Managing Marketing: The challenges and changes in automotive marketing

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Peter Anderson is an Automotive Journalist and chats with Darren about the changes and challenges facing the automotive industry and how the category is adapting to the changes including autonomous motor vehicles, alternative fuel, falling motor vehicle ownership amongst the Millennial Generation and addressing the needs of women buyers.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I get a chance to sit down with an old friend (not old but a friend I’ve known for a long time), Peter Anderson, who is a freelance automotive journalist of quite some renown. Welcome, Peter.

Peter:

I hope I’m of some renown.

Darren:

Yes, you get your name out there quite a lot attached to a whole lot of stories about motor vehicles.

Peter:

Well I’m an attention-whore, so that probably helps.

Darren:

But it’s interesting because it’s one category of business that is really going through some disruption as they say.

Peter:

Huge transformation.

Darren:

Because one is technology. The other is the way technology is impacting on the way people think about cars.

Peter:

Everything from start to finish about tech including sitting on a train watching car videos right through to what’s in that car? What powers that car? Do you plug this car in or do you fill it with fuel? Right across the range the second someone wakes up and says I want to buy a car it’s completely different to the way you or I bought our first cars 20 or 25 years ago.

Darren:

Well, I bought mine off my father and he was going to trade it in and he said, ‘if you pay the trade-in price’. I bought a lovely type 3 Volkswagen station wagon off my father.

Peter:

Oh nice. It’s probably still going somewhere.

Darren:

It is. In fact, he was very disappointed because when I sold it about five years later I got more money than he sold it to me for and he tried to get me to pay the difference.

Peter:

Are you sure that’s not my dad, is it? They sound like the same.

Darren:

I think all dads are the same. What was your first car?

Peter:

It was a 1979 Honda Accord SJ and it was a three-door hatchback. And it was great. $800 I paid for it and that was because it had a year’s rego.

Millennials and Cars

Darren:

It’s interesting because my grown-up daughters, who should be in the car market, are not interested in a motor vehicle at all. In fact, I offered them my father’s car because he’s got to the stage of life where it would be hazardous to himself and others if he got behind the wheel.

But he’s got a lovely Subaru Liberty that’s about 12 years old, driven by an old man, in Ballarat, and he is wanting to part with it. And they’re not interested in any sort of motor vehicle because they say it’s largely irrelevant to their life.

Peter:

Particularly inner city-dwelling kids and when I say kids I mean anyone under 21, it’s an expense. They have expenses that we didn’t have and again this is how technology has impacted our lives. We didn’t have mobiles when we bought our first car (we needed them because they were always breaking down) but we didn’t have all of these extra demands on our income because income for that age hasn’t really grown that much.

Darren:

No, entry incomes are pretty much the same as they were.

Peter:

So, there’s all of these other things that they’ve got to pay for or want to pay for and a car is now 6th or 7th on the list.

Darren:

I’m sure it was the same for you but for me a car was that step of freedom. You could actually get in the car and drive wherever you wanted and if it was yours you didn’t have to ask to borrow the keys.

Peter:

A futile gesture in our house— ‘no’ was the answer.

Darren:

Perhaps freedom is the mobile phone or internet.

Peter:

Well I think it is because you can organise yourself onto a tram with your mates or a train or a bus or whatever it is whereas you couldn’t before. You had to say, well I’ll come and pick you up or you come to my place and then you didn’t want to be where you were and culturally we’ve changed.

But certainly, technology has changed that aspect of it—that’s what they’re spending their money on. It’s a huge industry and people like Apple and Samsung are making a killing on the fact that people aren’t spending a $1,000 on a car; they’re spending it on a phone.

Darren:

The book ‘Marketing to Millennials’ says that the hierarchy of needs for the millennial at the very base says Wi-Fi even before clothing, food, and shelter Wi-Fi is the base need.

Peter:

That’s the first thing my son looks at (he’s 15) when I say we’re going to go to Canberra for a couple of days – I’ve got a car for a couple of days and the first thing he does is to check if it’s got Wi-Fi or if we’re going to Katoomba for a drive or a coffee. ‘Oh, I’m not coming’ Why because there’s no Wi-Fi—it’s that fundamental.

Darren:

And yet you’d have to say compared to the new cars we were looking at let’s say 20 years ago, cars today have so much more technology built into them, don’t they?

Peter:

For the same dollar value.

Darren:

Or even less in real terms it’s probably less.

Peter:

It’s way less. You bought a Hyundai Excel for 13990 when I was 20; you can now buy a Hyundai Accent with Apple carplay, airbags, ABS, all that stuff for 13990. In real terms, it’s probably six grand.

Darren:

Well they say money doubles every ten years.

Peter:

So, it’s actually three or four grand, yeah.

Darren:

It’s ridiculously cheap.

Peter:

Dirt cheap and that again is the result of technology because the cost of making cars has fallen dramatically with automation, which is a disruptive element.

Darren:

Globalisation.

Peter:

Globalisation—the Hyundai Accent comes from India; the Hyundai Excel came from Korea, which is more expensive.

Darren:

The Tiguan is out of Mexico.

Peter:

Yeah, a lot of VW’s come out of Mexico. You’ve got South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia. DRB Hicomb is a contractor to motor manufacturers. Alfa Romeos come out of Thailand. There are all sorts of cheap places where these things are coming from and that’s not a commonly known thing and people don’t lift the bonnet and check the compliance plate because the cars are the same no matter where they come from.

