Is marketing the answer to car homogeneity?

Brandweek (via ) reports carmakers in the US are looking to marketing to differentiate themselves in the face of brand equality in the sector.  The talk is around creating “brand perceptions”, emotional connections and aggressive targeting of Hispanic and other demographic segments.

Most car marketing itself seems rather formulaic – you could pretty much replace the model or company in most television or magazine adverts.  A lot of new car launches also lack differentiation.

It is a highly competitive market, but thanks to regulations regarding safety standards, lack of real design individuality (could it be because car designers lack diversity as a group), and ultra-efficient production processes, it becomes harder to even spot a new model on the road, let alone feel excited enough to covet one.

New cars used to attract the same buzz as announcements such as Apple’s – but today’s innovators are more turned on by computer gadgets than shiny metal.

What about the role of public relations and corporate reputation?  Undoubtedly the worst aspect of buying or owning a car is in the experience both at retail and when dealing with manufacturers.  The reputation of “car dealers” remains as dodgy as the car mechanics and backstreet garages on popular soaps.   This isn’t helped by practices such as negotiating on price, where the public still believe they are being ripped off, despite the low margins most dealers actually face.

All that car manufacturers do when investing more and more in lifestyle marketing is to widen the gap between aspiration and reality – a focus on brand image at the expense of reputation in the motor industry . 

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.