Spending more marketing dollars per vehicle than ever and facing an ever-more quickly metamorphosing media scenario, automakers need to be more cognizant than ever about what channels are working, and when to pull the plug on channels that aren't.
In a new white paper, marketing firm Acxiom says that in order to keep abreast of launch campaigns, automakers must build flexible media optimization platforms into them.
They also have to keep up with media channel proliferation as well as consumer buying habits that seem to be morphing constantly. Acxiom says that since 2001, such factors have led to a 13-fold increase in the complexity of product launches, and that per-vehicle ad spend has jumped from $1,051 in 2007 to $1,073 last year.
The firm also says automakers are relying on a large percentage of sales to come from heavily redesigned or completely new vehicles. For example, 12% of GM's U.S. vehicle sales this year will come from such vehicles, and this percentage will grow to 30% in 2012.
The firm uses luxury and premium sports cars and compact cars as examples of how media mix should be determined by vehicle segment. Luxury sedans and sports cars are bought by middle to upper-middle-income consumers, who are between the ages of 45 and 65, are mostly married and own their own homes, per Acxiom. By contrast, compact car owners are low- to middle-income consumers under age 50, who rent as frequently as own their homes and are equal parts single and married.
The company goes on to say that people in the luxury segment use traditional media like newspapers and magazines for triggers that send them online to research vehicles. But compact car seekers are largely younger consumers whose principal media source is the Web. These are "those for whom the Internet is the trigger for everything from research to locating dealerships and reading reviews before they shop," says Acxiom's study. Because of that, it is easier to adjust media mix based on which channel is working most efficiently to reach the right consumers.
Acxiom showed a graph demonstrating how campaigns should be treated like medical patients receiving a cocktail of experimental drugs. When some vector of a media mix -- say, TV --is not delivering the right numbers, at a certain point in time, one should eliminate it and fund media that continues to lift sales.
The firm says such "media mix optimization" should be built into vehicle campaigns so that at any given point in time, media spend can be plotted against sales volume on a "response curve," so automakers can stop throwing money at media that doesn't have any effect after a certain point. "If, for example, this graph were indicative of historical data for the [luxury/sports car segment] -- and knowing what we do about the...propensities of that target, we might recommend they redirect some of their direct mail and TV to search, email and display, which are on upward trajectories," it says.