Operating a consistent global automotive brand

Of all of life’s mod cons, is there one more important than the car? You could argue the television or the plane is a bigger invention, but the car might be the one that has affected the cultural zeitgeist the most. Most of the towns and cities in the world are designed around their existence after all.

As such, every corner of the world has its own approach to the world of automobiles. This means the biggest car manufacturers in the world have to adjust how they approach every country, accounting for their differences in taste while also trying to keep a consistent message.

It can seem like an impossible task; so how do car manufacturers change their approach from country to country? What factors might affect that decision? And what can they do to still keep the same brand image across the globe?


Cars across the world

So how does car culture vary across countries? It used to be, some 15-20 years ago, that each region had its clear preferences. Over in the US, pickup trucks like the Ford F-series were far and away (and still are) the best sellers. Yet over in Europe, they had a liking for smaller diesel hatchbacks. And while prestige in the west was linked to any expensive cars, over in China, a mark of wealth was a big saloon car. And in India, they were mainly interested in models that could cope with the more challenging road surfaces and conditions.

But we live in a much different world now. In a globalised market, with social media giving us a glimpse into life around the world and emissions standards changing for the better, the differences are far less marked.

There has been a shift; pickup trucks are still best sellers in the US but are losing market share; for example, the Honda Civic and Accord were some of the most popular cars for three years in a row. With the dieselgate scandal in Europe, and the political to-and-fro around nitrous oxide emissions, sales of diesel cars have nosedived. Over in China, meanwhile, all manner of cars are doing well, with the deep-pocketed children of the old political elite buying the prestige cars they see across the world. SUVs, in particular, are faring well over there – from big-name brands too, beating out the state-owned manufacturers. And in India, the burgeoning middle classes also want their fair share of western prestige brands. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are the top three luxury brands in the country, closely followed by Jaguar Land Rover.

So the lines between countries have blurred. While each location might have its own particular brands, there’s a greater desire for these big, global names. Not to mention the fact everyone is looking at EVs.

It isn’t insular, local culture that drives things anymore; people are aligning with a brand that represents a certain lifestyle as opposed to simply just a type of car. People trust brands. When doing their online research, 74% of consumers turn to branded video content for information. It’s something the savvier car brands are hoping to capitalise on. This presents an issue, though: how can you be a consistent ‘global’ brand?


Maintaining consistency

Somewhere this can trip car brands up is in the marketing. After all, how can manufacturers ensure dealerships around the world are representing your car in the right way? They will be operating in a very local context. If your cars are popular in different regions, you want to make sure it comes across as effectively to your US audience as it does to your European audience as it does to your Indian audience, and so on.

The important part is making sure the car itself comes across in the right way. It can be a limitation of on-location shooting for marketing materials. It might look good on the sun-drenched roads of LA, but will that speak to your audience on the other side of the world? Won’t they want to see it in a context more familiar to them?

That’s why CG imagery and sting movies are being used more and more across global brands like ŠKODA and are proving to be very effective. A CG render of your car can be inserted into any location you wish, be it the streets of Berlin or those of Bangladesh. They work particularly well as bookends to commercials and ensures your car looks the same in every shot. It means everyone across the world sees the car as you intend it to be seen.


Online solutions

It streamlines your marketing efforts; if you set out to convey one key message in your material you can rest assured it will happen in all your target markets. It’s a consistent through-line that keeps your branding on track, especially online. 95% of consumers find their information online when looking at cars, with twice as many people starting their research online versus at a dealership. So you want your online solutions for engagement, brand-building, and configuration to be global in nature.

Globalisation has changed the face of many markets and the automotive sector is no different. Companies have this delicate balancing act of assimilating to cultural differences while maintaining their global image. It’s a fine art but something that can easily be achieved by finding solutions that save you time while putting your best self forward.

At REALTIME, we are proud of the relationships we have with many leading car manufacturers who operate in markets all over the world and we have faced these challenges with them. If you would like to talk about collaborating on a future project, you can reach out to me at [email protected].