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January 10th, 2024
  Category Focus – How automotive brands can be front of mind in 2024

2023 was a pivotal year for the automotive sector. In an increasingly competitive UK market, the category dominated conversations around Brexit, supply and demand, social and economic concerns, and sustainability.

With so much noise around the sector, it’s often difficult to cut through. Brands need to understand what currently motivates consumers, what their perceptions and opinions are and how the population’s views vary demographically.

Using YouGov and @TheLocal studies, we can help brands create the right messaging, utilising the best out of home (OOH) environments to cut through, reach the right audiences and deliver sales.

Understanding consumer mindsets

  • Purchase intent: According to YouGov[1], 31% of people are planning to change their vehicle in the next 12 months, equating to a population estimate of 13.5 million. Of those looking to change their vehicle, 50% plan to buy a pre-owned vehicle. This presents a huge opportunity to comparative websites, local and regional dealerships. A further 17% plan to buy a new car.
  • Need: According to our @TheLocal survey findings[2], the two biggest reasons for changing vehicle are replace a broken down vehicle (52%), or to own a newer model or upgraded features (32%). The first finding suggests that motorists are replacing vehicles only when necessary, demonstrating that value and affordability are front of mind. The second finding shows a smaller but more affluent audience who have technology and functionality front of mind.
  • Sustainability: When asked what advertising messages would tempt them to buy a vehicle, the two highest segments were value/discount (30%) and sustainability/fuel efficiency (38%). The latter was reiterated when 32%[3] said sustainability was on their mind when buying a vehicle and 41% were looking for a specific fuel. Yet only 3%[4] of registered cars on the road are fully electric. This suggests that although consumers want to be more sustainable with their vehicle choice, right now they need to shop by price.

Turning perception to consideration and conversion

With automotive purchases, price points are high, reliance on the product is high and vehicle range anxiety is high, so value and reputation are key for buyers. What are current consumer perceptions?

  • Electric vehicles: Although conversation around electric vehicles is high, 90%[5] of people have concerns, such as expense, insufficient charging points nearby, charging stops being inconvenient, or not doing enough driving to warrant the need for one. The advertising market is saturated with electric vehicle messages but there is a barrier to progress, in that prices are too high and the infrastructure is not yet in place, so this isn’t likely to convert to sales.
  • Perceptions by demographic: Overall automotive brand perceptions differ wildly when split out by demographic – we start to see trends of purchase intent and favourability. Gen Z most aligned themselves to high end and electric vehicle brands which had been highlighted in the media and advertising. Although this shows what they favour, it is likely aspirational for when they can afford the purchase themselves. Millennials showed an affinity towards more affordable car brands, with no preference for electric models. In contrast, Gen X feels most positively towards brands offering electric vehicles, such as MG and Genesis, and are more likely to make a purchase as they are a more affluent demographic. Boomers are sticking to long-standing, well-known brands, showing they are the most difficult demographic to convert[6].

How OOH drives automotive brands

  • Electric compromise: Where 48%[7] of people noticed an increase in advertising for electric vehicles in the last 12 months, only 3% actually have an electric vehicle[8]. Brands have been heavily marketing electric vehicles which has raised awareness for the category. However, with affordability such a key priority, one option is for brand messaging to spotlight hybrids, as this may be more likely to lead to consideration and conversion before people switch completely to electric.
  • The halo effect: An expensive product like an electric vehicle may not be accessible to everyone yet. However, strong advertising in a premium setting can create a halo effect whereby a consumer feels affinity with the brand, even if they end up buying another car from the range. Being front of mind is essential.
  • Premium placement: Whatever product you’re advertising, using a premium medium, like one of Ocean’s iconic OOH locations, innovative technologies or Ocean Labs experiences, will elevate your product.
  • Keep value in mind: Including messaging around deals and pricing, such as finance or trade in options, is more likely to catch consumers’ attention. Through Ocean, you’ll have access to relevant environments and technology such as the Roadside Network and Vehicle Detection Technology (VDT), plus experiential spaces to cut through with clear and relevant copy.
  • Trust: According to recent research from the Advertising Association[9], trust is now the second strongest driver of brand profitability, and brand perception has never been more important. Trust is also key for expensive considered purchases, like the automotive category. Therefore, responsible advertising with clear, contextual messaging in a premium, relevant setting must come hand in hand. Not only was OOH found to be one of the more trusted channels, it saw the least number of complaints in a 2021 study[10].

Driving intent

With a complete understanding of consumer mindsets, vehicle brands and comparative sites have a huge opportunity in 2024 to reach a significant potential customer base using the right messages in the right places.

Find out how Ocean can support your brand in 2024 by contacting us at [email protected] or by speaking to your Ocean sales representative today.

[1] Source: YouGov, Dec 2023

[2] Source: Ocean @TheLocal survey, Nov 2023

[3] Source: Ocean @TheLocal survey, Nov 2023

[4] Source: https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/, Jan 2024

[5] Source: Ocean @TheLocal survey, Nov 2023

[6] Source: YouGov, Dec 2023

[7] Source: Ocean @TheLocal survey, Nov 2023

[8] Source: https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/, Jan 2024

[9] Source: Advertising Association, 2023

[10] Source: Advertising Association, 2021

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