A New Era in Automotive Advertising: How Brands Can Achieve Long-Term Success

photo of front of cars in a row

By Simon Hetherington Rea, Customer Success Director at Mediaocean

Since they first became a mainstream consumer proposition, automobiles have been a significant centre of gravity for marketing. With an unusual combination of high sticker price, high market penetration and high variety of options, capital and necessity have long aligned in the automotive market in a way that enables influential, high spend marketing campaigns.

Today, however, global heating and the move to EVs have fundamentally shifted both the reality of this market and how manufacturers can effectively address it. As the industry reinvents itself for a new age, it is a timely reminder that how brands communicate with their customers and create marketing campaigns that genuinely connect is vital to long-term success.

With these winds of change impacting the industry, there are some key factors automotive brands need to consider when they approach their marketing strategy.

1. Sustainability: Prepare for the Huge Brand Switch Moment

Sustainability is today’s major battleground. There is growing social and regulatory pressure globally to end internal combustion engine (ICE) sales, emission penalties and ultimately embrace an all-electric future.

This pressure can be seen in the significant shift in consumer attitudes who are embracing the concept of switching to EVs – despite brewing financial storms, which can often make fossil fuel options more appealing.

This industry-wide brand switch moment, driven by social conscience, will require that marketers rethink how they can connect with audience values and the routes they take to establish that connection. Old loyalties to car marques will hold less sway and new market-differentiating innovation will be needed. Messaging pivots and an acknowledgement by brands of their awareness of social responsibility is vital.

2. The Future: Its Experiential Differentiation

It is unknown how long sustainability will be a key point of differentiation as the industry collectively decarbonises. Whichever positioning strategy brands employ to smooth their evolution to low-carbon mobility, there is one advertising approach all heritage automotive brands should be aware of.

Many EV start-ups are starting to obtain a toehold in the industry by positioning the sustainable option as a high-performance, luxurious and aspirational proposition. They are positioning their product as ‘smartphones on wheels’ with rich entertainment and functional potential.

This captures the experiential imagination of the consumer and will have long-term appeal and influence buying decisions.

3. Direct-to-Consumer Retail: The New Major Force

Another new route towards strategic market differentiation brands should pay great attention to is an engagement with non-traditional channels of purchase.

There is a growing desire amongst automotive marketers to supplement fading brand affinity with new “sticky” personalisation measures. Increasingly, to capture consumer attention, marketers are enlisting direct-to-consumer retail channels such as using LinkedIn buys with niche targeting. There are also signs of significant interest in YouTube and TikTok as venues for consumer contact.

This confluence of digitally integrated processes has the potential to provide an end-to-end view of the buying journey and with it, auto marketers now have an opportunity to measure success with direct metrics and feed those insights back into the creative process as well.

4. Embrace the New Frontier

We are in the middle of fundamental change in the automotive industry. Multiple factors are impacting it; global heating, the rise of EVs, financial storms, challenging supply chains. Changes which run this deep will inevitably have consequences for consumers’ relationships with all automotive brands – however the work of managing this shift represents a real opportunity for players in the industry.

Brand positioning work needs to be in full swing now, to identify new spaces in the market and to garner customer loyalty. The automotive advertising world is being impacted and challenged but it also can embrace new innovative routes to create market differentiation.