There are very few industries, or technologies for that matter, that can boast the kind of longevity that the automobile industry can-nearly 125 years, thanks to Henry Ford’s assembly line concept. And for more than half a century, it was renowned for being ahead of the curve in most areas. Previously synonymous with innovation, for using science to drive technology, for testing new ideas to make things better, the sector is now in the process of needing to reinvent their strategy based on current models of consumer consumption and buying behaviors.
The auto brands and their parent companies must rework their traditional model in sales, manufacturing and, now, marketing. The “old school” way of television, print and newspaper — designed to reach a mass market customer with a broad based message — no longer fits the driver’s seat.
As a new, digitally savvy generation of customers becomes drivers, the emergence of new customer touch points has necessitated the rise of the adoption of new channels and all-encompassing strategies. Digital marketing presents an opportunity to reach wider, bigger audiences with a more targeted and personalized tagline.
We must remember that in 2014 the customer journey starts before they reach the auto showroom. Potential buyers know what’s fresh off the line — oftentimes before they’re even in the market. Exposed to the newest model by friends, family, and co-workers, they have a sense of an auto brand from long-term, indirect experience.
That means today’s marketing model must include digital, mobile, video and programmatic to fit this new world of thinking. It must be targeted and dynamic; measurable and traceable to sales but also quickly adjusted if it’s found to be ineffective; and more affordable to reflect the era of 40 new vehicle launches a year. This automotive marketing strategy must be easily integrated, and sustainable, across all three tiers of auto advertising spend.
A key factor in being self-sustainable for the auto industry is its physical location. For the auto industry, especially, location choice will always be uniquely strategic as it allows manufacturers to connect with customers on a cerebral level and tap into the emotional ties bonding them to their home.
Whereas the heat of competition from European and Japanese brands previously ousted America from its own game, the United States is becoming the renewed focal point for the automotive industry. Ford’s selection of a New York-based advertising agency to re-launch its Lincoln brand, General Motor’s Cadillac brand relocation to New York City to establish a global hub for its luxury brand, and Toyota’s recent announcement that it would be streamlining its operations in Plano, Texas, are just a few examples of the auto industry consolidation within the United States.
And with the new geography of auto brands now refocused here, the industry has a true national appeal — and a chance to redefine that uniquely American voice. The emphasis then should be less about birthplace and more on the quality of workmanship with a laser focus on where the sales and business opportunities lie.
Understanding these two seemingly disparate marketing truths is essential to the success of the industry moving forward. Moving into 2015, the auto industry has to work to bridge the gap between these two wavelengths: working to bolster the globalization of its marketing efforts through dynamic and digital practices, while simultaneously leveraging the localization of its energies in the United States.