Branded content is where it’s at!  

Branded content gives you a chance to persuade your target audience by informing, inspiring, and entertaining. Branded content is an excellent fit for car dealerships because:
1) the automotive customer journey is a research-intensive one and
2) branded content can be good for your dealership’s reputation. 

A lot of car buyers get nervous about car shopping, so a little trust-building can’t hurt, right? Here is a four-step plan to help you incorporate branded content into your audience targeting strategy.  


Step 1: Figure Out What Audience You’re Competing For

In this case, the best case to begin may be the top layer with a simple question: are you targeting a broad or a niche market?  

When you have a broad market in the automotive sector, you probably have a wide inventory with a range of available options. Most mass-market car brand dealerships fit the bill, as do many used car lots. Here you are appealing to a broad range of consumers across multiple income and lifestyle brackets, and your geographic location is usually a core differentiator (e.g. when you’re a dealership for Brand X on the north side of Dallas, Texas).

If you’re a niche dealer you probably specialize in a certain type of vehicle. Elite brands like Lamborghini and Tesla meet the niche criteria. You could also argue that if you specialize in a certain market – e.g. Spanish-speaking customers – you are a niche dealer. For highly specialized dealers, geographic location will often shrink in importance – there are fewer places you can go to test drive a Tesla than you can go to test drive a minivan. Conversely, some niche dealers will be linked to a geographic location; we can assume that a Spanish-speaking dealership will be near a Spanish-speaking community. 

Most dealerships won’t be one pure type or another. Dealerships with broad markets will usually want to a way to target smaller niches in their geographic area, and niche dealers will usually appreciate having more than one super-specified type of customer. The choice here is whether you’re best off emphasizing broad-based content approaches (an infographic on fuel efficiency that should appeal to anyone who has to pay for gasoline); highly specialized content (a blog post on home plug adapters for your electric car); or something that falls in between (a piece on the benefits of a hybrid).   

One source says small dealerships as well as dealerships with a lot of local competition do best to emphasize a niche strategy. These types of dealerships would therefore do well to zero in one or a few types of automotive customer journeys, and do branded content that fits. Also, digital marketing technology makes it cost-effective to push different messages to different consumers. It’s not an either-or thing.

It just so happens we have a pretty amazing tool to identify which niche audience segments offer the best opportunity for your dealership, all based on comprehensive data about market share. Ask us about the Dealer Scorecard to get started.


Step 2: Make Generalizations About Your Audience – Or, Better Yet, Dig Into Data to Get More Specific

Whether your target audience is fairly broad or extremely niche, it makes sense to know what types of content they’ll find engaging. There are a couple of ways to get at this. 

Let’s say you own a Jeep dealership. The people who show up on your lot share key interests with each other, and you, and you get the automotive customer journey that the average Jeep shopper is on. Based on this, you can make pretty good initial guesses on what kind of content your customers will find interesting. From there, you can use market insights and data tools make specific content decisions; or you can just put out content and see what works. In either case, you know your audience well enough to have a starting point.  

If your dealership attracts a broad clientele, an observation-based approach might not be as easy. Here it makes sense to look at wider market features. If, say, you’re in a Sun Belt community with a large population of seniors and you’re only 30 years old, you might want to spend some time researching what kinds of content seniors find useful and engaging rather than winging it. If you’re in a large urban center you can use a tool like Claritas to identify lifestyle niches in the zip codes you do business with. From there, you can try to come up with content that resonates with your current customer base, speaks to an untapped local audience, dovetails with a few of the most common automotive customer journeys in your market, or even encapsulates every market segment in your area.  

Or (humble brag), we have access to a slew of automotive data insights on top of usual suspects Claritas, Scarborough and some super powered auto intender targeting on USA TODAY NETWORK digital platforms.


Step 3: Create Your Content 

A vital step, obviously, and by the way (not so humble brag) did you know we have a ton of experience in storytelling and branded content? 

But, seriously, let’s skip ahead to… 


Step 4: Figure Out Your Content Distribution Plan—Then Go Live!

This may be as important as the branded content itself. You don’t want the content chilling out on a platform where it won’t generate leads. You also don’t want it on a platform where the interactive you spent so much time working on refuses to run. You won’t want your content on site where it will be surrounded by objectionable ads (what is “objectionable” will depend more on your target audience than any universal standard – the automotive customer journey can have some interesting detours). What you do want is a digital outlet where your content has the best opportunity to succeed. 

Once you go live, you’ll have the opportunity to test different variables. You can try alternate headlines, change up the format, plug in ancillary creative ads, and push different content pieces at different times of the day. With the right tracking and analytic tools, you’ll figure out what works best for your local market. 

If something works well, you can boost the content on Facebook and give it an even broader reach.  


Ready To Get Creative?

If so, excellent! You don’t have to staff a team of creatives to have stellar branded content. We get how branded content fits into the automotive customer journey. We’ve also done data-driven content for thousands of businesses. And with the USA TODAY NETWORK and our social media tools you’ll always have a place to tell your story to an engaged audience of auto intenders.


Contact us to find out more about our branded content solutions.


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