Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Studying Ads, Marketing and PR trends in the Indian Automotive Industry
The traditional route of marketing and advertising in the automobile industry has been practiced in India ever since its inception. In the early days, newspapers were the preferred way to send out the brand’s comments and perceptions to its target audience. With the advent of video journalism, TV ads became relatively more popular and dominated the advertising landscape. It made sense to point towards the right target audience to whom you want to sell and who would be expectedly watching their favourite shows or movies on TV at the time. The era of TV advertisement is still going strong today, however, with changing times it is only intelligent to change oneself.
It is the era of Internet today, one with social media, YouTube videos, connectivity on the go and everything interconnected. It is the Digital era that has already dawned upon us, and now it is up to us to take advantage of what this new age has to offer and reap its benefits.
The traditional advertising and marketing practices which had been delivering results in the automobile industry have now gone dry and require a new fuel. They cannot be depended over to deliver results in these changing times without any change in their strategies. Newspapers and print media has become a thing of the past now, which people still read though out of habits.
An old newspaper advertisement;picture:-team-bhp.com
Advertisements and endorsements communicated through newspapers have an extremely limited reach in the present scenario which makes them obsolete. TV ads on the other hands still generate quite an impressive impressions percentage, however they yearn for something totally new to excite the consumers.
People no longer make buying decisions based on car videos which they came across on the telly, as they can get a similar and much more informed content on YouTube. Also, content on both print media as well as the television is extremely generic as it is ‘broadcasted’ to a big audience. Very often, that is not required as the brand would be wasting its resources by investing on a certain segment of audience that is not even interested in its offerings.
Carmakers and marketing agencies, we think, must realise these matters firmly but sadly the turnout is low. As per a report by MoneyControl.com, Maruti Suzuki came out as the top advertiser in the first three months of 2019, spending trends focused more on advertising on Radio, TV and Print, which were also the spending trends for the entire industry.
It reported that traditional mediums like television, print and radio saw growth in car ad volumes and investment by 17 %, 15 % and 7 % respectively between January and March 2019 as compared to 2018, according to an AdEx report.
Among them, TV ads again were the bestsellers with almost 58% ad insertions in 2019. While the success of TV advertising came as good news, the data also shows that there lies reluctance of the brands to invest in digital mediums and exploit the untapped potential. Carmakers in India lack the confidence to change their marketing strategies, keeping digital practices in the focus while adopting the current approach.
Need to Mix Things Up
According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the combined automobile sales fell to 1.9 million units in June 2019 against the 2.2 million units in June 2018. Further, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, automobile sales have taken a severe hit in the first two quarters of 2020, with more than 49% decline in the sales of passenger vehicles.
7 Ps of Marketing Mix;picture:freepik.com
The decline in sales is expected to have an impact on the marketing budgets in the long run if sales numbers continue to drop, as advertising cuts will be inevitable to sustain any brand’s operations. Advertising spends, however, might need to go up if brands look at pushing sales, as the two areas stand inseparable. At such times, it is only logical of thinking to mix up the marketing mix and adopt new, user friendly Digital Marketing techniques.
Digital marketing has been proven to target the right audience with maximum reach and provide measurable success. Utilising digital marketing and content marketing techniques is also economical than traditional sources, thereby increasing the efficiency of the advertising processes.
Digital Marketing concepts;picture:geobrava.wordpress.com
It offers personalised campaigns for people based on geographic or demographic divisions and, piggybacking on the rising internet penetration both in rural and urban Indian states, provides better leads with improved conversion rates.
In contrast with the traditional ‘broadcast’ practices, digital techniques help to reach individual, target audience with the potential to be converted into customers. Resources are saved and not misused as un-interested audiences are not entertained, and hence not invested on.
Car buyers today spend a whole lot of time and resources online, before making their final decisions. The online research process, to a vast extent, includes video reviews and articles along with pictures and comparison tests. Such a vast scope of digital content and its consumption has direct links with the purchasing power of the consumers, as it is estimated a majority of the people that go online to search for a vehicle end up visiting the dealership and asking for a test drive. Digital marketing, through such content, can help optimise every step of the buying process.
