To Drive Auto Sales, Brands Should Focus On Building Unaided Awareness

November 27, 2018 By Pierre Bouvard

A few weeks ago, the biggest names in the auto marketing ecosystem gathered in Las Vegas at J.D. Power’s annual Automotive Marketing Roundtable to discuss key industry trends and take a look ahead to 2019. Among the insightful takeaways for marketers was a simple but powerful fact:

To drive sales, brands need to be known.

Today it’s difficult for auto brands to impact in-market shoppers. According to the J.D. Power 2018 New Autoshopper Study, 40% of buyers know the model they want to buy at the outset of their purchase journey and then buy it, up +43% since 2013. Given the diminishing ability to impact these consumers when they are in-market, brands need to understand the best way to impact purchase decisions.

Nielsen just released their Nielsen Auto Marketing Report 2018, a path-to-purchase study fielded in Q1 and Q2 2018. Nielsen examined unaided awareness at two of the most important stages in the auto buying journey: consideration and purchase intent. Here is what Nielsen found.

Brand consideration: Unaided awareness is responsible for 60% of all brand considerations. 60% of people who were considering an auto brand for purchase could name the brand on an unaided basis.

Purchase intention: Even more impressive, 90% of people who were intending to purchase an auto brand could name the brand on an unaided basis. Unaided awareness is responsible for 90% of all auto purchase intentions.

What is unaided awareness? Unaided awareness is when a customer can name the brand without any help. It is hard to get consumers to be able to remember your brand on an unaided basis. Noted advertising expert Spike Santee says, “The goal of successful advertising is to be known before you are needed. The biggest mistake in advertising is waiting to be found.”

It’s much easier to have consumers recognize your brand on an aided basis. Here, a customer is given a list of brands to choose from, which results in much higher awareness response.

The following two findings speak directly to Tom Goodwin’s, EVP Innovation at Zenith Media USA, simple approach to growing sales: “First, [make] sure the product is top of mind and that awareness is high; second, that the brand is liked and understood.”

Local Ad Recall, a research company that quantifies the impact of advertising on radio stations, fielded 27 brand studies with 8,377 consumers. One of the key findings was the crucial role awareness plays in the consumer purchase journey. It was an important factor not just in auto purchase decisions but in decisions across six different retail categories.

AM/FM radio boosts unaided recall. One of the simplest ways to grow unaided awareness is to be on the radio. As America’s number one mass reach media, AM/FM radio can build auto brands. Subaru’s impressive ten years of sales growth offers a powerful case study of how to build an auto brand with radio.

Local Ad Recall found that brands advertising on radio experience an average unaided recall growth five times greater than those not advertising on radio.

It’s essential for auto brands to cultivate a reputation in order to grow awareness. Consumers cite reputation as the most important attribute for major car, health, home improvement, financial planning, and legal service purchase decisions. Erwin Ephron, father of modern media planning, described it best when he said, “The job of advertising is to remind people of the brands they know when they need to make a purchase.”

The message for marketers is clear: don’t over allocate marketing dollars on lower funnel digital media. Brands must be built with mass reach media like AM/FM radio and television.

New vehicle buyers continue to be more likely to know what model they want and buy it. The opportunity to impact in-market shoppers continues to diminish. Media is best invested to develop a brand and achieve high levels of unaided awareness before the path to purchase begins.

Key takeaways:

  • The opportunity to impact in-market auto shoppers continues to diminish as buyers are more likely to know the model they want from the outset
  • To grow sales, auto brands need to be known as unaided awareness dramatically increases purchase intent
  • Unaided awareness is responsible for 90% of all auto purchase intentions
  • Brand recall is 5 times greater among radio advertisers than those not advertising on the radio
  • To grow sales, auto brands and retailers must cultivate a reputation and build unaided awareness

Pierre Bouvard is Chief Insights Officer at CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One.

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