Car Talk: The Marketing Gift of (Automotive) Gab

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According to Nielsen, word-of-mouth is the most trusted source of decision-influencing and decision-making information for consumers around the world. Having often addressed the power of informal communication, it’s always gratifying to have confirmation by respected research and consulting organizations.

Consumer motivation research (“On Brands and Word of Mouth”, Journal of Marketing Research, August, 2013), conducted by several professors at U.S. and Israeli business schools, represents large data sets covering online word-of-mouth, offline word-of-mouth, brand equity, and customer brand research. Over 600 of the most talked-about U.S. brands, covering 16 product categories, were analyzed during the period from 2007 to 2010. Here is one of the most significant findings (as reported by Ed Keller, of KellerFay, in a recent blog):

– Brand categories talked about online differ widely from those talked about offlline. Media, autos, sports and technology dominates online word-of-mouth, because there is ‘social currency’ in discussing what is new, interesting, and worth sharing with others. Other categories – beverages, food and dining, travel, financial services, beauty products, health products and services – are much more likely to be communicated in offline conversations.

In this blog, we’re zeroing in on automotive word-of-mouth. Every year, Foresight Research (Rochester, MI) produces their Word of Mouth Immersion ReportTM, drawn from a study of 7,500 recent new auto buyers, which provides marketers insights on how, why, and where, informal consumer communication contributes to new vehicle purchases. In addition to demographics, Foresight covers WOM dynamics such as the number of people to whom advice is given, negative and positive blogging activity, relative influence at each stage of the purchase process, influential messages, and actions taken.

Here’s some of what they learned in the 2014 study. Topping the list is the finding that Foresight identified what they label as Talkers PlusTM, 15% of the buyer population who generate 59% of the word-of-mouth. These buyers are extremely brand-loyal; and, not only do they comment more frequently than other owners online, but they report being influenced by social media, use mobile devices, and attend motorsports events. Importantly, these purchasers also spend $246 more on accessories than their other buyer counterparts.

Word-of-mouth influence is even more concentrated among luxury brands. Luxury brand owners are more discriminating and more influenced by multiple channels, which includes auto shows. Over two-thirds of luxury brand word of mouth comes from 17% of luxury vehicle owners. They give advice to an average of 4.6 consumers, compared to 3.7 consumers for non-luxury buyers.

Foresight developed The Amplifier IndexTM, a measurement tool for helping identify how much of an impact word-of-mouth has on brand perception. Within the industry, the index average was 1.22. Mercedes-Benz had an index of 2.14, achieved in part by showcasing the stories of passionate Mercedes owners on its Facebook page.

The real luxury brand word-of-mouth winner, however, was Audi. As scored according to The Amplifier IndexTM, Audi attained a 2.51. As the proud owner of a barely broken-in Audi A6 3.0 Quattro Turbo, I can verify a personal level of active, positive, enthusiastic communication on behalf of my vehicle, not so much online but certainly offline. My car is a comfortable, sophisticated, smooth-driving and quiet motorized chariot, and I’m always very proud to tell people how much I enjoy being an Audi owner. Is that positive enough word-of-mouth, brand-bonding and owner advocacy? I’d certainly say so. Where Audi is concerned, I’m an amplifier.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.

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