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Crafting a marketing narrative for an electric world

The campaigns that fuelled the branding of fossil fuel-powered cars may no longer work

Gulf News

Over the last decade, the world has not witnessed a significant shift in product technology within cars. The evolution has been fairly standard. Until recently... as a new phenomenon has redefined automobiles. Welcome then to the world of electric and driverless cars.

By 2020, millions of these cars are expected on the roads. It is expected that each driverless car will save 50 minutes per user a day, which can account for a whooping 1 billion free hours for users worldwide.

Electric and driverless cars are a true revolution for the automotive industry. But are we talking about a fundamental shift in deep-rooted human behaviours? The automotive world defines platforms as different models sharing the same technology and offer similar benefits and economies of scale.

What are the implications of this shift? Is there a fundamental change in behaviour?

I won’t have to drive anymore, I won’t have to focus my limited mindspace on the road, I may lose the pleasure of driving my car and the back seat becomes more important. I may just remove an important task from my life — driving!

Whereas with electric cars, my commitment to the environment is stronger, there are more economies of scale, and there is an additional task — charging the vehicle — in my daily routine. We clearly see many patterns changing and in how it impacts macro and micro behaviour.

Should there then be a shift in marketing and advertising for driverless/electric cars? The answer is simple enough.

Marketers need to re-define the need-benefit analysis in their customer landscape for electric and driverless cars. There has to be a refocus in strategy and in understanding how to advertise such vehicles. What is the USP a Tesla will offer vis-a-vis a Toyota, Honda or BMW?

As we embark on the new marketing journey for automotive, here a few pointers:

* Staying true to the brand’s core

The challenge is to rethink brand differentiation at a time when driverless and electric cars offer the same benefit. Is the differentiation in reliability, safety or comfort? Do we believe in Volvo’s safety or German precision in defining on-the-road stability? It is time for marketers to potentially go back to their brand’s core and rethink basics. What does the brand offer at its core in this era of tech parity?

* Evolution of behaviour patterns

What are the significant behaviours shifts which customers will experience? Would these just be a redefinition of behaviour patterns while some new ones come forth as a result of this shift? The creative magnifier needs to amplify these new or changed behaviour patterns.

* New target customer

Are we talking of a new customer profile for these cars? If yes, what are to be the marketing hooks? We need to re-consider to whom we advertise to and how we advertise.

* Consuming more content

With the extra time, there is a consideration around how brands can create more content and branded experiences. Electric cars will surely focus on sustainability and environment-friendly content ideas. The style, type and quantity of content opportunities are massive. As the UAE government establishes the year of economic sustainability, it is a chance of the carmakers to latch on to the concept and create compelling content ideas.

* Use of mixed, augmented and virtual reality

General Motors recently launched the first mixed-reality (MR) dealership with Dentsu, which aims to provide an augmented showroom experience for customers. The idea is to re-create a showroom anytime and anywhere in the world. Similarly, virtual reality will be an integral component of driverless cars marketing to educate and cast the experience differently.

This is the era of transformational marketing and creative ideas need to be redefined. The best ideas will always win.

Rakesh Kumar is CEO of Human, a marketing consultancy.