Content Marketing in the Car Industry: Automotive Apps

With mobile technology on the rise, marketers across industries have taken a whole new approach to content marketing in the form of mobile apps. With over one million apps available across multiple platforms—iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry—several car companies have seized this opportunity and developed automotive apps to serve branded content to their customers.

Since 2010, over 50% of all Internet browsing is done through a handheld mobile device. For brands looking to sell their products, this gives consumers the opportunity to shop anywhere. But apps also boost brand awareness and affinity. Getting on the same page with buyers is the first step to getting them in the door (or driver’s seat, in this case). In fact, some auto brands are going as far as creating test drive experiences through apps.

Here’s a look at how three car companies are merging automotive apps and content to create a new and innovative strategy for their brands—and why some are succeeding more than others.


Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has earned a rightful place among the best of the best in luxury car brands, and they’ve taken to mobile devices to reiterate their position in the market. When you think of Mercedes you think fashionable, sexy, elite. All of the Mercedes apps exude those very adjectives. The luxury car company has introduced two key content hubs in the form of mobile applications—Mercedes-Benz TV and Mercedes-Benz magazine—each with their own type of content.

What they’ve done well: On Mercedes TV, you’ll find tons of videos about Mercedes vehicles, innovation, design, sports, fashion and history. Man Against Machine, a beautifully executed video, shows a longboarder in a staged competition to race down a windy street in South Africa against a Mercedes. The music is stunning, the visuals are captivating, and in the end, man defeats machine. For a corporation as large (and dare we say egotistical) as Mercedes to show such modesty makes the brand more relatable and the video more likely to be consumed, enjoyed and shared. Speaking of social sharing, the app has a seamless way for users to post content on Facebook and Twitter or forward via email—a key component to successful content marketing.

Where there’s room for improvement: Much of the content is, to put it bluntly, boring. Mercedes customers who aren’t avid car enthusiasts will find the content quite dull. Additionally, Mercedes-Benz magazine requires users to download an entire issue (a painstakingly long process) before they can consume any of the content. This is detrimental to the user experience because we have come to expect apps to produce immediate results. After all, that is the point of downloading an app onto your device—instant gratification and elimination of the clunky browser. The app would benefit from a more unified way for users to read, watch and share.


Lexus

Yet another luxury car brand that has employed content marketing in the form of mobile apps, Lexus houses its app content in the My Lexus and Beyond app. Lifestyle content is presented in the form of articles and videos accompanied by crisp visuals. Articles discuss Lexus technology and other topics of interest to their target market including sports, travel, arts, food and philanthropy.

What they’ve done well: Lexus demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of their market’s interests and serves up content to meet those needs. In The Adventurers, the car company tells the story of two eco-activists who use “extreme exploration” as their way of traveling and changing the world. The content is extremely interesting—one of the men tells of his visit to the South Pole—and  mentions the Lexus brand minimally. This type of lightly-branded content is what resonates with and interests people—and it’s what will keep them coming back to the Lexus app for more.

Where there’s room for improvement: While the app is well-designed, easy to navigate and features great content, some of the topics in the side navigation bar don’t produce many results (for example, “Road Trip” only serves up two articles). The app needs to add more content so that these pages don’t turn up minimal, unattractive listings. Additionally, all of the car maintenance tips are featured as videos. The app would probably benefit Lexus and its customers more if there were additional assets that provided useful car care information.


Toyota

Toyota is one of the most trusted and dependable brands in the industry. They’re relatable, reliable and economical. Customers would expect the same characteristics from the app, which presents content in “tappable” blocks featuring images of Toyota vehicles and celebrities.

What they’ve done well: Not much, to be honest. The images are stunning and clear. The app is aesthetically pleasing with different assets presented in blocks with imagery that rotates, providing an interesting and dynamic interface. It’s simple in design, which is difficult for app developers to do. Sometimes apps try to do too much with too many features, but Toyota remains minimalist in its approach. It’s also really easy to “Shop” within the app and check out different vehicles, color options and additional features.

Where there’s room for improvement: The content found in Toyota’s app is extremely sales heavy. Consumers are keen to notice the difference between when they’re being advertised to and when they’re actually being engaged. There’s a video featuring Martha Stewart awkwardly (and unconvincingly) claiming how much she loves the Toyota Avalon and wants to drive it around the showroom. Many of the other videos don’t work when you try to play them, as the app tells you that the video is private. Also, this app is only available on the iPad, neglecting a large market segment—the bargain shoppers—a group that Toyota shouldn’t be ignoring.


We certainly found room for improvement with each automotive app, but we should take a step back and applaud each brand for braving the mobile app space. Over time we will see more auto companies driving into mobile app use to create competition amongst user experience, features, shopping exclusives and relatable content.

What type of car do you drive? If you were presented with automotive apps for a new car you were considering, would you be persuaded to make a purchasing decision based on the content in that mobile experience? Discuss in the comments below!

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