Betting On Bigger Automotive Futures

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I love spontaneous experiments. Last week, I bet a few of my friends they couldn’t correctly identify some new cars on the road. After the usual back and forth jabs that come with any bet, I pulled out my phone and searched for pictures of unbranded cars. With the exception of the BMW 3-series, many had no clue what any of the other vehicles were. In fact, most said “That looks like a Toyota or Honda.” Or, “it’s kind of like my sister’s car.” While many of my friends gave it their best, their failure to name many of them is symptomatic of a bigger problem in today’s automobile market – a lack of differentiation in consumers’ minds.

With over 264 different models on the road, how can a brand or vehicle stand out if consumers are overwhelmed and unclear about what is being offered?

More than ever, clear strategic product positioning is needed. This is especially true as purchase behavior slides more and more towards consuming the meanings and ethos associated with products than their functions. No longer can brands differentiate their products by solely focusing on features that competitors can duplicate or imitate. Vehicles need to provide consumers with a unique and compelling idea – beyond the product itself – an idea they can believe in and remember.

To develop a positioning that is truly compelling and differentiated you need to understand ‘why’ people need your vehicle more than ‘what’ they need it for.

By combining innovative thought and research techniques, BrandIQ goes beyond investigating the rational or functional benefits such as seat folding mechanisms or infotainment technologies, and into unearthing the deeper self-expressive needs that drive engagement and purchase behavior. It’s not enough for consumers to tell us that a car “has best in-class horsepower,” “helps the environment,” or “was the first.” While these points are important, we need to understand why consumers care about these things. Once this is uncovered a truly persuasive positioning concept can be developed, vetted among all key stakeholders, and put into action.

While no silver bullet exists to prevent competition, investing in strategic positioning when you’re crafting new products or breathing life into under-performing ones is essential to standing out in the market.

With today’s fierce competition, increasing costs, and an expected sales surge from years of pent up demand, can anyone really afford a flop? Only when opportunity and creativity converge does game-changing innovation occur. Automotive brands that want to stay relevant to consumers will need to quickly harness the power of strategic and creative thinking to pave the way for newer expressions and increased sales. This bigger future begins by investing in a product positioning that is truly ‘good and different.’