Analysts predict that the incoming Biden Administration could accelerate the biggest technological shift in the automobile industry this century. The industry has steadily advanced over the last 20 years as automation in manufacturing plants has improved processes and infrastructure-connectivity has become more widely available to consumers. With plans to reach net-zero emissions in the USA by 2050, the incoming policy changes will reach far beyond American borders. While international lockdown measures continue to impede movement, they have also accelerated conversations around limiting auto-pollution and clean energy solutions. As policy initiatives promise billions of dollars to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) production, brands must be ready to jump on opportunities to increase e-mobility adoption.
We have discussed the tribes and global trends around driving electric cars into the spotlight, namely sustainability and climate consciousness. Now, as policy and corporate strategy converge in 2021, a laser-focused plan to target prime consumers will be a big key to success. Staying proactive and maintaining a consumer-centric approach to shaping company-wide strategy can help firms adapt to the rapidly changing trends. With the United States poised to blow the door open on EV and mobility, how can brands best connect with key tribes on the social web to capitalize on these trends?
Identifying Your Key Consumer
Many in the automotive and mobility industry have already identified the opportunities social intelligence can bring their labels. Automakers like VW, whose subsidiaries include Audi and Porsche among others, have already publicly celebrated the promised policy changes. Volkswagen AG CEO Herbert Diess has been among the more vocal, saying a Biden presidency would be “more aligned” with the automaker's global strategy to increase the production of EVs and combat climate change. It is important to take a closer look at how consumers are responding to this administration change as it relates to e-mobility.
We have previously analyzed 4.41 million mentions of EVs over 16 months on the English speaking social web to identify consumers based on their attitudes, behaviors, topics of interest, and passions. The five tribes identified in our Future of E-Mobility Report continue to be deeply invested and vocal about the evolution of the industry. These tribes are not only weighing the changes they are capable of making today, but they are also discussing plans to purchase an EV:
- Urban Technophiles: Whether they are driving their EV to work at a tech startup or using seamless app integration to track their nightly run from their smartwatch, Urban Technophiles always stay connected.
- Go-green Families: Safety, reliability, tax exemptions, or environmental impact? Go-green Families consider all of these factors while on the hunt for mid-priced EVs. Their car is an investment in their families and the future of the planet.
- Digital Leaders: Ambitious and status-driven, these connoisseurs of the “modern luxury” experience are always at the forefront of lifestyle trends. Stylish innovation is the key to winning this tribe over.
- Holistic Change-makers: For this young tribe, social responsibility and self-development are top priorities. Living green is a way of life and society’s transition to EVs is only one piece of the puzzle.
- Urban Tastemakers: Design and improved air quality make this tribe of urban dwellers fans of electric vehicles. They are always ready to try out new tech and were among the early adopters of e-scooters.
From incentivizing EV purchases with tax breaks, infrastructural improvements to charging stations, and a push for green energy fleets in cities, there are many policy proposals in the works. Social-Consciousness and Eco-Responsibility are top of mind for many consumers. These purpose-driven consumers are willing to pay up to 40% more if the label they are purchasing from offers full accountability from the bottom of the supply chain to the boardroom. Whether your target audience is more focused on technology or the environment, creating relationships between your brand and nurturing the connections between your consumers will take your marketing beyond traditional methods.
Keeping Up With the Trends
When President Biden was first elected as Vice President in 2008, Tesla had just released their first electric car, the Tesla Roadster. Over a decade later, Tesla and its all-electric vehicle product line are valued at almost five times that of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automotive combined. Although sales of vehicles were 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 down the road.
Source: Linkfluence E-Mobility Report
Transportation trends are directly impacted by the continued urbanization of the global population. While regulations and political pressure are a key trend to track for automakers, there are four key pillars that every brand should keep top of mind through 2021.
In an increasingly digitalized society, consumers are increasingly looking to technology to fix societal problems. Drivers and car owners are looking for a seamless driving experience, and automotive companies are delivering on that desire. From self-driving cars to driver assistance systems, tech advances are making vehicles safer. Although no car currently for sale in the USA can claim the title of “fully autonomous”, Tesla’s autopilot is the industry leader when it comes to advanced driver assistance systems. This attention to tech advances and safety touches EV tribes like the Digital Leaders, Urban Technophiles, and GoGreen Families. For brands with an eye to digitalization, targeting these groups and highlighting tech and safety advances can bring success in the coming year.
