Market the Experience of Driving to Personally Connect With Customers

It’s time to market cars as an experience and a lifestyle, not just a means of transportation

While more millennials and Gen Xers leave suburbia for the city and take on a new, less committal relationship to cars, the automotive industry is pivoting.


With the introduction of car subscription and concierge services by major auto brands, a huge swath of consumers no longer feel they absolutely need to invest in a car that they own or lease.

For auto manufacturers, the strategy is now to market the experience of driving, even more so than that of owning a car (although that remains the desired outcome of marketing). We’re seeing automotive marketers shift to selling cars as an experience and a lifestyle, not just a means of transportation.

Many people feel less need now to own a vehicle, so rather than market a car as a necessity, manufacturers and dealers must develop messaging that relays that a particular vehicle fits consumers’ idea of who they are.

This strategy extends in practice to a more nuanced approach to marketing. Consumers are looking for access to the experience vehicles can provide, more so than outright ownership and the commitments or hassles that come with it.

In order to tap into this context (or more specifically, mindset), automotive marketers need to know and understand their audiences on a deeper level.

Personalizing through moments

In order to get inside and market to the experience, manufacturers and dealers must understand the needs consumers are expressing through both declared and undeclared behaviors.

These behaviors are evidenced by particular signals, media interactions, and consumptions throughout the customer journey. Through real-time scoring across multiple user touch points, marketers can dial in their approach and reach to engage consumers during determined, receptive moments of discovery.

Declared behavior used to be—at least on the surface—the most necessary piece of data for making an auto sale. But as the shift from “car as vehicle” to “car as connector” continues, so-called softer data points informed by undeclared behavior and contextual evidence are becoming more important.

Seemingly unrelated information about a consumers’ online reading habits or favorite websites can be extrapolated to form a full view of a potential buyer. For example, a consumer may be browsing for vehicles labeled “top safety pick,” which alone isn’t enough to create a truly personalized experience.

But when that information is combined with a consumer’s recent visits to a sustainably sourced furniture website and a series of likes on social media pages indicating an interest in environmental causes, the picture begins to become more clear.

Scoring then makes it possible to judge the most relevant moment to reach that consumer. With full context available, a highly personalized piece of creative can then be served, offering an eco-friendly vehicle that is also a top safety pick.

A successful connection

In delving into the customer journey by monitoring, attributing, and optimizing performance across touch points and devices, marketers can gain a clearer understanding of situational contexts.

Contextual, moment-based marketing provides a wealth of opportunities to thoughtfully connect on the “driving as an experience” level, proving that a particular vehicle is an ideal match for who those consumer considers themselves to be.

As chief revenue officer of IgnitionOne, Jonathan Baron is responsible for expanding revenue opportunities to benefit both advertising agencies and brand marketers, and oversees global sales efforts.

Jonathan Baron

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