automotive | tribes | 7 min read

Driven Females: Trends and Opportunities in EV

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Women are a key consumer segment in all sectors of the economy, but continue to be under-appreciated and underrepresented in automotive and mobility. Astonishingly, nearly 80% of all household car decisions are influenced by women, and they account for a larger proportion of license holders in all demographics above age 25. Yet women only make up 20% of the online EV conversation. Despite their critical role in both purchasing and usage, what accounts for this disconnect in marketing and acknowledgment by automotive brands?

This disconnect is most pronounced within the premium sports car EV segment. The overrepresentation of the male perspective and misaligned advertising is a holdover from the traditional advertising tactics that have always sold ICE luxury sports vehicles. However, assuming that women will enthusiastically buy an EV despite this unbalanced approach  is not a winning strategy.

It is not just a question of knowing how to effectively market to women, as successful campaigns have been run in the past. Brands have an opportunity to increase their share of the market by capitalizing on this trend, but they need to take an informed approach. How can businesses actively and accurately target their tribes and address the real needs of their key consumers?

An Emerging Tribe: Driven Females 

If the status quo was effective, women would be purchasing and discussing EVs at a proportionate rate to how they normally interact with ICE vehicles.  Even when factoring in the overall increases in EV conversations in relation to COVID-19, female participation only rose +.8% to make up approximately 20% of the EV conversation.


Source: Linkfluence E-Mobility Report

Savvy marketers don’t need to re-invent the wheel, the future of the mobility market is leaning electric. Although sales of all vehicles are down in 2020, electric vehicles have outsold their internal combustion engine competitors during the ongoing crisis. As the infrastructure improves, and consumer perspectives shift, we will see stronger sales outcomes for EVs.

However, it is clear that extra attention must be paid to how brands speak to their female demographic if they intend to grow their market share and establish themselves as a leader in the category. Luckily, for the frequently mentioned brands in the premium and luxury categories, there is plenty of room at the top: 

driven-females-ev-brandsSource: Linkfluence E-Mobility Report

The current conversation in EV is dominated by Tesla in large part thanks to the cult following of CEO Elon Musk. The closest competitor, Porsche AG, is over half a million mentions behind, but nearly 300k mentions ahead of BMW. Although the margins narrow substantially as we move down the chart, a dip of nearly 30k mentions separates Volkswagen and Audi. The online conversation around EVs is on the rise, presenting opportunities for brands wanting to capitalize on this comparatively new category. Instead of going toe to toe with the twitter game of Tesla’s Musk, brands should appeal to the values of their female consumers. Clawing back a piece of that pie successfully will take a targeted approach. 

Being purposeful and value-driven when it comes to the concerns of customers starts in the boardroom. Thankfully, the automotive industry has already made great strides to bring more women to the decision-making table. Within the premium sports car category, BMW is the clear standout competitor where 30% of their supervisory board comprises female executives. The premium German Automaker has numerous initiatives at all levels of the company, including a female Formula E rookie racer, and their international offices in the United States and the UK  have focused on recruiting more women to their workforce. 

Similar movements have taken hold across the industry. Porsche AG opened its doors to 100,000 female students to encourage participation in the technical aspects of automotive manufacturing.  Audi has a similarly strong showing in their boardroom and have championed their female executives more generally. The increasing numbers of women from the boardroom to the manufacturing plant floor, are of course heartening, but brands need to leverage their female leadership to make genuine overtures to their female consumers.

Bringing Women Into the EV Conversation

It's a thin line between pandering to your audience and communicating your brand's genuine values to your female consumers. We have brought women into the boardroom, but brands have not always managed to stick the landing in terms of execution. Despite the comedic acting, and lighthearted music, the humor fell flat:



However, that same year Audi managed to deliver a message during the Superbowl that resonated more soundly with their intended audience.

"Love this #SuperBowl ad from Audi USA, which drives home the need for equal pay for women. Now more than ever, we need ads like this which push back on gender stereotypes. Here's to creating a world where equal pay is a reality for all women. #LeanIn #DriveProgress" , said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

The Audi Superbowl ad managed to resonate with female viewers and thought leaders in huge ways. Although it still managed to ruffle the feathers of those who did not agree with sociopolitical commentary during a sporting event, the second advertisement touched exactly the consumer it wanted to touch. Audi is on the right track when appealing to value based consumers,  but while brands must pay attention to their subject and tribes, they must also consider the setting.

The method of delivery is key, it can be value-based and genuine, but if brands are seen to be opportunistic in aligning themselves with a social agenda the whole initiative could backfire. BMW went a safe route by appealing to their intended audience in the digital sphere with their ad, Sometimes Electric, Always BMW.

Or consider Volkswagen who managed to nail all the above in their timely ad for the Saudi Arabian market after women were finally given the right to drive in June 2018: 


Women have been credited with increasing Volkswagen sales in the kingdom, and were responsible for 25% of total sales for VW in Saudia Arabia in 2019. These purchases have cemented the brand as both value driven and purposeful in its approach to their customers.

These efforts have been continually rewarded, and VW continues to be a part of the conversation on the social web. Activists have appealed to VW as a trusted partner to continue their efforts in supporting a more egalitarian society. 

The campaign’s aim was to highlight the simple joys of driving, but VW inadvertently created an ad that could be applicable to all markets. Women and men both enjoy driving, and neither group needs to be pandered to or othered to achieve marketing goals.

Driven Females: the Future of EV

There is a disconnect between women and EV manufacturers because brands are not connecting with their audience in meaningful ways. By falling short, companies are leaving an enormous segment of the population up for grabs. Within the context of the ongoing pandemic, female drivers are claiming the need for electric cars and strongly support the shift to e-mobility. Women are already pointing to the fragility of the current transportation system and emphasizing the necessity for greener alternatives.

By not effectively marketing to Driven Females, they are not bringing women into the EV conversation. Women can champion the industry, but almost 40% of them did not relate to their counterparts in automotive advertising according to a 2015 Unilever study.

Five years on, not much has changed.

Former Jaguar Executive, Rhidian Taylor, highlighted this phenomenon in explaining Jaguar's advertising campaign, Bend the Rules:

“It just makes good business sense to market to women when they are buying 42% of new cars” explained Taylor. Although the E-Pace is not an electric vehicle, Jaguar is already setting the stage and inserting themselves into female consumer minds with this tongue in cheek ad. There are also many possibilities in the market for quality advertising that does not need to be subversive or make a political statement, and women are responding in kind. 

Time for Change

These challenges are not exclusive to the automotive industry, but given the circumstances, now is a particularly timely moment to address them. From fast food to CPG brands more generally, all industries have faced a reckoning point in the last 20 years as consumers become more conscious of the structures upholding societal norms. The automotive and mobility industry have come a long way, but leaving women out of the conversation not only impacts your bottom line, but will impede the accomplishment of the EV goals many brands have set for themselves.

It is possible to address these issues now, stay ahead of the competition, and reach those goals on target. Are you ready for more valuable insights? Get the report, What's the Future of E-Mobility?, to find out how to adjust your focus to all the tribes impacting your brand.

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