Digital marketing has become an essential component of the automotive industry. However, with the complexities of coordinating strategies across different tiers, ensuring that the messaging reaches potential buyers at the right time can be challenging. At KORTX, we understand these challenges and work with multiple global auto brands to provide tailored digital media strategies that drive measurable success.
This blog will discuss the importance of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for automotive brands, how audience discovery can help transform your campaign by reaching the right audiences, and how to keep messaging consistent from manufacturer to dealer offers.
The automotive buying journey can be divided into four stages: trigger or awareness, consideration and research, and buying. In each stage, potential car buyers have different needs and priorities. As a digital marketer, it’s important to understand each step and how to effectively reach potential buyers.
Potential car buyers in this stage are becoming aware of their need (or want) for a new vehicle.
Triggers can come from various sources, including:
In this stage, potential car buyers are starting to become aware of various brands and models to determine which would best suit their needs. If a buyer is not actively looking for a new car, marketing messages in this stage can create a trigger, pushing them further down the funnel into wanting to buy a new vehicle.
During this phase, buyers are starting to think about what they will want out of a new vehicle. This is where they make more general decisions about their car basics such as electric/hybrid vehicles vs. traditional cars, size of the vehicle (SUVs vs. cars), their overall budget, and important features (four-wheel drive, bluetooth, etc.).
Common marketing channels used in this stage include:
At this stage, potential car buyers have narrowed their options to specific brands and models. They are researching in-depth to compare features and prices and read more reviews.
Common marketing channels used in this stage include:
At this stage, potential car buyers have decided on a specific brand and model and are ready to purchase. During this stage, buyers are looking for where to buy their car and where to get the best deal.
It is crucial to note that during this stage, buyers are also often researching financing options.
Standard options used in this stage include:
The process of buying a car is harrowing for many purchasers. An automobile is one of the biggest purchases a person can make. Digital marketers who consider the following pain points when selling to their customers will be at an advantage.
Automotive digital marketing strategy is divided into three tiers based on where a customer is in their journey. This tiered approach caters to every stage of the customer’s buying journey. From building brand awareness to the crucial moment of purchase intent, each tier has its objectives, targeting techniques, and recommended channels.
Breaking the buying journey into tiers (and marketing stakeholders) offers a strategic approach to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message, from the earliest stage of brand awareness to the final moments of purchase intent.
The primary objective for Tier 1 automotive marketing is to raise awareness by reaching new audiences. This can be achieved by utilizing digital tactics that offer more flexibility, targeting, and measurement options. Automotive manufacturers can use messaging to showcase unique features of their vehicles, such as electric or hybrid models. Marketers can reach consumers across various devices and critical moments by leveraging media such as Connected TV, online video, and programmatic audio. Targeting specific demographics based on factors like income or the presence of children can also be effective, as well as implementing broad in-market targeting at the OEM/Make level to identify potential shoppers early in the buying process.
Primary Objectives & Goals: Brand & Product Awareness
Targeting: Segments should be applied based on variables such as income, children, demographic data, or other factors pointing towards users considering a car purchase.
Recommended KPIs: Impressions, Reach, Brand Sentiment, Website Traffic
Funnel: Trigger / Awareness / Consideration
Recommended Channels: Connected TV, Online Video, Programmatic Audio, Social Media, SEO
Tier 2 focuses on a localized advertising strategy concentrated on mid-level consideration, aimed at identifying potential qualified auto buyers and moving them closer to purchase. The objective is to target consumers who have narrowed their consideration set and are receptive to offer-based creative with specific calls to action. Display ads and Video tactics, such as Online Video, Cross-Platform, and Native Display, can effectively showcase vehicle attributes and drive efficient scale, especially with DMA-targeted campaigns aligned with regional dealer groups. Granular targeting based on buying signals exhibited beyond the awareness phase, incorporating First-Party data from site visitors or CRM lists, is crucial to Tier 2’s success.
Primary Objectives & Goals: Regional & Dealer Awareness
Targeting: Targeting should be based on buying signals beyond the awareness phase. In-market segments by body style allow OEMs to showcase their full line of vehicles and conquest competitors. First-Party data from site visitors or CRM lists can be used to incorporate purchase history or site conversions.
Recommended KPIs: Conversions, CTR, Video Completion Rate
Funnel: Mid-Funnel / Consideration
Recommended Channels: Connected TV, Online Video, Display, Social Media, SEO
🚙 Case Study: Quick Turnaround Times Drive Success
Challenge: A global automotive brand needed to promote time-sensitive offers to qualified auto shoppers and generate faster response times to drive vehicle sales.
Strategy: Partnering with KORTX, the brand implemented a cross-device digital strategy with custom rich media units. These units delivered captivating experiences and expedited turnaround times for regional offers.
