch! By sunrise, those numbers would almost immediately double. Now don’t get me wrong, out of the hundreds of posts, there are only a handful of quality reviews that eventually make their way to the top organic search results of any Google or YouTube search. Am I implying that manufacturers and advertising agencies should hang up their magic mice and Wacom tablets and call it a day? No, that would be mad…man! What I am implying is simply that, as marketers, we need to be more strategic, and focus on the overall experience that the brand offers. This extends to touchpoints outside of the realms of advertising and social media pages, all the way from ultra high-definition online 3D videos and custom landing pages, to the waiting room of each individual dealership that relates to the brand. There is evidence of global brands extending each touchpoint with the number of BMW concept stores that has been launched in multiple cities around the world. These stores have extended the professional, high-end look and feel of the brand through to individual stores, thus controlling the environment and the user journey, transferring the online experience and their advertising presence and overall brand persona from the screen to the showroom floor. How does this affect a brand within the consumer’s purchasing journey? Ultimately, it benefits the brand, as consumers are not turned away toward competitors just because they had a bad experience within a specific dealership. That is the current state when buying a new car in the South African market. We have reached a point where, no matter how well-crafted your messaging, images and overall campaign are, they will always fall short in the consumer’s mind when stacked up against 100 online reviews. With that said, research, technology and development are improving daily, and we have almost reached a point where it is truly a challenge to build a terrible new car. So, how do we differentiate between brands if products of similar prices are about to reach similar levels of engineering, and consumers are listening to trusted reviews over crafted advertising? Personally, I think brands should look at adding a slice of lemon, all the way from their banner ads, to their showroom floors!

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