Auto focus

A quirky video here, a viral hashtag there

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on December 19, 2019 Published on December 19, 2019

Social media influencers are all the rage with auto companies. Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are billed to be the top three platforms used by brands in 2020   -  skodonnell/istock

How premium car brands are leveraging social media to engage and draw buyers

The shifting attention of consumers and its impact on purchase behaviour pose a challenge for automakers.

And, for those in the premium/luxury space, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are being used as key platforms to target buyers. While the use of this medium also serves as a helpful reminder to never limit one’s brand’s reach to a specific audience, several examples abound of the power of social media to tell a compelling story.

Audi's attention to social media intelligence reflects how a company finds and captures value from data analytics and comes up with strategies through the innovative use of technology. As Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India, points out, “We believe in curating thumb-stopping digital content for our target audience and followers.” From his point of view, engaging with influencers, creating topical content and participating in trending conversations “establishes an emotional connect”, resulting in higher reach and visibility.

With close to six lakh followers on Instagram and 3.67 million on Facebook, coupled with its efforts to create a connection between data and its existing business, marketing has moved apace and taken a new detour at Audi India.

Dhillon says the company uses social media platforms "to engage with customers and audiences through customised advertising and hyper targeted social media marketing campaigns”. During the recent launch of the A6, Audi used Facebook and Instagram stories to showcase realtime launch updates. This was done with select audience groups to create a buzz and dialogue across the social landscape.

Audi’s creative formats

“We also used innovative, creative formats to showcase standout features of the Audi A6 including the button-less dashboard,” says Dhillon. The company engaged with its followers through teasers with catchy snippets on what they could expect from the new Audi A6.

‘Less is everything’ goes the recent Facebook campaign of the company, showcasing the new digital console of the A6, even as it adds ‘Audi is more’. Holding pride of place in the video, the digital console is right at the centre and has buttons artistically plummeting off to land below, leaving behind a clean, smooth look. ‘Buttons are so 2018’ goes the #AllNewAudiA6 campaign.

In another Facebook campaign, the German luxury carmaker has long-term ambassador Virat Kohli extolling the virtues of the new digital technologies in the car, including touchscreen controls and the new Audi telematics app.

The Merc show

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz India has been charting a new course with its social media campaigns. It has a huge following on Facebook, where the brand’s principal global account gathers more than 21 million followers. However, instead of geo-targeting for the ‘Fan Page’, the company runs separate regional accounts dedicated to particular countries, car classes as well as business units like the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It also includes sponsored events such as the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Australia and its ‘Luxe Drive’.

At its recently conducted ‘Luxe Drive’ in Mumbai, several contests on social media platforms played an important part. The engagement provides a luxury experience built on adrenaline, gourmet and music.

In its fifth year, gourmet has been the most successful engagement pillar for ‘Luxe Drive’, given that it presents a perfect blend of luxury and lifestyle. Mercedes-Benz decided to continue its association with celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, who travelled to all the ‘Luxe Drive Live’ events and cooked up a delectable spread of dishes.

Chef Brar also introduced the industry-first Luxe Drive Culinary Academy in a bid to bring in more exclusivity to the gourmet pillar. Entry to the Academy is through participation in social media contests.

For its ‘Magic Body Control’ advertisement, featuring the ‘stability at all times’, the carmaker used a chicken. The chicken’s head remains stable while the body grooved to the musical beats. The campaign managed to garner over two million views, with 220,000 Facebook shares and 6,000 tweets in less than four days, making it one of the finest digital films in this genre.

Jaguar’s witty campaign

Immediately after the rage of Mercedes-Benz’s chicken ‘Magic Body Control’ campaign, Jaguar came in with a witty campaign, showcasing a real-live jaguar licking its chops after making a meal of the chicken.

Jaguar’s campaign, played across social media channels in India, took a dig at its opponent, saying, “We prefer cat-like reflexes”, placing their brand ahead with their droll digital endeavour. Sibling brand Land Rover used the interactive digital novel ‘The Vanishing Game’ to place the core value of adventurism of the brand in its campaign.

Volvo Cars garnered attention on social media for the ‘Epic Split’ campaign, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in the midst of two Volvo Trucks reversing at very high speed to the sound of soothing music. The film received over 70 million views in a short span, even as the hashtag went viral.

Brand hashtags

Incidentally, Mercedes-Benz has developed branded hashtags shared between social media platforms, such as #MBPhotoPass, where they allow social influencers and team members to curate fresh and organic user-generated content for their accounts.

The automaker, which has always held the interest of ‘petrolheads’, decided to tune into another spectrum — music fans — for its Mercedes-Benz EQC, the first electric vehicle from its stable. Canadian artist Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) stars in the Mercedes-Benz EQC promo film. The video, shared on several social media platforms, showcases Mercedes’ EQC with The Weeknd driving the car around the city in the night.

Paying homage to the first few Mercedes cars, the campaign conveys the journey of the German brand even as it plays out the The Weeknd’s latest single, Blinding Lights, throughout the video.

Marketers tend to use short-form videos as a big opportunity to reach out to consumers, given that these clips go viral instantaneously. Some brands need less than six seconds to illustrate what separates the wheat from the chaff.

Mercedes-Benz's three-second spot and Toyota's five-second ad to show how its Yaris car model lets drivers park in 4.9 seconds make a compelling story on social platforms. Both the companies use influencers.

Social influencers are all the rage with auto companies. In its recent report Influencer Marketing Outlook - 2020, Buzzoka, an influencer marketing firm, noted that Instagram, TikTok and YouTube would be the top three platforms used by brands in 2020. Ashutosh Harbola, co-founder of Buzzoka, said: “The world of influencer marketing is evolving faster than we could ever imagine. Today’s strategy is tomorrow’s tactic in this new world. The key for future brand custodians will be not to follow any set template for their marketing campaigns but to keep discovering what each partnership can offer.”

Published on December 19, 2019
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