Car brands eye social media for long-term engagement

Car marques are using social media to involve consumers in the future direction of the brand as they look to stay front of mind in a sector that sees infrequent purchases.

Citroen

Honda has today (12 April) appointed a digital agency, LBi, specifically tasked with overhauling its digital presence across Europe, including developing “next generation” digital tools that bring consumers closer to the decision making process.

The news follows hot on the heels of the launch of Citroen’s ‘You Like it, We Make it’ crowdsourcing initiative that promises to develop the first car “created for the Facebook generation, by the Facebook generation”.

It invites fans to chose from a selection of design features via a Facebook app, the most popular of which will go on to be incorporated into a limited edition model of its Citroen C1 Connexion city car.

Citroen and Honda are likely to be the first of many to use social media as a platform to glean ideas for design and innovation from consumers.

Andy Turton global development director at TNS Automotive, says that social media is valuable to automotive brands because car buyers talk online about cars more than other consumers, relative to frequency of purchase.

More than 70% of UK consumers use social media when they are considering buying a car, according to TNS data. By using social platforms to engage people with the brand and involve them in the design process, automotive brands are able to extend the relationship beyond the infrequent purchase opportunity and build a long-term relationship that will pay off when consumers next think about buying a car.

Turton adds that car marques can pick up some “gems” from what are likely to be the most engaged fans that can provide real insight into what models might be missing and where brands could add consumer appeal.

Honda head of marketing Martin Moll adds that because cars are the second most expensive purchase most consumers will make, they are high profile and high on their agenda when talking about brands online.

For Peugeot, it could be something as simple as social media feedback about which paint colours fans prefer for certain models that it can then respond to and incorporate into the design strategy, according to Peugeot brand advertising and communications marketing manager Ollie Griffin.

Griffith says that the company is taking a “testing” approach to social media that balances the commercial gains with experimentation.

Peugeot has since made several forays into social and using different platforms to achieve different things. He claims that Peugeot was one of the first brands, not just in the automotive sector, to include a Facebook call to action in its TV advertising as part of its ‘whodunit’ style campaign last year, but warns that it’s important that brands don’t give over too much control to fans.

He says: “What Citroen is doing is brilliant – it’s exactly what you should do and I believe in it in principle. We would love to exploit future opportunities to use social and Facebook to influence design but you need to be realistic. You can’t let a 35 year old [Facebook fan] lead the decision.”

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