Video reviews & content;picture:iab.com
Why is PR Important?
The demand for new products and services in the automotive sector has grown to new heights in the past few years, with intense competition among brands in order to succeed. Rising demand has led to various new models being launched every year and life cycles of existing models being retraced at a faster pace. It has become critical for an automobile company to create a positive image of itself and its products in the minds of its customers, and to be able to become the first choice for every customer when an opportunity comes up.
The ways of reaching those customers, however, have changed over the years. Companies are increasingly optimising their operations at different aspects, looking to weave marketing, advertising and communications activities together.
Public Relations concepts;picture:shutterstock.com
A dedicated marketing and PR firm can help with such matters, conveying the brand’s communications to the customers as Public Relations activities, conveying the brand’s communications to the media as Media Relations activities, conveying the brand’s communications to its employees as well as different offices under Corporate Communications activities and, finally, catering to the marketing and advertising needs of the brand through Branding activities.
Advertising and related components;picture:landerapp.com
The communication strategies of today consist of more and more digital marketing and social media concepts to be able to achieve the set goals on time, at minimum cost.
Benefits of Healthy PR
Public relations activities are usually carried out to build a positive image of company while sending out all kinds of positive information about the company.
Creating a similar image for any brand can be required when the brand is caught in some kind of controversy, when sales going down, if there is some negative air around the brand’s name in general and also regularly to maintain the brand’s overall positive image.
It also helps to increase brand loyal customers by keeping them informed of all the relevant ‘good’ things happening over at the company offices.
Efficient usage of resources to increase reach;picture:adweek.com
Innovation needed in Communications Strategies in the Current Scenario
There are a number of areas where communications are required on a regular basis within an organisation in the traditional design. However, on close scrutiny, we believe there are certain aspects of the automotive industry in India that have not yet been touched by such strategies adequately. Aspects on which, probably, we didn’t think that marketing could be carried out or differences could be brought in the way things work. These strategies are needed to carry out overall development and increase profits for all the stakeholders involved, from the investors to the consumers and everyone in between.
1. Marketing at the Minuscule level
Marketing for car brands and car models is traditionally common. What is not common is marketing for the individual dealerships and showrooms that cater to the same brand. More so, that sell the same product or the same service. A particular brand’s products or services will be of the same quality across all its retail vendors; however, it is the quality of those vendors that sets them apart from each other or make them appealing to be reached out for a purchase.
Marketing, advertising as well as communications strategies at these minuscule levels are the opportunities to be exploited in the Indian automotive context at present, that can churn out huge profits. Marketing campaigns at such levels will be able to distinguish among the various service providers under the same brand-umbrella, thus aiding the last segment of stakeholders, the customers, to gain the most out of their purchase.
Marketing strategies for the minuscule levels;picture:threegirlsmedia.com
2. Online Sales Platforms post COVID-19
The automobile industry bravely took up the online sales platform abruptly during the early days of the country-wide lockdown in a first-ever step in India. It was a step much needed, however brands in India were not too keen on launching the same and it was the need-of-the-hour response during the pandemic that pushed them to launch online sales. If it would have been launched in the old normal, the marketing needs as well as the campaigns would have been a great experience for the whole industry.
Nonetheless, selling cars online is naturally going to be the biggest platform to apply digital marketing and social media concepts across the industry in all aspects. It will be the most opportune moment to get into the digital side of the business, with assured returns. Social media can have a great impact in such a case, influencing buyers and potential buyers through relevant Ads and information, based on their demographic divisions or buying preferences.
Digital car sales platform;picture:requestyourcar.com
Customers can be targeted at the comfort of their homes, through their daily, un-important social media surfing and without any high investments. Part of the content, or in full, which they consume can act as possible marketing and PR content where appropriate.