In June of this year, we gathered our favourite marketing minds to talk (and argue) about one of our favourite subjects: the Advocacy Economy.

You’ve probably heard us talk about the Advocacy Economy once or twice before. Basically, it’s people taking back the power – and sharing that power amongst themselves in the form of opinions online.

In the automotive sector, advocacy is driven by many factors – the biggest of which is family. What your father drove will influence what you drive – and if you have kids to fill up the back seats, your preference might change again. This is great in theory for car brands, who use emotive advertising to sell their newest ranges. But that’s nothing without the strong backing of the car owners themselves.

This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in.

Authenticity and advocacy in the automotive sector

At our event in June this year, we heard from a few people who have up-close experience building brands in the Advocacy Economy. One of them did it for Honda and Nissan.

We’ve taken some of the best and most insightful pieces from the event and cut them up into snackable little chunks for you. If you’d like to watch the whole video, it’s here.

Here’s who you’ll see in the videos:

  • Evan Kypreos, editor-in-chief of Trusted Reviews
  • Martin Moll, Campaign Magazine’s Power 100 Marketers 2016 and ex-marketing director of Nissan Europe and Honda
  • Matt Donegan, CEO of Social Circle
  • Michael Sherwood, head of customer experience at Atom Bank

And the discussion was moderated by journalist, author and broadcaster Morag Cuddeford-Jones.

We’ll be focusing mainly on Martin’s comments in this article – with all that experience, why not?

Topic 1: Budgets, brains and branding

Martin Moll outlines three main challenges that automotive marketers face today:

  • Budgets are so big there’s too much room for failure;
  • Everyone is an expert in marketing;
  • And they don’t own the vertical (there’s a blurry line between dealer and manufacturer).

Hear him explain:

All of this means that customers get a variable experience depending on when they shop and who they shop with. OEMs and dealers have to find some common ground, and both need a brand story they can stand behind.

Balancing short term targets and long term ambition

Even though we’re dealing with huge budgets, automotive boardrooms are still subject to the whims that affect any other. Miss a few targets and the budgets adjust, taking the objectives with them.

Martin explains what happened to his Nissan Europe marketing department when small cars stopped selling:

Strategy is key for these brands, especially as electric cars and transport-as-a-service transform most of what your parents might have called ‘car makers’ into new-fangled ‘mobility companies’. We’ll be watching with anticipation, hoping that a few lean quarters doesn’t get in the way of progress.

Topic 3: Do people give a damn after they’ve purchased?

Retargeting with relevant messaging is a struggle for any brand, but in automotive, you run the risk of really cheesing people off.

According to Martin, car companies and dealers struggle to find the right tone in their post-purchase communications – and sometimes mess it up completely:

Engaging customers post-purchase – it’s on every marketer’s wish list.

Instead of pushing out pre-scheduled messaging, why not let the customers do the talking? There are some clever tools that shape the conversation around the beautiful Venn diagram of ‘the things you do really well’ and ‘the things your customers love to show off’.

Topic 4: Teaming up with dealerships to deliver customer satisfaction

The automotive world is a colourful array of dealers, service facilities and manufacturers who all are working to take up a little corner of the customer’s mind.

The problem tends to be that they’re all working independently, and in some cases, in juxtaposition to each other. This leaves the customer a little confused about where they stand.

The humbling aspect of this for manufacturers, says Martin Moll, is that the customer is more likely to follow their local dealer than the brand that makes their current car:

Four fascinating topics, and an interesting picture of the automotive industry painted by someone who’s spent a lot of time on the inside.

Auto brands are thinking about the best ways they can move forward and innovate without losing touch with their customers. Involving those customers at every step might be the best way to do it.

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How auto brands can harness customer advocacy