Why content is the future driving force for automotive brands

We talked to C3’s content strategist Elmar Brümmer about what's in store for communications in the automotive sector

Last week we co-hosted an automotive briefing with The Drum and AutoTrader at our SevenC3 offices. Featuring a panel of leading experts from brands including Bentley and AutoTrader, we discussed how digitalisation, new communication habits and current events are dramatically reshaping the automotive industry. 

Almost every auto manufacturer creates content marketing in one form or another. The industry recognises the advantages of getting in early – the fact that C3 was recently honoured by the German Design Council as Automotive Agency of the Year 2017 is proof of this. But the automotive industry is not just in a state of flux because of what’s in the headlines. It needs to position itself properly for the future – with fresh content.

Leading up to the panel, we wanted to investigate what's keeping the automotive industry moving – so we found out what C3's content strategist Elmar Brümmer thought the future has in store for communications and marketing in the sector.


Where do you think the automotive industry will be in five years' time?

'Experience the future' was the motto of IAA [International Motor Show] 2017. It sounds commendable, but somehow also a bit lame – heard too often, misused too often. Things are going in the right direction, though. The car industry has to prove itself once more. Its image is tarnished, and not only in Germany. The best way to win back people’s trust is not just through innovation, but also through how brands position themselves. The keyword here is approachable. In the future, it won’t be individual models that determine how successful a brand will be. The image and strength of a brand will also be determined by whether it is perceived more as a mobility service than as an automobile manufacturer. This means they will have to spend more time thinking about what people need and less about the requirements of the engineers. Digital services will be what separates the winners from the losers. Connectivity is also a great opportunity. People want to stay connected when they’re in their cars, and not just use them to go from A to B.

What will that mean for how companies tackle marketing and communication?

The automotive industry has realised it needs a new story. The upshot of this is that content-driven communication will be the driving force of the future – as long as it is what good content should be: believable, helpful, surprising. Nobody can rely solely on the emotion-driven idea of a car making people’s dreams come true or the gloss of expensive paint. The U-turn has to happen now, even though the automotive industry is currently at an intermediate stage, because people want to know where they’re headed on their journey. Virtual reality is all well and good, but it has to fit in with reality. Discounts and premiums will remain important criteria in making decisions, but are no substitute for sustainable content when you want to win over new target groups. This applies to the big suppliers’ market too, whose business model is also rapidly changing. They often have more exciting stories to tell, because they’re at the beginning of the innovation chain. The key word for all industry players involved with the cars of the future is relevance. The big auto companies must position themselves in opposition to – or alongside – new players.

Who in the automotive industry is already using new methods of communicating?

Mercedes has ventured into the middle ground between advertising and content marketing with its worldwide campaign 'Grow up'. This two-tier approach works – as long as you are still involved with the individual stories and haven’t yet looked at the catalogue with the optional extras – but that’s one industry giant that’s trying to win people over with storytelling. Auto companies have realised that they need to look for other opinion-forming communication channels, such as blogging. There are signs of a transformation in how brands communicate.

If you want to hear more from SevenC3 on the future of the automotive industry, stay tuned for our wrap-up video. For now, if you have any questions about our automotive briefing, please contact us