Which Automotive Brands are winning the Content Marketing race?

BMW-M5-Bullet2

When it comes to content marketing, one format stands above all others – video. It’s the most powerful medium for switching-on a customer and delivering a memorable experience.

Video is a more immersive experience than text or audio, because it works with more of our five primary senses (sight & sound), which in turn enables new experiences to connect with existing neural pathways, thereby strengthening recall.

We remember experiences more readily than facts, because experiences are more likely to be related to other experiences through one or more sensory triggers – the smell of a classic car reminds us of our childhood, the winding road in Jaguar’s F-TYPE video triggers memories of a favourite drive – whereas facts, such as people’s names, are usually unconnected and for that reason far more difficult to recall.

As a consequence consumers are more likely to ‘remember’ a brand’s video content and the messages conveyed, which leads to a greater share of their mind (both conscious and recalled) that brands can activate in the future.

Sounds sinister doesn’t it? But in fact it’s just good business sense – why spend millions promoting your brand if the consumer instantly forgets it?

So with this in mind, it is disappointing to hear that automotive brands lag behind other sectors in their adoption of social video – riding the wave, rather than leading with innovative new forms of engagement.

That’s according to the latest white paper from Unruly Media, called “Stuck in First Gear?: The State of Automobile Marketing in Social Video”, which follows a 3-month study by their Social Video Lab which opened in June 2012.

Social Video is quite simply online video content that gets people sharing, talking, and taking action. Whereas TV has traditionally been a lean-back format – we find it, consume it, then change the channel – video is designed specifically for online consumption where the social interaction with others is part of the overall user experience.

  • Volkswagen leads the sector

    As can be seen in the diagram on the right, Volkswagen claimed one-quarter of all auto video shares from June 2011 to June 2012, which coincides with a period in which global sales increased by 10.6 percent, exceeding 4 million cars for the first time in the car maker’s history.

    Growth was particularly strong in the United States where VW’s leading social videos were initially targeted, seeing deliveres increase by 37.2 percent compared to 2011.

  • SVL autoswhitepaper leading auto brands Which Automotive Brands are winning the Content Marketing race?

The study found that automotive content on social networks is growing at only one-fifth the rate of the overall advertising market.

In addition four automotive manufacturers account for around three quarters (73.1%) of all video shares in the sector (Volkswagen, Kia, Chevrolet and Nissan), illustrating the huge opportunity open to those brands who currently lag behind.

Rank Social Video Total Shares
1 Kia – Soul Hamster Party Rock Anthem 1,575,380
2 Chevrolet – OK Go – Needing/Getting 1,059,844
3 Volkswagen – The Force 1,031,346
4 Volkswagen – The Bark Side 804,365
5 Nissan – Pôneis Malditos 770,626
6 Honda – Matthew’s Day Off 410,055
7 FIAT – Seduction 294,033
8 Volkswagen – The Dog Strikes Back 261,234
9 BMW – M5 Bullet – High Performance Art 163,649
10 Peugeot – Nonstop to Rudimental ft. John Newman – Feel The Love 113,935
11 Audi – Vampire Party 113,874
12 Volkswagen – Piano stairs 113,592
13 BMW – 1M Walls – MPowered Performance Part 1 100,936
14 Honda – Transactions 67,670
15 Chevrolet – 2012 52,003
16 Chrysler – Halftime in America 51,523
17 Kia – A Dream Car. For Real Life 39,398
18 Peugeot – Motion & Emotion 36,903
19 Mercedes-Benz – Roger Federer Prank 36,571
20 BMW – Born Electric 33,253
Top 20 online videos from automobile manufacturers by number of shares(June 2011 to June 2012) – Unruly Media.

Working with Earned Media

One of the big wins for a brand is getting its content republished and reviewed by bloggers and other media outlets, keeping audiences engaged for longer and adding a level of endorsement from those whom consumers already know (and hopefully trust). We work with several brands here on SkiddMark – those who understand that a blend of positive and negative coverage is necessary in building a platform of trust with their audiences.

Ultimately both paid and earned media are part of the same value system, fuelled by automotive brands to foster awareness, conversation and increase visits to their retail channels.

But this is another area in which many automotive brands are lagging well behind those in other sectors. Many remain stuck in the ad paradigm, reinforcing the divide between church and state – between editorial and sponsored content.

