Automotive digital marketing: From TV ads to Instagram

Unless you’re loyal to a specific car brand, most of us seem to turn to the Internet to look for particular information and browse through various car brands and dealers.

As suggested by Econsultancy, car buyers spend 75% of their research time online. Ergo, automotive marketing has been going through a significant transition, as the millennials and their successors are leaving behind the traditional media channels (i.e., TV ads) to YouTube, Instagram and so on.

Cars and social media

About 38 % of consumers expressed they will check social media before determining which car to buy. 23% of consumers use social media to communicate their experience when making a purchase (via).

The auto industry is relatively adept at effectively using social media. When compared with other product categories, they have ‘embraced social media at a higher rate’ (particularly on Instagram where the average community increase was 152%).

Cars are considered as reflections of people themselves and their lifestyles. And how do people express themselves these days? They often take it on social media.  Forbes says that ‘there’s nothing alarming about scrolling through your Facebook feed to see pictures of friends, family members and then car advertisements’.  That surely has helped car brands to lure potential customers with tactfully marketed product contents.

Lifestyle content? No thanks. We want to see METALS, TECHNOLOGIES and ENGINES.

In the latest digital intelligence report for the automobile by L2, Nissan and Ford ranked at the top in the US and UK market respectively. So what do they share in common?


automobile digital marketing - Ford
Not so long ago, we talked about how some particular brands should communicate on Instagram: Less lifestyle and more product shots.


In fact, almost every car brand tends to agree that contents featuring physical cars yield higher engagement on social media. “It’s the cars themselves that drive the most social buzz and excitement” said Rob Milne, the North American Director of Marketing Operations for Mazda.

Automobile digital marketing BMW

The backward trends on email and mobile

Surely the visual impact of cars on Instagram has a strong appealing, giving the incentives for consumers to engage with the brands.

But many car brands tend to turn a blind eye and lag behind when it comes to email marketing and mobile optimisation. It is quite a meta mistake for them to deduce that investing in email and mobile won’t create as much conversion as in social media.

According to the same report by L2, email marketing accounts for 39% of U.S. dealership leads due to its effectiveness and low cost. Most auto brands use newsletter sign-up to collect important customer data to create more personalised email strategies. ‘Two-thirds of brands ask for a model of interest and a ZIP code during sign-up, while one-third ask for an estimate of when the users is planning on buying a new car’.

But the UK and other European countries are failing to leverage on email marketing. To start with, some large car brands’ websites are lacking in prominent CTA for newsletter subscription. For instance, BMW’s official UK website’s newsletter subscription page is simply not inviting nor encouraging to sign up.

Nissan US, on the other hand, sends almost 4 emails per week, which is 6.5 times more than the average.  

Mobile optimisation

Another often underutilised marketing opportunities include mobile optimisation. Again from L2, about two-thirds of car purchasers consider mobile research as an influential factor in their purchase decision. While very few players are lacking in mobile optimisation, there’s a regional discrepancy in delivering the seamless mobile performance. Examples include Ford’s desktop 360-degree exhibits that have not yet been duplicated on its mobile site.     

Others features such as geolocation and local dealership inventory are also absent from most of the British and German mobile sites.

Bonus – Aston Martin
When it comes to cars and lifestyle, Aston Martin deserves a special place in the Automotive Walhalla.  Not only the iconic brand masters content marketing like no one else (as anyone who has ever seen a James Bond flick certainly knows) – read more here:

They also created an aspirational app which ‘offers you the chance to configure all the models in the current Aston Martin range. With a full selection of exterior and interior colours, materials and finishes you can now create an Aston Martin to your personal specification. From the Ultimate Grand Tourer Vanquish, to the extreme V12 Vantage’ (find out more here). 


To wrap up…

Despite the drastically declining brands’ organic reach on Facebook, most global car brands are turning to Instagram in search of higher user engagement rate. Many reports have also shown that purely product-centered approach is working effectively on social media, while brands are reminded the importance of two-way conversations.
But at the same time, many auto brands in the UK are neglecting the vital roles of email marketing and mobile optimisation in helping to convert online research into offline test drives, which could potentially lead to sales.

What do you think?

Appnova is a digital agency specialising in web design, UX, eCommerce, mobile app development, branding, content marketing and social media.

Keep following us on Twitter @appnova and “like” us on Facebook for useful news and tasteful digressions about geeky stuff.



Leave a Comment