Henry Ford once said about his 1909 Model T: "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black." At the time, his statement accurately reflected the mindset of marketers in the auto industry who were looking to capture the attention of a generation who had yet to see cars as a personalized commodity that could be mass-produced to meet the needs of the individual.
Cars have come a long way. They've become a totally integrated part of society -- an indispensable means of transportation, a status symbol and a customizable product available in every size, shape and colour from an endless selection of brand name manufacturers. The same cannot be said for the strategies being used to market them, which have not evolved to match the innovation of automakers and the individual needs of each new generation.
To put it simply, cars have changed dramatically over the last century, but marketers are still doing the same old thing: using the 'one colour approach' in an attempt to draw in an audience whose wants and needs differ vastly from their predecessors.
The impersonal, advertisement-heavy system for marketing vehicles is archaic. It may have been effective when the automobile was first introduced to the marketplace, and it may have even continued to work for the Baby Boomer generation. But it's important to recognize that there's a new customer on the horizon and the old way of marketing has little to no effect on them, except to turn them off of a brand. This new customer is the Millennial, 20 and 30-somethings, often students, who are looking for a brand that can earn their trust and respect in a clean-cut, genuine manner.
It's time to start marketing in more than one colour.
Innovation, honest campaigns and gestures that signal commitment to the customer as an individual: these are the things that will grab the attention of the Millennial generation. They have no interest in watching, reading or listening to traditional marketing channels, and frankly they don't put much stock in them either.
Millennials are much more inclined to commit to brands that demonstrate an interest in their interests, whether it be balancing finances to pay for school, taking care of the environment or giving back to the community.
Many Millennials are still uncommitted when it comes to brand loyalty in the auto industry, but marketers have yet to use this as an opportunity to increase sales. We're in the middle of open season with this fresh generation, but no one seems to be taking advantage of it.
What you need to know (and act on) is that while Millennials are cautious and price conscious when it comes to big purchases, they are also flexible and eager to discover brands that resonate with them. In a recent yconic survey, Millennials noted their willingness to switch vehicle brands for their next purchase, as well as a keen interest in buying new, over used vehicles, if an incentive were provided. This is an opportunity for marketers to capture the long-term loyalty of Millennials by developing incentives that they actually find appealing.
Don't be deceived, we're not talking about the flashy rebates or price slashing incentives that worked on their parents. Think outside the box and move away from traditional sales tactics. Donate proceeds from their next purchase to the charity of their choice, provide a scholarship that will go towards their education, help them pay for their first year of insurance - the options are endless, all you have to do is pick a colour. Find out what matters to your customer and do something about it. Use your marketing budget to show you care about what your customers care about and you won't need to pay for billboards and commercials to get Millennials into your dealership.
Start today. Soon, Millennials will be making life-long loyalty-altering decisions about automobile brands that have served them well, while discounting those who have neglected to cater to their needs. Millennials need you to demonstrate your appreciation for their generation's individuality, not just make empty promises through their televisions. To once again quote the man who kicked the automotive industry into gear: "You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." Ford knew something that seems to have been forgotten today -- you can try to sell people on your brand all you want, but unless you prove to them that you can follow through, it won't make a lick of difference. And this is the key to capturing the attention of the Millennial market.
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