A great content marketing strategy requires keeping your eyes on the road, maintaining the right speed, and finding ways around the inevitable roadblocks that will obstruct your path.
When it comes to the state of content marketing in the auto industry, however, some major car brands are running on fumes.
There’s a huge opportunity for carmakers to capture the hearts and minds of car buyers, driving enthusiasts, and those loyal to their brand. Although many car manufacturers have at least test-driven content marketing, only a few are keeping pace with other industries.
For instance, most car brands prefer to focus on one-off campaigns rather than build up robust content libraries or hubs. And in cases where non-product, storytelling content does exist, the brands don’t always do a good job getting it to its destination through the proper distribution channels.
Consumers, however, have shown an appetite for companies to rev up the car content, especially when they’re researching vehicles for purchase. Consider this stat from Think with Google:
92% of car buyers research online before they buy.
In a 2018, Drive to Decide Survey by Google/Kantar TNS, U.S.:
- The study followed one consumer’s complete car buying journey, from awareness to purchase, and discovered more than 900 digital interactions; 71% of those occurred on a mobile device.
- The buyer considered 6 car brands and had at least 20 interactions with those brands online. Once narrowed down to two automakers, the interactions went past 100 each.
- Another Google study found that more than half (56%) of auto shoppers said they could be convinced to buy a car if they could view a 360-degree video without having to test drive the vehicle.
What this all means is that in order to power those content engines, car brands need to know their passengers well enough so they can offer them the type of ride that they want, and ultimately convince them to continue on longer journeys together.
Here’s a look at a few car content marketing strategies that have pulled ahead of the competition, along with some tips for getting back into the race.
Making the Car the Content Star
Investing in visual storytelling, both long- and short-form film and photography, is a strategy that has proven successful for a few auto brands. Unlike traditional content marketing, where products are not the focus, carmakers are finding success in giving their models a starring role. It’s a rare industry where product-driven content works.
Take Land Rover Stories, a series of travelogues in which photographers document their adventures driving Land Rover vehicles in beautiful, rugged locations like the treacherous Tianmen Mountain Road in the Hunan Province of China, the Colorado mountains, and Alaska.
Land Rover also creates original video content and partners with influencers to chronicle their Land Rover-driven travels, such as John Mayer’s fly fishing, rock skipping, and off-roading adventures.
And, its social game is strong, which makes sense, given the focus on visual content. Land Rover’s YouTube account has more than 600,000 subscribers. On Instagram, where it promotes its stories, it has 8.5 million fans, with thousands of engagements on every post.
Other car brands with video-driven content include Mercedes-Benz, which partnered with successful musician The Weeknd, known for his single “Blinding Lights” on its electric SUV ad campaign called “Enjoy Electric”.
BMW is another carmaker known for making video branded content. BMW Films remastered its popular 2001 film series The Hire with Clive Owen starring as “the Driver” in 2016.
Accelerate your strategy: Making a commitment to both visual and video content is something that brands across industries are doing as people continue to consume more content via their mobile devices and increasingly expect high-quality images. While you don’t necessarily have to make a full-fledged movie, start with a couple of short films or photo-driven stories starring your vehicles and distribute them through your social channels.
Putting Passengers in the Content Driver’s Seat
If you’re looking for a reason as to why you would want to feature your customers’ content on your channels, consider this: User-generated content (UGC) containing a brand drove 6.9 times higher engagement compared to a brand-generated post. And let’s face it – people love to share photos of their cars and their road trips.
Porsche leveraged this idea by using the hashtag #PorscheMoment to encourage its fans to share posts about their sleek rides. On Instagram, more than 600,000 people have used the hashtag, and Porsche is happy to share its fans’ posts, as well.
Mazda is another company that uses a similar tactic by encouraging users to post photos using the hashtag #MiataMonday, which the brand uses to spotlight photos from its Miata owners.
Accelerate your strategy: UGC and social media go hand in hand, so think about the types of content that your users love to share, and simply ask them to do it. Or, to really turn the corner and drive ongoing engagement, incentivize them to participate and share their posts about your brand with a drawing, contest, or some other giveaway.
Driving Dynamic Digital Publications
Just take a look at all of the car and driving magazines out there, and you might wonder why more of it doesn’t come from the auto brands themselves. Mazda Stories is one of the few exceptions.
The interactive site has been around for a few years but still stands out as a best-in-class example of automotive content.
Although much of the content is promotional in nature, Mazda loyalists get to enjoy a nice mix of text, visual, and video content about their favorite car brand.
Each piece includes multimedia elements, stunning imagery, and narrative storytelling.
What you won’t find is a hard sell, but if you scroll to the bottom of any page, there are calls to action such as to request a quote or find a local dealer.
Accelerate your strategy: Go beyond just the specs of your makes and models and get into the story behind your brand. Who are the people working behind the scenes? What is your brand doing for the communities it serves? What adventures are your drivers embarking on? These types of questions can help fuel a content strategy that’s authentic.
Parking Your Content In Style
As far as content hubs go, they are far and few between in the auto world. However, if you’re looking for a brand to emulate, look no further than Volkswagen. Volkswagen hosts its multimedia stories about the company, brand and vehicles at newsroom.vw.com.
There, you’ll find everything from tips and testimonials to upcoming in-personVolkswagen events and stories from the community.
There’s even a form for users to submit “My VW Story.”
Accelerate your strategy: So many brands are creating content, but aren’t housing it anywhere for posterity or mapping it back to one destination. Creating a content hub that is clean and vibrant, and also easy to navigate, is a great way to showcase the most recent as well as the timeless stories that best represent your brand.
Venturing Into New Territory
In the summer of 2017, Acura took its content marketing strategy on a joyride by having four influencers drive around a racetrack in El Toro, California while wearing augmented reality-equipped helmets. The technology simulated adventurous driving conditions through volcanic eruptions, snowstorms, and more. About 500,000 people watched the livestream on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with more than 900,000 views on Facebook alone.
Accelerate your strategy: Try something different once in a while, and it can pay off. Whether it’s a new digital platform or a partnership with some key influencers who happen to love your brand, doing something unexpected can help put the brakes on boring.
Collectively, all of the above car brand content marketing initiatives are impressive. But it’s the carmakers that can combine tactics and create a comprehensive and consistent brand strategy across platforms that will ultimately win the race.