Know how to tell bad strategic advice from good strategic advice?
Bad strategic advice tells you that you absolutely, positively NEED to do something. Good strategic advice, on the other hand, lays out options, opportunities, and risks.
Video may be the exception to the rule. For car dealerships, digital video is the most likely candidate for what people call a “disruptive technology,” or a technology that transforms how an industry does business. If you’ve ever asked yourself why do you need a digital marketing strategy, video is an excellent and pressing reason.
Will digital video disrupt every dealership at once? No. Dealerships that serve certain consumer segments and do business in certain geographic locations may be able to ignore video for years to come. Other dealerships are being disrupted by it now.
Let’s start by talking about why video fits into your digital marketing strategy. From there, we’ll talk about digital video’s basic function, seven different types of automotive video content and how to make video content work for your dealership. We’ll close by talking about one type of digital video that deserves special consideration.
Why video fits.
Out of all the technologies we talk about in this series, video may have the most potential to transform the ways cars are sold to consumers. It’s possible that digital video will lead us to a world where most consumers buy their cars online, but that’s a subject for another day.
For now, we can check out these statistics, complements of Google.
75% of auto shoppers say that online video has shaped their shopping habits or purchases.
40% of auto shoppers who used video for research say that it helped them discover a vehicle they weren’t previously aware of or considering.
60% of auto shoppers who used video for research reported visiting a dealership or dealer website after viewing a video.
The numbers suggest that video marketing strategies are a valuable part of your toolkit.
What video does.
If you ever pick up a classic strategic book like Thomas Schelling’s Arms and Influence or Hans Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations you’ll see that the author spends some time breaking down a basic concept, like a river that separates two countries or the difference between radio and TV. There’s a good reason for this. When you understand the properties of familiar things in a clear way, it’s easier to use those things to understand and resolve strategic problems. In that spirit, let’s talk about three basic things that video does.
Video simulates experiences. Video test drives and 360-degree tours of a vehicle’s interior are straightforward examples of this.
Video educates. An online car review gives the consumer a perspective on the advantages and pitfalls of owning a certain car. An instructional video teaches a car owner how to change an air filter, video content on winter maintenance might give the owner a range of cold weather tips, etc.
Video entertains. A car commercial featuring an attractive couple on a cross-country adventure tells a story about the kinds of experiences a specific model of Toyota, Subaru, or Ford can deliver. A YouTube car vlogger livens up the topic of cars by being funny, insightful, having a big personality, and so on.
These three functions of video usually overlap. A Range Rover cruising down an alpine road in a traditional car commercial simulates the ownership experience to some extent, as well as teaches the consumer what sets a Range Rover apart from a more modest car, even though the commercial like this is usually most focused on storytelling (or “entertaining”).
All three functions serve a purpose, and all three can increase online engagement and drive consumers to your showroom. A simulated experience gives the consumer the “next best thing to being there,” allowing the consumer to zero in on specific car or type of car without having to sit in or drive each one. Education is essential, mainly because vehicles have a lot of individual differences that the car buyer might want to explore before making their next purchase.
Entertainment matters too. Not only does the content itself have to be engaging for the viewer to want to watch it, but advertising tells a story about what ownership can be like.
Effective video marketing strategies focus on content that hits all three functions, be it in each individual video or over multiple videos. Car dealership video marketing should addresses all three areas.
Types of Digital Video Content
According to recent research by Google, there are seven basic types of automotive video content.
Each type has advantages and disadvantages for car dealerships, and each reflects different video marketing strategies. Take a look for some car dealership video ideas you can implement.
Every dealership knows what a commercial is, and these are still a useful video marketing tool. Their main purposes are to familiarize market consumers with the dealership, highlight a specific promotion or event, and to establish the dealership as the place where Car X can be bought. Commercials tend to get wide exposure but low user engagement, which is fine because commercials exist to highlight a brand rather than build a brand following for their own sake. Digital video is shifting the industry away from the traditional 30-second local TV spot and toward formats like six-second YouTube bumper ads. These ads connect more directly to the research stage of car shopping; and you can play them around car-oriented videos, rather than broadcast them to your local market as a whole.
Highlights are videos that feature cool cars tricks, showcase interesting roads, and highlight driving experiences that are outside the norm for most drivers. These videos attract a lot of views and engagement, and if a dealership has access to the content (or an opportunity to share other people’s content), these can be an excellent marketing tool for certain dealerships. A lot of this content has a rough-and-ready feel about it, but making a video that is sufficiently “cool” on your own can take some effort.
Digital films are longer videos that tend to have a narrative attached to them. In many cases, they’re a lot like OEM commercials with longer runtimes. Production quality tends to be important, but according to Google what’s key is pairing a solid distribution strategy with unique content. Performance between digital films can vary wildly. Dealerships have an opening here if they’re willing to invest the resources in making a good video.
Maintenance videos are usually made by car enthusiasts and focus on giving maintenance and repair tips. This kind of content is geared toward the do-it-yourself crowd, but also includes tips on more basic topics like choosing the right kind of oil. Maintenance videos get high viewership and high engagement. They may present a content opportunity for dealerships, especially if they focus on the dealer’s brand. These videos rarely demand high production costs.
VLOGS, or video logs, provide a personal perspective on automotive topics. Usually posted to YouTube, these videos star “an influencer” who may be a credible expert on cars, an engaging personality, or both. These videos get some of the highest engagement numbers on YouTube. As things stand now, car brands and dealerships are more likely to strike up a relationship with a vlogger than they are to become a vlogger themselves. This makes sense because the format tends to be focused on providing a third-party perspective.
Educational content seeks to educate the consumer about car ownership, driving, automotive history and related topics. Examples might include a video buying guide or instructional content on tread depth. Some of these videos can be a lot like the maintenance category, without the expectation that the car owner will want to do the work herself. These too, present an opportunity for car dealerships.
Review videos do just what the name says – review different kinds of cars. Most dealerships will not be able to pull off video content that suggests one make and model of vehicle is better than another (the customer is likely to assume that the content is biased), but virtual test drives and feature tours can be thought of as review videos as well. Review videos present an excellent opportunity.
Where to invest?
Digital video, digital marketing, and the car buyer’s journey are in a constant state of change. Therefore, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to say video commercials are always right and digital films are always wrong (there may be one exception, which we talk about below). A better way to approach the problem is by asking which video marketing strategies are the best fit for your dealership’s market and goals.
If, for instance, your goal is to create brand awareness then YouTube ads connected to other people’s content may be your best bet. This will get your dealership’s name in front of a lot of different consumers in a targeted way.
If you have a specialty or elite brand dealership, or if there’s something about your locale that makes it intriguing, then highlight videos and digital films may be the best video marketing strategies for you.
If you sell car brands that attract a lot of enthusiasts and do-it-yourself types, maybe you can get some mileage out of how-to maintenance videos straight from the dealership.
The possibilities are endless. Consumer data insights can help you locate the best options for you, and data analytics come in handy when you’re measuring content performance.
How about that exception?
We’ve done a lot of work on the modern car buyer’s journey. We think that a type of video that local dealerships should always keep in mind are videos that simulate car ownership, like test drives and virtual tours. Our reasoning is that consumers are starting to handle more of their research online, and video content that places users in the driver’s seat, so to speak, will become increasingly important to getting them on the lot.
According to Google, sixty-four percent of car buyers who use video for research would consider purchasing a car based on a high-quality video…no test drive needed. Watch time for “test drive” videos on YouTube has gone up around 65% in the last couple of years. Not every dealership and local market will be impacted by these changes at the same rate of speed, but if video lives up to its promise this is the most likely route it will take.