People don’t purchase cars like they do groceries. People generally don’t even purchase cars once a year; it’s often a 5-10 year affair.
How, then, is the automotive word-of-mouth model capable of successfully creating impressions and increasing sales?
BMW, a heavyweight at WOM marketing strategy, has a few learning points for us.
1. Different markets want different things, so segment and specialize your engagement markets
“One of the most important ways to sell a car in China is word-of-mouth. People are listening to their friends, customers want to know what are the experiences of others with a product. So they are listening carefully. If you do not deliver the highest quality all of the time, your customer satisfaction goes down. Dissatisfied customers always talk about that they are not satisfied. So immediately if you don’t deliver, it would affect sales, [and] sales would be going down.” – Karsten Engel, CEO of BMW China
With such a large global consumer market in the automobile industry, marketing and WOM models can be specially developed for particular regional markets. In fact, BMW China recognized the different demands of the Chinese consumer, and the strong impact of WOM amongst consumer circles. In response, they launched specially redesigned certain car models to suit the Chinese market.
Knowledge of the market in regional specificities allowed the company to respond to the place-specific demand with quality products, generating more impressions and sales.
2. Get personal with your customers – especially when you brand yourself as a luxury brand
Having already had an established loyal customer base, BMW maintains its relationship with its customers through personalized experiences and cement the patron-client relationship.
In an industry with costlier end-products like automobile industry, getting personal with the customers is a crucial way to secure brand loyalty in the long run.
Part of the BMW 4 Series global launch in 2014 included having two BMW fans picked to experience a weekend with the new cars, scenic drives and track time with professional drivers – this was a great way to engage with the customers by launching a competition for the weekend, generating excitement about the car and the prize.
At the same time, the #un4gettable event generated a massive amount of organic WOM, with 2.8 millions impressions on Twitter alone
BMW also scored major brownie points when they designed a car to fulfill a boy’s dream of having a BMW car customization. Through the power of social media, this received international press coverage and more than 11 million media impressions, generating an unprecedented volume of WOM online and offline!
3. Pair up with organizations and engage in campaigns with a good cause
BMW’s partnership with the USA Olympic Team was to achieve great heights in 2011, despite being a non-Olympic year, generating WOM impressions and strengthening the partnership.
Organizing 277 special test-drive events in the year alone, customers were invited to test drive cars and even meet with American Olympic athletes.
The success of the marketing event led to the creation of the BMW Performance Team for the Olympics and resulted in more than 25 000 test drives, with 22% test drivers purchasing BMW cars in the following 6 months.
The “Test Drive a BMW and Support a Team USA Athlete” campaign was mutually beneficial, as BMW donated $10 to Team USA for every car, while the partnership combined the two causes and the two target audience, creating more content and platforms for WOM.
So, BMW taught us…
- Knowing your markets and figuring out what works best is key
- Pampering your customers as well as engaging with them on social media is a good way to assure brand loyalty
- Pairing up with organisations for a good cause helps create a positive brand image