A recent study by Ofcom found that TikTok is the fastest growing news source for UK adults. Yes, TikTok, home to those dance crazes your kids practice until they’re nauseous.
If that worries you – and as a journalist for many years I think that sounds pretty scary – then you might start to wonder, if traditional media is in decline, how do brands continue to communicate with consumers? ?
If car buyers are increasingly turning away from traditional media, how are automotive OEMs, dealerships and retailers reaching them? It’s not like the opportunities are hard to come by: some studies suggest that consumers spend an average of up to 13 hours a day using their phones, TVs and other forms of digital media.
Even the most conservative estimates of seven hours indicate how much time we spend staring at screens each day.
There’s no doubt that some marketers see Ofcom’s findings as a reason to increase spending on social media. But despite what industry advocates say, precise returns on investment are hard to calculate, and it’s as much a scattershot approach as it is TV advertising. As the old saying goes, “Half my ad spend is wasted; the problem is that I don’t know which half.
Many brands have already found a more effective and efficient solution to these changing media habits: content marketing. It is a more targeted form of marketing that develops relationships with the right consumers, as opposed to how advertising tries to reach the most consumers.
However, the automotive industry so far seems stubbornly resistant to the charms of content marketing, despite the many benefits it could bring.
Admittedly, adopting a content marketing program seems like a major undertaking, since it’s about a brand becoming a publisher. That doesn’t mean you need the deep pockets of a Rupert Murdoch, but it does require a mindset shift to communicate with consumers. Because unlike advertising, which is about communicating to consumers something you want them to know, content marketing is about giving consumers what they want.
Provide them with content that they find useful, educational, entertaining, and relevant to their interests, and in turn, you build a stronger relationship with the consumer.
For example, many consumers still have questions about electrified, connected and automated vehicles. There has been a tremendous amount of educational work over the past decade to inform consumers about these technologies, but the mainstream media has failed to do so, if questions remain.
Automotive brands can now take over. Customers will respond to helpful content that simply states the facts, without trying to sell a product – and grateful to the brand for finally addressing their concerns.
The resulting sense of loyalty and customer retention is arguably reason enough to embrace content marketing. But that’s not all it can offer.
If you use some kind of SEO wizardry to optimize your content for search results, you can also draw in casual browsers. If you are a brand targeting active families, for example, you can publish content about camping or the best outings. If a search engine directs a new consumer to this content and finds it appealing, they may be intrigued and want to know more about the rest of your content – and your brand. You yourself have a new business prospect.
Good content also reflects well on the brand, introducing opportunities to build goodwill, recognition and appeal. There are also opportunities for thought leadership content – promoting sustainability, corporate social responsibility or community initiatives – which also help build a brand’s reputation.
All of these benefits are worth serious consideration by brand marketers, but there’s one final element that I think turns a compelling argument into a compelling one.
Today, our online journeys are captured, aggregated, analyzed and processed. This data is extremely valuable to any business that owns it. OEMs and dealers have access to data – in CRM systems, even from inside a vehicle – that is invaluable. Bring in new data from content-related user journeys and you have another rich source of insights into consumers, their lifestyles and interests, their purchases, and more.
It all sounds very expensive and complicated, but it’s not. An experienced content marketer can create a strategy – and you really need a strategy to reap the full benefits – that allows you to scale the volume of content you post. With a strategy in place, you can post any content that you think your consumers will find appealing.
But don’t try to start a dance craze. Leave that to TikTok.
Author: Craig Thomas, Founding Director of Automotive Content Consulting Specialist Redline Content.