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How content and data unlock customer relationships - guest opinion

A recent Ofcom study has found that TikTok is the fastest growing news source for UK adults. Yes, TikTok, home to those dance crazes that your kids practice ad nauseum.

If this worries you – and as journalist for many years, I think this sounds pretty scary – then you might start asking, if legacy media outlets are in decline, how do brands continue communicating with consumers?

If car buyers are increasingly turning away from traditional media, how do OEMs, dealers and car retailers reach them? It’s not as if opportunities are hard to come by: some studies suggest that consumers spend an average of up to 13 hours a day using their phone, TV and other forms of digital media.

Even the more conservative estimates of seven hours are indicative of just how much time we spend looking at screens every day.

No doubt there are some marketers who see the Ofcom findings as a reason to increase spend on social channels. But despite what advocates of the sector say, accurate ROIs are difficult to calculate and it’s as much of scattergun approach as TV advertising. As the old saying goes: “Half my advertising spend is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Many brands have already found a more effective and efficient solution to these shifting media habits: content marketing. This 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 seems to be stubbornly resistant to the charms of content marketing so far, despite the many benefits it could bring.

Admittedly, adopting a content marketing programme does seem a major undertaking, as it involves a brand becoming a publisher. This doesn’t mean that you need the deep pockets of a Rupert Murdoch, but it does require a change of mindset for communicating 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 appeals to their interests, and in return you get to build a stronger relationship with the consumer.

For example, many consumers still have questions about electrified, connected and automated vehicles. There’s been a huge educational job in the last decade to inform consumers about these technologies, but traditional media hasn’t managed it, if there are still questions.

Car brands can now take over. Customers will respond to useful content that just lays out the facts, without trying to sell a product – and grateful to the brand for finally answering their concerns.

The sense of loyalty, and the customer retention that results, is arguably reason enough to embrace content marketing. But that’s not all it can offer.

If you use some sort of SEO witchcraft to optimise the search results of your content, you can also draw in casual browsers. If you’re a brand targeting active families, for instance, you might publish content about camping or best days out. If a search engine points a new consumer to this content, and they find it engaging, they might be intrigued and want to find out more about the rest of your content – and your brand. You have yourself a new sales lead.

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 – that also help build a brand’s reputation.

All these benefits are worthy of serious consideration by brand marketers, but there’s one final element that I think turns a convincing argument into a compelling one.

Today, our online journeys are captured, aggregated, analysed and processed. That data is incredibly valuable to any company that owns it. OEMs and dealers have access to data – in CRM systems, even from inside a vehicle – that is invaluable. Introduce new data from content-related user journeys and you have another rich source of information on consumers, their lifestyles and interests, their purchases, etc.

This 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 recoup all the benefits – that enables you to scale the volume of content you publish. With a strategy in place, you can publish whatever content you think your consumers will find engaging.

But don’t try starting a dance craze. Leave that to TikTok.

Author: Craig Thomas, founder director of Redline Content specialist automotive content consultancy.



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