Results: The campaign achieved impressive metrics, including a 0.12% click-through rate, 15-second average exposure time, and a +0.15% engagement rate, reflecting successful lower-funnel performance.
Tier 3 is a hyper-localized strategy to get consumers on the dealer lot during the lower-funnel purchase phase. Cross-Platform Display is efficient and scalable for geo-targeting, focusing on in-market shoppers at the nameplate level, with custom keyword lists and First-Party segments. For example, KORTX’s local marketing campaign model ensures lower-funnel media spend aligns with OEM goals, highlighting local offers and incentives.
Primary Objectives & Goals: Live Deals
Targeting: Targeting should focus on in-market shoppers at the specific name plate level to influence the final purchase, highlighting local offers and incentives. Custom keyword lists reflecting purchase intent for specific models and competitors can also be utilized. First-Party segments from site visitors with lower-funnel conversions can also be activated when the scale is available.
Recommended KPIs: Time to Market/Live Deals, Clicks, Conversions
Funnel: Bottom / Purchase Intent
Recommended Channels: Cross-Platform Display, Interactive Online Video, Social Media, Local SEO
Multicultural Marketing & Automotive
Auto buying habits are influenced by various factors, including location and cultural demographics. Different cultures often prioritize other aspects of a vehicle, such as safety, fuel efficiency, or luxury features. To effectively market to diverse audiences, automotive marketers need to conduct audience discovery and tailor their campaigns to meet the needs and preferences of their target audience. Targeted advertising channels, such as diverse media outlets, can help brands increase their visibility and connect with multicultural audiences.
Understanding the nuances of auto buying habits among different ethnic and cultural groups is crucial for automotive marketers in the United States. By taking a data-driven and culturally sensitive approach, brands can better connect with their target audiences and drive sales. Tailoring campaigns to specific regions and cultural preferences can help brands reach diverse consumer groups and stand out in a competitive market. Ultimately, automotive brands can build stronger customer relationships and drive long-term success by embracing diverse marketing strategies and acknowledging cultural nuances.
Targeting multicultural audiences can be done across the three tiers of automotive advertising. The targeting and tactics vary depending on the goal.
Tier 1: In this stage, audience targeting is much broader and reaches more people. Still, audience discovery data can help determine the best placements and tactics.
Tier 2: Brands can tailor specific messaging to specific groups of people based on audience discovery data. This includes running messaging across several channels.
Tier 3: As Tier 3 is focused on hyperlocal targeting, messaging should remain specific to deals and the relevant dealership and be more generalized in terms of the audience. Marketing teams must avoid too tight of a targeting radius.
Consistent messaging across all tiers of automotive marketing is crucial for maintaining brand awareness and creating a unified brand identity. By ensuring that messaging is consistent across the buyer’s journey, from the manufacturer to the dealer, customers are more likely to recognize and trust the brand. Consistent messaging can also help ensure that deals and pricing also remain consistent, reducing customer confusion and frustration. However, achieving consistency can be challenging, given the many stakeholders involved in the automotive industry, from manufacturers creating and branding cars to dealers selling them on the lot. Collaboration and communication between stakeholders are essential for achieving consistency and creating a cohesive brand experience for customers.
Automotive marketing can be expensive, and creating new interactive video ads for every tier can be challenging, especially for marketing teams in Tier 2 and Tier 3 who do not have the same budget as big automotive manufacturers.
33% of marketers do not use interactive video due to budget constraints. However, there is a solution: utilizing existing assets can be an effective and cost-efficient way to tell your brand’s story across all tiers of the buying journey.
By repurposing commercials from Tier 1 for interactive videos and display ads for Tier 2 and 3, marketing teams maintain consistent messaging while promoting key calls to action, such as ordering a vehicle, vehicle features, or finding a nearby dealer location.
With this approach, you don’t have to recreate the wheel and can showcase your existing assets in a new context, paired with specific products, locations, or offers.
This simple example showcases combining existing assets to create new interactive video assets.
Note: This example mock-up is created via publicly available assets from Chevy and not an example of a live campaign.
Chevy Interactive Video
The example below showcases how existing assets can be combined into a single, interactive video ad. The ad below combines the following:
Digital marketing is essential for the automotive industry, but it can be challenging to coordinate strategies across different tiers. KORTX works with global auto brands to create tailored digital media strategies that drive measurable results. From the trigger to the buying stage, potential car buyers have different needs and priorities, and it’s crucial to understand each step to reach them effectively.
About the Author
Andy Kemp is a Managing Partner at KORTX. He has been with the organization for six years servicing key clients in the automotive vertical and more.
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