The winners in the brave new world of automotive marketing will be those who integrate traditional marketing practices with new strategies that are more responsive to consumer wants and needs.
The next generation of car buyers is driving the changes, Jim Schroer, vice president of global marketing for Ford Motor Co., told the Automotive News World Congress.
They are the 'echo boomers' who have grown up with a more global perspective than their baby boomer parents, and who have a greater affinity for the Internet than for TV.
'When we think of our normal marketing paradigm in automotive, which for many years has been, `Let's do a big TV advertising blitz on a new product, and then let's discount it,' you have to look at that and really question that,' Schroer said.
'You have to look at the whole system we have in marketing and say, `What are the big transformations going to be to transition to that new generation?' '
help, not hype
In the old paradigm, hype characterized the selling process. Now consumers want to be helped through it. TV was the favored consumer medium. Now the favorites are beepers and PalmPilots.
The traditional 'bricks and mortar' system is giving way to a combination of 'clicks and mortar,' although selling and servicing will always take place in a store, Schroer said. The factory and the dealer will need to work together as one.
Schroer was one of a five-member panel that discussed how automakers could get the most from their marketing dollars in the new media world.
Here is what the group said automakers must do:
Build brand equity through integrated campaigns that combine old and new media strategies: TV and print advertising, plus event sponsorships, owner clubs, cause marketing and sponsorships.
Foster long-term relationships with consumers that are based on trust and commitment to service.
Form partnerships with dealers to create a seamless, responsive sales experience, be it in cyberspace or a bricks-and-mortar showroom.
Jed Connelly, vice president and general manager of Nissan North America, said Nissan is using new media to involve customers in the design process.
'If you wait until you are ready to bring a product to market to integrate your customers and media, it's already too late,' he said.
Louis Schultz, CEO of Western Initiative Media, predicted that 'automotive marketing is going to get very aggressive, very customer-focused and very, very nontraditional.'
It will 'leapfrog' beyond relationship marketing to create a new phenomenon Schultz dubbed 'consumer advocacy marketing.'
The new marketplace is not just about how to market, but who to market to, said Don Coleman, CEO of Don Coleman Advertising Inc., an agency that specializes in multicultural advertising.
Coleman said blacks, Hispanics and Asians represent an untapped market with significant buying power. Multicultural spending grew from $629 billion in 1990 to $1.14 trillion by 1998, he said.
'With six of the top 10 markets today having either majority or near majority multicultural populations,' Coleman said, 'local automotive advertisers who choose to disregard this changing demography will do so at peril.'
But industry changes extend beyond how and to whom automakers advertise and promote products. The media outlets they work with must change as well.
Jack Kliger, CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, said 'old media' and 'new media' are outdated terms. Magazines will continue to play an important role because they have the reporters, editors and designers who can produce the quality content upon which the Internet relies.
'The old and the new,' Kliger said, 'will eventually consolidate into just `media,' to the benefit of both.'