A big shift in the attitude to car ownership is rounding the turn. If you can hail a car to take you anywhere at will, why do you need to own one? What subscription services will mean to the future of automotive.
I’d rather go for a run than sit in the car, but driving (safely) through big puddles is my guilty pleasure. There’s nothing quite like it. I crest the hill, Supertramp on the stereo, the road stretches out before me, empty except for a silver mirror of water that invites me to make a big splash just like in the adverts.
“Go on,” it seems to say. “There’s no one coming, no one on the street. You won’t get another chance like this.” I check the rear view mirror, dab my foot on the gas, and SKADOOOSH! Sublime satisfaction and childish glee all rolled into one.
It’s constructing and selling ‘moments’ like these that help the automotive industry sell cars. They’ve got an interesting dilemma. Nearly 90 million cars and commercial vehicles were made in 2014, there’s well over 806 million on the road globally and while demand is strong in developing countries, it’s slowing in developed nations.
Younger generations, especially in cities, just don’t care about cars. The mass market is catching up with luxury.
Safety and regulatory requirements are growing, and so is information on all sides.
Emotion in marketing: Does a successful campaign depend on emotional content?
This is where canny marketing should be making a difference. On a pure product level, the differences between makes and marques is not big. Once you’ve decided to buy, say, a weekend runaround, all cars in that bracket basically do the same thing, with the same technology and extras.
Instead your choice is influenced by the intangible: your loyalty to the brand, what you want other people to think about you, how it makes you feel and the emotion it creates (plus of course whether it can power through big puddles in style). It’s like Bruce Lee said. If it lacks emotional content, there’s no power to it. It’s just a thing.
And I suppose that for things like this to play a part in buying decisions, there’s an edge of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The new owner has to be complicit in the illusion.
Success comes when you understand that most traditional tool: making an emotional connection with your audience. My old boss Ian Graham started out as a car salesman. He told me he never tried to sell the car. Instead he’d get them to sit in it, to tell him about their needs, about what music they’d blast on the tape deck, and then ask them: “Could you see yourself in a car like this?”
It’s about identifying and selling how the product fits their lifestyle. Looking at tech – both software and hardware – there’s a lot to learn from the automotive sector’s experience as well as other heavily trend-influenced industries, such as watches. If the differences between products in a sector are likely to narrow, then understanding, managing and marketing this emotional content – selling how it feels to use something – is nothing short of critical.