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Home » Automotive Marketing Today Is All About Finding Opportunity in the Known Unknowns – Adweek

Automotive Marketing Today Is All About Finding Opportunity in the Known Unknowns – Adweek

By Kim Stonehouse, Head of Automotive
The last two years brought a flurry of unknowns to the auto industry. Whether retooling plants, adapting supply chains or launching vehicles virtually, this industry continued to do what it does best: Adapt, innovate and thrive.
We’d all love nothing more than for things to settle. But the truth is the unknowns will persist. If 2020 and 2021 threw new unknowns at us, 2022 is turning out to be the year of known unknowns. There are three unknowns, each with opportunities to harness for marketers in the auto industry and beyond.
The first known unknown is around the semiconductor shortage. While the shortage timeline is difficult to forecast, one aspect of this challenge is known: persistent demand.
Shoppers still want to purchase on their original timelines and are now expanding their consideration sets. In fact, 25% would be extremely or very likely to consider switching brands. This provides an opportunity for marketers to draw new people into their brands.
In fact, brand efforts can also drive short term sales for the vehicles automakers do have. In Meta’s analysis of 34 advertisers across 10 industries, the results were consistent: 94% of campaigns that run brand advertising see an increase in brand awareness and conversions.
Why? On mobile, consumer attention doesn’t differentiate between brand and direct response. Everything is a brand experience, and everything is about performance because your finger is right there to act. 
And there’s a new playground of tools in this space—from augmented reality to Facebook and Instagram Reels to creator content—allowing today’s leading automakers to show off their creativity while building brand and attracting new customers. When Volvo wanted to increase awareness of its first pure electric SUV model, the XC40 Recharge, the automaker leveraged augmented reality ads and saw a 6.7% lift in awareness, in addition to significant incremental conversions on its site, proving the power of innovative brand campaigns on direct response.
Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the shift to digital retail—from grocery delivery to holiday shopping to how we purchase vehicles. In a 2020 Meta-commissioned study of 1,154 auto buyers ages 18-plus, 70% of new car intenders surveyed prefer to do most of the research and exploration before even visiting a dealership. But with stores open again, is this trend here to stay? Yes, because consumer expectation for convenience is here to stay.
When digital tools are deployed, customer satisfaction goes up. According to Cox Automotive, in 2021, nearly three-quarters of franchise auto dealers surveyed said that they had seen an uptick in usage of digital retailing tools since Covid-19. And with that, the percentage of shoppers who were “highly satisfied” with the overall shopping experience rose dramatically—a full 12 percentage points—during that same time after little movement over the previous four years of reporting.
Messaging, or conversational commerce, is another source of convenience for today’s automotive shoppers. Consumers have become so used to the instant exchange of texting that messaging has become their preferred method of interacting with friends and businesses alike. Based on a Meta-commissioned study in 2020 of 2,500 people ages 18-24, nearly 70% of consumers surveyed said that being able to interact with businesses through messaging apps helps to build a relationship with them. 
Today’s leading automakers see this as an opportunity to focus on launching conversations, and not just campaigns. Renault saw a 2.6 times increase in total direct communication with its customers after implementing WhatsApp as a customer service channel in a bid to boost engagement. 
The advertising ecosystem is undergoing massive change. Between regulatory and platform changes, advertisers are losing key consumer insights that have guided their investments, especially for direct response. But there is opportunity in this unknown. 
Measurement is evolving to be privacy-first. Advertisers are now measuring causality between ad exposure and business outcomes through a secure server to server integration which controls how data is shared, while respecting customers’ privacy choices.
Another key tool is media mix modeling (MMM). Automotive marketers already rely on MMM, but today, MMM is experiencing a renaissance toward a cookieless world. Leading automakers recognize that the future is modeled, with high fidelity data leading the way. 
Just as the automotive industry has adapted resiliently so many times before, today’s known unknowns present new opportunities ready for your marketing expertise. New customers, new levels of convenience and the next era of measurement are all on our doorstep. For more inspiration, visit
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