Buying a new car is an emotional experience. It’s a big investment, and one of the largest purchases any consumer will make outside of buying a house. So, there is a whole layer of rational research activity and analysis. However, having recently purchased a new model hybrid, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the emotional factor is huge.  


My husband and I did a huge amount of research over 6 months comparing, makes, models, trim levels; looking at industry and consumer reviews; considering how much we wanted to invest and calculating how big our sons would get in the next 7 – 10 years. All of this in a very rational, logical way. When I test drove two different hybrid models the emotions of the actual experience took over. 


All well and good, but you likely already know all of this, right? As you are looking at how to connect with your customers in your dealership marketing, consider an automotive branded content campaign. It’s a relatively new option within targeted digital display advertising, but it’s enormously effective in terms of audience engagement. 


When branded content is done well, it evokes an emotional experience: stellar branded content entertains, informs or inspires. A secondary effect is positive brand association for both the sponsor/author brand and the host platform/publisher.  


Branded content typically consists of non-traditional paid content in the form of articles, videos, infographics, quizzes, etc. It’s actual content, not a typical ad. And it also serves a purpose for the reader, not merely to convey a marketing promotion or brand message. 


So, how do you ensure automotive branded content success? Let’s break it down a little, by looking at the 5 keys to successful automotive branded content. 


1. Understand the Difference Between Advertising and Branded Content 

This may seem intuitively obvious, but you don’t want ad content running as branded content. Advertising comes in every format imaginable, and one commonality is typically a very clear brand message or promotional message. Most ads include a clear call to action and are obviously an ad. Pretty straight-forward. Super useful to an in-market customer narrowing down their vehicle search and settling on what dealership or dealerships to visit. 


Content on the other hand – whether content marketing or branded content – is different. Content does not have an explicit brand or promotional message at its core. Instead, content is meant to inform, entertain or inspire. Branded content is often useful or helpful to the person consuming it, but sometimes it’s just plain entertaining. When creating an automotive branded content campaign, keep in mind that the content’s core message should not be interchangeable with an ad. This is a great tip to apply to your overall dealership content strategy as well, not just as you explore branded content. 


2. Know Your Branded Content Audience 

By providing useful or entertaining content, your dealership can really connect with someone who is not yet ready to buy.  


Your customers and prospects are also content consumers. And they each have a unique point of view. Successful advertising and marketing campaigns speak to people from their point of view.  


Automotive branded content goes further by engaging the audience outside of your core brand message. It may support the message, but the point is to provide something useful and interesting to the audience.  


So, get to know who your audience is, and what type of content they want. Think about what types of things they are researching along the auto consumer journey. What type of information can you provide that would be useful to an auto shopper? Are they trying to decide what type of vehicle is right for their next new car? Are they looking for a reliable used car for their teen driver or college-bound high school graduate? Or are they looking for vehicles with maximum fuel efficiency? 


3. Know Your Branded Content Format Options 

Branded content comes in many formats from more traditional articles (digital or print), to videos, quizzes, infographics, interactives and more. The key is to determine which formats are best suited to a) present the content effectively, and b) reach an engaged the audience.  


Some branded content platforms may not support or offer all formats. So do your research, know your options and select the best formats for your audience on that platform in order to deliver the message. 


4. Know Your Branded Content Publishing Platform 

There are 3 things to consider when evaluating which publishing platform to use for your automotive branded content campaign: 

  1. Audience: Is the audience a good match for your dealership? If not, it doesn’t matter if they offer branded content and have a good reputation. You want to reach the right target audience.  

  1. Reputation: Is the publisher/platform reputable? Branded content takes on the reputation of the site(s) where it appears, and even other content or ads on the site. You want to make sure your content is on a trusted site or platform. 

  1. Format & Add-Ons: While branded content is not the same as an ad, that doesn’t mean traditional digital ad formats can’t be used in combination. Boost awareness of branded content by adding on digital display banner ads driving traffic to branded content pieces. Incorporate boosted social media posts that do the same. Both should be add-on options with the publishers/platform you choose. 


5. Know How to Optimize Branded Content 

As with other forms of digital marketing, it’s always a good idea to test different variables so you can optimize advertising campaign performance over time. These variables could include: audience targeting, headlines, format, topics, ancillary creative ads, publication day and publication time. 


Automotive branded content provides a great opportunity to connect with auto shoppers while they’re still in the research or consideration phase, before they are truly “in-market” to actively shop. Because of this, you’re likely going to be optimizing for different metrics than you would for a traditional digital advertising campaign. 


Above all else, for successful automotive branded content to break through the clutter and achiever higher engagement and brand lift, you will want to ensure you have a clear dealership marketing strategy focused on engaging the intended audience.  


Data insights can help you get there, and we love talking insights. Contact us today and request a Dealer Scorecard analysis. 


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