The reality is nearly all editorial content is in some shape or form ‘sponsored’ – without the investment of car makers in automotive publications there wouldn’t be weekly or monthly car magazines.

Car makers spend millions every year, stocking and maintaining press fleets, flying journalists around the world and providing the subject matter which we’ll write about and hopefully help sell their cars.

Advertising agencies then sign-up campaigns based on publisher’s editorial schedules, all of which is coordinated by product teams to compliment the timing of press junkets and the provision of free long-termers.

What this does though is undermine the value of a brand’s social content, since most media outlets regard branded content as unpaid advertising and in competition with the paid (or sponsored) content they produce themselves.

Ultimately both paid and earned media are part of the same value system, fuelled by automotive brands to foster awareness, conversation and increase visits to their retail channels.

Bloggers and media outlets are the most effective referral medium for brands, yet there is currently a disconnect between the deployment of branded content and the channels where audiences choose to consume their content. It’s a challenge brands still need to overcome.

The Unruly white paper goes on to debunk another common myth, that brands should mask their identity, or at least minimise their brand presence, in order to drive up sharing activity.

SVL autoswhitepaper VW BMW Which Automotive Brands are winning the Content Marketing race?

During a study using the latest eye-tracking technology, Unruly found that viewers’ eyes were naturally drawn to the number plate – in BMW’s “Bullet” ad (Fig. 14), rather than the BMW logo.

By comparison, in VW’s “Closer” ad (Fig. 15), the consumers’ eyes are focused on the VW logo. So while BMW accrued more shares, they could have nailed it even more successfully by allowing audiences to dwell a little longer on the identity of the product being promoted.

Not all engagement is the same..

Two professors at The Amsterdam School of Communication Research, Professors Fred Bronner and Peter Neijens, wrote an often cited article in the International Journal of Marketing Research that explains the distinction between different types of persuasive engagement – “Audience experiences of media context and embedded advertising: a comparison of eight media”.

Unruly’s report explores a similar line of thinking to understand the emotions provoked by the top videos that made them so shareable. The most popular were the ones which evoked a strong positive emotional response – those that make consumers laugh out loud, not merely smile; or make them feel exhilarated, not just excited.

According to Professors Bronner and Neijens’ research, the “stimulation experience” makes consumers remember and remember well. On the other hand, the “practical user experience” gets consumers to keep what’s advertised in the top of their mind.

A video that provides a stimulating experience makes the viewer “excited, curious or enthusiastic”, whereas those that provide a practical experience, motivate the viewer to ‘take action’ or do something useful’.

Clearly not all engagement elicits the same type of response, which means that as well as focusing on strong emotions, brands need to shape their content stories to generate the actions which best suit their campaign objectives.

Engagement is a continuous activity..

One of the issues we brought to light in January was the significance of the American Super Bowl in driving advertising effectiveness throughout the remainder of the year.

SVL autoswhitepaper cover Which Automotive Brands are winning the Content Marketing race?

When you study the data, as Unruly’s Social Video Lab clearly has, you discover that nearly one-quarter (24%) of all video shares in the automotive sector (worldwide) occur as a result of the Super Bowl, and yet when we spoke with most UK agencies at the time, none of them were planning on taking advantage of this momentum nor understanding its influence on their campaign plans.

This is an incredibly short-sighted point of view, because during this two-month period the attention from earned media channels is at its highest. Media outlets feed off this branded content, while meme makers create parodies and perpetuate the content stories which automotive brands have started.

The clever brands are those which hook into this attention period and use it to sustain campaigns which may have begun months before.

Kia has been the most successful in this regard, its iconic dancing Soul Hamsters ad series benefited from being aired during MTV’s Video Music Awards in September and became the most shared automotive ad during the period from June 2011 to June 2012. Kia took advantage of the gap in activity (pre and post Super Bowl) to deliver the strongest performance throughout the year.

Unruly’s white paper demonstrates the untapped potential of social video for automotive brands, but CMOs and their agencies need to re-think how they create and deploy their content using an evolved set of rules about creative storytelling, working more proactively with the media channels which hold their audience’s attention.

You can download a copy of Unruly’s white paper on their website.