ResearchOct 22nd, 2018

How Influencer Marketing Helps Boost Brand and Dealership Growth


Influencer marketing is a buzzing topic that’s been in the industry for some time now, but it seems to be gaining importance — especially in automotive circles. The notion behind influencer marketing has made its rounds with celebrity endorsements in the auto industry, leveraging the celebrities’ following to boost brand awareness, and of course, sales.

Automotive campaigns have included idols like LeBron James, Jennifer Lopez, and Matthew McConaughey. But today, influencing is no longer reserved for the ultra-rich and famous. Web access and smartphones have the masses joining in, generating up to 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising, and turning influencer marketing into the superior standard, according to a 2016 TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions.

Consider ordinary people as influencers

In the process of purchasing a vehicle, our company has found that consumers find recommendations from friends and family — especially from auto experts and enthusiasts — very important. A survey conducted by Ipsos Research for our latest Insights Book found that the groups who most often ask enthusiasts for advice are family (87%), friends and neighbors (78%), and coworkers (50%).

People on social media came in at only 7%. These statistics account only for those who seek advice; for an influencer marketing campaign to fuel ROI, it must reach both advice-seeking shoppers and those who aren’t in the market (yet). Be careful not to confuse influence with popularity, though. Although strong influencers have reach, they also possess credibility and salesmanship. It’s crucial to consider influencer categories when strategizing a campaign. Macro influencers very often have colossal followings on social media platforms.

These influencers may include celebrities and high-ranking gurus. There is also a subcategory of influencers dubbed micro-influencers. They have a smaller reach, but their credibility gives them authority — a strong marketing and sales tool. Since micro-influencers are more approachable, their content is more likely to resonate with advice-seeking buyers because it feels more authentic. By contrast, macro-influencers position brands before millions of people, boosting awareness and pulling consumers into the market.

Depending on the campaign objective and budget, top brands determine their focus. Some depend on one influencer category; others rely on a mix to provide immense reach with a personal, attainable perception. To employ optimal influencers, companies must know what they are looking to achieve.

Integrate advocacy for consumer trust

Advocacy is the No. 1 goal. Influencer marketing can encompass social media marketing and content marketing — but these terms are not synonymous. The same applies for advocacy marketing. This form relies on brand advocates — existing customers who speak highly of the company and its products. To sustain business growth and long-term engagement, brands strive for advocacy. In this concept, the influencer is an actual customer. Because 92% of consumers trust brand advocates, per Zuberance, incorporating advocacy diminishes doubt and lends to even greater influence.

There are options to achieving this: Brands can seek influencers who are existing advocates and employ them as influencers, or they can mold current influencers into real product users. To do so, brands must emphasize their relationship with influencers and engage with them frequently, keeping them in the loop with information and considering their opinions on the products. No matter which path they choose, disclosure of the relationship is key to gaining or maintaining consumer trust.

Downplay campaigns

Lastly, brands must keep influencer campaigns subtle. An increased amount of advertising dollars are being allocated to influencer marketing, and with good reason. It emphasizes the influencer rather than the entire target market. Campaigns are understated instead of aggressive, which is why they work. More specifically, by focusing on the influencer, brands are taking an indirect approach in delivering their message by filtering it through a credible third party (the influencer). Many consumers today have responded favorably to this approach, particularly because mediums such as social media have enabled everyday consumers to feel more connected and attached to their favorite influencers. As with any other business decision, research and application are imperative for tailored results. Be sure to consider these four key insights when developing an automotive influencer campaign:

  1. Aim to reach both advice-seeking shoppers and those who aren’t yet in the market.
  2. Don’t confuse influence with popularity.
  3. Make advocacy your number one goal.
  4. Keep it subtle.

With influencer marketing continuing to gain momentum and demonstrate unparalleled success, automotive marketing professionals are eager to engage more influencers in their campaigns.

Libby Murad-Patel is vice president of marketing and strategic insights for Jumpstart Automotive Media, a division of Hearst Autos, which offers high-impact and performance-driven marketing and advertising solutions that achieve optimum results. An industry thought leader known for its in-depth shopping reports, Jumpstart connects automotive marketers with the largest, high performing audience of car shoppers and enthusiasts through partnerships with: Car and Driver, U.S. News Best Cars, J.D. Power Cars, NADAguides,, Autobytel,, Daily News Autos,, CarSoup, CarBuzz, CarStory, and For more information, visit

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