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A car with three celebratory passengers in it drives off into the desert during a road trip.

Consumers are now valuing access over ownership, and are not prioritizing status symbols, such as cars, like they used to. Source: Google Images

A recent article published by the Drum calls attention to how shifts in consumer trends impact how car brands can most effectively market their vehicles to consumers. Such trends include denser urban areas, an increased focus on sustainability, and “ubiquitous connectivity.” The result? Consumers are now valuing access over ownership, and are not prioritizing status symbols, such as cars, like they used to.

People are interested in the experiences that cars can offer them. This concept speaks to Uber’s popularity. Uber allow its riders to conveniently hop in and out of its cars without much of a wait time, never even having to take out their wallets. Along with traditional taxicabs, it allows people who live in cities to go years without owning a car.

The automobile industry is also threatened by car-sharing programs such as Zipcar. A UC Berkeley study revealed that vehicle ownership among car-sharing users has halved. Car-sharing is a practical alternative to owning a car considering a recent Morgan Stanley study, which suggests that a car is driven roughly only four per cent of the time, and that it only makes financial sense to own one if you’re driving over 10,000 miles a year.

What does this mean to marketers? Instead of marketing a car’s features, such as its superfluously large engine, advertisers may find it wise to market the shared experiences that people will have if they purchase a certain car. They may show scenes of a road trip among friends or family, for instance. It is these experiences that people are willing to pay for. Brands must help people tell stories; this is the core of experiential marketing.

According to Creative Guerrilla Marketing, experiential marketing aims to help consumers experience a brand by immersing the consumer in it and by engaging as many human senses as possible. The ultimate goal is to form a memorable and emotional brand-consumer connection.

Brands must differentiate themselves by their social and experience-driven products, and the value they can add to shared experiences. One good example is Chevrolet’s built-in OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing riders to stay connected at all times.

According the Drum, “Just like the mobile phone or the social profile, the car must become an integral part of how people enjoy experiences, and then share them with their friends. Only then will the automotive industry move from being an outdated status symbol to a core part of a status update.”

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Brainstorm a couple of other industries in which experiential marketing may be particularly effective. Why might this be?
  • Can you think of a particular car brand that is already doing an exceptionally good job of experiential marketing already? How so?
  • Form groups of 3-5 people and select a car brand. Generate a theme and slogan for a new ad campaign.