how can the new Ford Bronco take advantage of
the auto industry’s burgeoning disloyalty?
Car brand loyalty is on the downturn. What was once an industry driven by committed customers is now an open road for savvy auto marketers. With more car choices than ever before, household incomes changing, and many automakers not providing optimal customer service levels, today’s car buyers are prepared to consider other options.
According to a pre-pandemic Mintel report, 44% of consumers are looking to different brands when purchasing their next vehicle. These switchers are looking elsewhere for a variety of reasons, often associated with reliability issues or auto brands simply not understanding their needs. With a wealth of vehicle options available, including increasingly affordable electric cars, buyers are able to take a step back from what they’re used to and consider other options.
While certain brands like Subaru are able to deliver consistent experiences and maintain their annual loyalty levels, other automakers, like Ford, are completely inconsistent, pulling in buyers one year and losing them another year. And with the 2021 Ford Bronco getting ready to launch, expectations of Ford’s upcoming Jeep Wrangler killer are riding high. The competition will indeed be fierce, after all, Jeep was recently proclaimed to be more beloved than Disney. But if all goes well, and the new Bronco can deliver, then Ford can expect to see their loyalty levels get a boost.
But as marketers, this open relationship can also represent ample opportunity. The volatile levels of car brand loyalty create a constant flux, and ultimately an open playing field for auto brands looking to subvert their rivals’ less-than-faithful. Whether it’s not meeting customer demand or providing inadequate customer service, many brands are consistently susceptible to losing clientele to rivals.
With more car models to choose from than ever before, customers have increased opportunities to leave what they’re used to. In 2019 we saw a record 257 car models available, providing wandering eyes with plenty of places to look.
Gen Z and Millennial buyers are another audience growing and changing rapidly. These young buyers are more likely to be less loyal for a variety of reasons, including undergoing lifestyle changes (getting married or having children), and generally being more susceptible to internet influence than prior generations. For some car-buying audiences, the question isn’t about loyalty—it’s about which brand is catering to their particular lifestyle needs. In order to deliver to these varied audiences, brands must pay attention to the interests that these audiences are engaged with.
So what? What does this mean for marketers trying to get an edge? It means that loyalty strategies are only half the battle. 50% of your buyers could very well be new to your brand. How can you target the 50% of new buyers without targeting everybody else?
- Conquest strategies are the most popular approach. Target the customers of similar brands and models with similar price-points and features as your brand and model. For Ford it will be the Jeep Wrangler. But there is caution. Anyone who knows Jeep Wrangler knows their owners can be loyalty die-hards. So targeting Jeep owners can actually be a waste. The key is to target people who have the same behaviors and attitudes as Jeep owners and may be thinking of buying a Jeep in the future.
- Understanding the intersection between Ford and Jeep fans. These are two mammoth US brands. And their fans are just as similar as they are different. Using data to understand the behavioral and interest overlaps between existing Ford and Jeep fans can provide a blueprint for targeting the next generation of Ford Bronco buyers.
- Capture the buzz. Lots of people are talking about the Ford Bronco. And why not, it’s exciting. Capturing the conversations happening in forums across Reddit, Instagram, and other social media sources can provide Ford marketers with invaluable insights about their most likely new buyers. From there, marketers can choose to scale their audience through act-alike modeling to gain efficiency along with effective targeting.
It’s a challenging time for automakers. Shrinking loyalty, an on-going pandemic, and auto-indifference among the up-and-coming millennials and xennials, can all paint a bleak picture. But challenging times always bring about great opportunities. Taking a proactive approach to targeting and advanced strategies can propel Ford and other automakers ahead of the game.
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