"Car marketing is so horribly clichéd," says ex-Skoda Marketing Director Chris Hawken. The marketer behind transforming perceptions of Skoda from ridicule to cool, has some serious words for the automotive industry. He is now group marketing director at Subaru and Isuzu U.K.
"At the moment, we’re in a terrible situation where it’s extremely hard for marketing to lift some car brands. The UK market – always previously renowned for its creativity – is increasingly being controlled and stifled by central marketing departments and by those who don’t understand our mentality," Chris Hawken writes.
His thoughts apply to the U.S. market as well.
Lowest common denominator creative
"This centralized marketing approach puts in place dreadful processes which lose any kind of creative advantage a brand might have. For these reasons, the market ends up with dreadful, clichéd car ads: if you try to satisfy 29 markets, you are going to end up with clichéd car shots and lowest common denominator creative which never talks to a specific community or country."
Auto dealers should take this advice into consideration when developing spots and campaigns. Also consider that AudienceSCAN found 8.8% of Car Care Talk Listeners think radio is the best source for automotive news or car care advice.
"Of course, if you ask consumers about what they want to see in a car ad in research, they will always say they want to see more of the car and the specifications. But they don’t! They want to be excited by a brand. They want to feel emotionally engaged and understand why they should be considering a certain car brand – that’s the role of advertising. Car marketers tend to want to see traditional TV ads full of specification and it’s difficult to make them understand that this approach doesn’t always work."
Think about how to convey what vehicle shoppers want through the airwaves – as well as visually. AudienceSCAN reported during the past 30 days, 20.8% of Car Care Talk Listeners have used the internet via browser, tablet or smartphone to listen to a local radio station online.
"Having worked on some amazingly creative campaigns that have reaped great success from their innovation, this situation saddens me hugely and its distressing as a marketer to know that you are sometimes destroying your brand, not building it. There needs to be more respect and support from central offices for creative execution. There needs to be more analysis on the effectiveness of car advertising looking at a specific market’s creative versus a an ad as the production cost argument doesn't stack up if you spend millions promoting your brand with forgettable, cliched rubbish."
"If this trend continues, there’s a real danger that car brands will fail to establish any differentiation and will quickly become homogenized."
Focus on dealer differentiation in digital ads. AudienceSCAN revealed 18.2% of Car Care Talk fans listened to a local radio station via their website or app in the past 6 months.
"The saddest thing about all this is that, often, the gatekeepers not only don’t understand, but don’t want to understand the market. Their idea of ‘bold’ marketing is often marketing that just ‘shouts’."
"Naturally, economy of scale is a sensible global goal, but if car brands take a centralized approach to marketing they need to realize that they have an enormous responsibility – they need to be prepared to go the extra mile to find an outstanding creative idea that works as a ‘one size fits all’ approach."