Consumers were on track to spend $44 billion on new vehicles in December 2019, down $2.2 billion from December 2018. With global car sales also expected to decline by about 3.1 million in 2019 and companies like GM, Ford and Mercedes-Benz cutting thousands of jobs and restructuring operations, there’s never been a better time for carmakers to embrace influencer marketing. And that they are. Ahead we’re exploring why auto brands have it harder than most verticals when it comes to leveraging influencers and the best practices they follow to make these partnerships effective.
Automakers have a long history of collaborating with fashion brands and influencers to sell consumers on the idea that a car can enhance their daily lives. In 2017, Volvo teamed up with fashion and lifestyle influencer Aimee Song, who has 5.5 million followers, for an Instagram ad campaign. The deliverables included three in-feed posts featuring Aimee and her Volvo, and a story, all of which together created over $5 million worth of exposure for Volvo, according to AdWeek.
In 2018, Maserati took a similar approach when it tapped fashion designer Jenny Walton. With 232,000 followers, the microinfluencer created content while at Maserati’s activation in Italian ski resort town Courmayeur.
Outdoor influencers and car lovers are also important players in a carmaker’s strategy. Honda, for example, has seen great success leveraging microinfluencers in the consideration phase of vehicle shopping and driving audiences to Honda.com for more information. To create awareness around its new Passport SUV in 2019, Honda launched an activation called the #300ftChallenge. The collaboration tapped multiple outdoor influencers, challenging each to complete an adventure equivalent to 300 feet— climbing a 300-foot rock face or mountain biking an extreme 300-foot trail. Adventure photographer and mega influencer Chris Burkard generated the campaign launch creative and additional adventure microinfluencers including pro climber Sasha Digiulian and kayaking pro Rafa Ortiz created in-feed and Instagram story videos for the challenge.
Inviting influencers to experience a car first-hand is another piece of the pie. In 2018, Honda invited microinfluencer Troy Sowers, a car detailing and motorsports aficionado on YouTube, to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. There, Sowers rode in the two-seat Indy car, which he posted about both on his Instagram and his YouTube with the hashtag #HondaPartner. Sowers’ channel has 114,000 subscribers and nearly 7 million views.
Although traditional auto influencer activations, like sponsored social media content and attending interactive events, can be executed easily, when it comes to asking influencers to review a car, auto brands may have it harder than most consumer verticals.
“Utilizing influencers in the automotive space can be a bit more challenging at times because the product being marketed has a longer purchase cycle than in beauty or quick service restaurant (QSR) verticals. Providing a vehicle to an influencer can also be more challenging in getting into the hands of influencers versus some beauty or QSR products. Not only do we have less product that we launch in a calendar year, but it can be very difficult to ship a car or light truck to an influencer, where a beauty product can be sent in a small package. There is also a significant price point differential between auto, beauty and QSR products,” said Jessica Fini, social media manager, American Honda.
What’s more, carmakers have a limited pool of influencers to choose from, because they’re required to work with influencers who are old enough to drive and have a driver’s license. To get the most out of an auto influencer partnership, Fini says marketers should study and pinpoint the skills of their prospective influencers. Knowing if they’re strong in video or photography is important as vehicles can be a difficult product to capture content around.