The @UKVolkswagen ID.3 gained the highest score of all the cars tested under 2020's new, stricter crash test regime, plus its ability to prevent accidents in the first place was rated highest.— What Car? (@whatcar) January 14, 2021
That's why it wins the #WhatCarAwards Safety Award, sponsored by @ThatchamRsrch 👏🏆🎉 pic.twitter.com/kaNs7PyYLK
Although “all roads lead to electrification” as Christophe Hardy, Manager Brand Communication for Toyota Motor Europe explained, the key concern is that this shift remains sustainable.
Fuel cell and battery tech innovations were spurred not only by a need to manufacture vehicles more efficiently, but also by increasingly strict emission regulations. On the consumer side, this has a direct impact on air quality in cities and air pollution in general.
The Biden Administration has targeted children's school busses as a key area of focus, emphasizing the steps many have taken in reducing harmful air pollution and its effects on children's health. American EV manufacturers have a leg up over the competition as policy-makers aim to transition 500,000 school buses from internal combustion engine vehicles to American-made, zero-emission alternatives by 2026. For city-dwelling tribes like the Urban Tastemakers, this consideration has an immediately tangible result in improving their quality of life.
Smart Mobility Solutions
From scooters, bikes, self-driving vehicles, and even ride-sharing e-mobility can also mean smart solutions. For tribes that enjoy new technological innovations and value access to convenient e-mobility tools, this trend is top of mind. German manufacturer Audi AG have enlisted the help of brand ambassadors like Formula-E racers to spread this message on social media.
Bringing e-mobility solutions to a wider market is a logical next step for many automotive companies. Tribes like the Urban Tastemakers may not have much use for a personal car they own and instead spend much more money on ride-share services. For brands looking to gain ground with this tribe, partnerships with ride-share companies and more solutions geared toward navigating a city can bring new fans to the label. With new tech and more visibility, tribes like the “modern luxury” loving Digital Leaders and tech-focused Urban Technophiles can also be brought into the fold.
Strong Brand Purpose
Making a positive social impact requires active attention to positioning efforts and clear brand values. The switch to electric does not undermine previous branding efforts for ICE vehicles, but can bolster commitments to them. EVs have faced significant regulatory and consumer adoption challenges in the last 20 years, but have still managed to come out on top.
General Motors Chief Executive Officer, Mary Barra, supported the shift to electric but made sure to keep branding and positioning at the forefront of the wider strategy. Ahead of an expanded EV product line, the American manufacturing giant brought up the release date of the battery-powered Hummer Pickup truck to 2021. Throwing the weight of their teams’ production capabilities behind EV with one of their most iconic products signals to consumers that this is not a one-time development.
As some of the newest competitors in the automotive space are now the strongest performers in the market, e-mobility companies need to focus on obtaining a concrete understanding of the trends. Consumer demand has remained stable throughout the pandemic and Tesla even managed to increase sales in March 2020 as they shifted to an online-only model. Their success shows that a laser focus on remaining agile through the end of the pandemic can produce real results.
These trends are also not exclusive to the United States and the new administration. Local and federal governments in Europe and Asia have already taken the steps to incentivize buyers and improve rapid charging infrastructure. Now, by broadening the understanding of the social trends affecting the industry, marketers can help pave the way to future success. Brands that leverage the social conversation and other market influences to make a meaningful change can shape the future by inspiring a positive version of it.
On the Road to Success
Uncovering what consumers are most attracted to when considering an electric vehicle takes a deep understanding of the market. A unique opportunity is presenting itself for automotive brands as consumers actively consider a greener and more sustainable post-pandemic world. Savvy marketers don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but the future of the mobility market is leaning electric. The power is now in the hands of the automotive manufacturers to shape consumer perception in the post-pandemic world.
Insights are for more than just the marketing team. You can inform the whole brand lifecycle and decision-making process to strengthen your strategies. Stay on top of the trends impacting the mobility market by keeping up with the consumer tribes most ready for the changes. Consumer insights on demand can enable you to tap into trends as they emerge.