Darren:

Yeah, it’s the brand.

Peter:

Yeah, brand’s driving it all. That’s another thing that’s changed. When we were buying our first car Japanese cars were the thing because a BMW was completely out of reach.

Darren:

The European prestige. Apart from a Volkswagen. You could pick up a cheap Volkswagen but the BMWs, the Mercedes Benz.

Peter:

You can buy an Audi today for 29 grand—an A1. That was unheard of back then.

Darren:

And again that’s part of their strategy of having entry level even for premium and prestige cars that allows someone to come in at that entry level and then hopefully they’ll try and sell them up as their life stages change.

Peter:

Well, that’s why BMW bought Mini so that they didn’t have to further dilute the brand to get down into that 20-26 grand market in this country. Obviously, markets are different in every country. So, you get into a mini and then you go to the other side of the dealership, which is the BMW dealership and you’ll see a lot of common parts and that starts to glue you to those two brands.

So, if you like what’s in the Mini you’re going to be comfortable when you get into a BMW. So, there’s that user experience which has become part of the marketing. Back in the day you’d line up a set of Toyotas or Hondas or whatever; each car was quite discrete from the rest of the range but now they have this common (aided and abetted by technology).

Just about every Volkswagen now you’ll get Appleplay on that screen all the way through so you get in, plug in, I’m good.

Darren:

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Remember the good old days. I remember having an MGB and SU carbies and trying to balance those. Now, you lift up the bonnet and it’s all computer.

Peter:

Black plastic.

Darren:

And it’s totally impenetrable. Technology even in the engine itself, you know it self-diagnoses.

Peter:

It beams at you and says I’ve got something wrong with me. What? Oh, don’t worry take me to the dealer.

Darren:

Now everyone has roadside assistance. You call it up and this guy turns up in a ute and you think here comes the mechanic and no its a technology geek.

Peter:

He’s 12.

Darren:

He pulls out some piece of wiring from underneath the dash.

Peter:

The OBDB port.

Darren:

Is that what it’s called?

Peter:

On-board Diagnostics

Darren:

And he plugs it in and sits there and goes oh, it’s the third cylinder is misfiring on every fourth and you go o.k. what does that mean? And he goes it means you need a tow truck.

Peter:

That’s exactly what happens. You can actually get a little piece of hardware that talks to your phone and you could’ve worked that out yourself, you lazy bastard.

Darren:

I did not know that.

Peter:

It’s standard across all the cars.

Darren:

Isn’t that amazing? But that completely changes the whole way that people –part of owning the car was tinkering with it. I remember having to replace the spring leaf on the MGB one weekend. It took all weekend. I’m sure that if I knew what I was doing it would have taken an hour but it took the whole weekend but it was part of the fun.

Peter:

It was an adventure.

Darren:

Now you feel like you have to be a computer programmer with a PhD in automotive on-board electronics to be able to do that.

Peter:

I had this Alfa Romeo, which I adored. I’ve got so many burns from the distributer–being Italian it was right next to the exhaust manifold, which is extremely hot—and of course you tuned it when it was warm. And asbestos plugs—we had worked out by then were bad.

Darren:

Only if you chewed them and sniffed the fibres that came off.

Peter:

Anything could have torn loose in that engine and that would have been the end of us. That experience has largely gone away in cars. And what I think car companies have discovered is that people liked the rawness of that experience so now cars are all farting, and spitting, and popping particularly the sport end because that’s what people your age and my age remember—that cars made those noises.

They became really anodyne and suddenly they decided, oh we’re going to make them interesting again and that’s technology driving that because an engine management system just dumps unburnt fuel and makes it go bang rather than being out of tune.

Darren:

I remember the MX5, the Mazda Miata—they had this big thing about how they’d tuned the muffler to give it a particular sound that was reminiscent of the Lotus Elan but not exactly the same because that could have been breaching their copyright.

Peter:

As if Lotus would have gone—yeah that’s happening. They were in more trouble of MG going hang on that’s basically an MG.

Darren:

But more reliable.

Peter:

That’s right, it actually works—you’ve got a Mazda that actually turns on every time you get in it. It’s interesting how technology is being used to bring back that old experience but without all the bad stuff with old experience of getting oil on your hands.

But a friend of my son’s—he’s a bit older—he’s just bought a 1981 Toyota Corolla. And I said, ‘mate, for the money you could have bought…’. It’s way older than him.

Darren:

That qualifies as vintage or veteran? One of those.

Peter:

Historic parts. Yeah, veteran. But he said that he wanted that analogue experience that technology has taken away from cars.

Darren:

The sense of actually driving the automobile rather than just being a passenger in it. And yet at the other extreme we’re hearing a lot (and some people say it’s ten years away, some say 20) around the whole autonomous motor vehicle. And there are all sorts of crazy predictions that this will completely eliminate the idea of owning cars but do you think it will?

Peter:

No.

Autonomous Vehicles

Darren:

I drove to Ballarat to visit my father and even the idea of catching an Uber and having someone else drive me there feels weird compared to the idea of actually driving to Ballarat.

Peter:

We’re not at the crossroad yet generationally because millennials will have learnt to drive cars and I do think the autonomous stuff has still got a long way to go. I like Teslas. I’ve driven them; they’re very good cars particularly considering they weren’t even making cars ten years ago.

But you switch on auto-pilot and it will run you into a gutter occasionally and you don’t want to hear that.

Darren:

Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to hear it in an aeroplane.

Peter:

That’s right and there’s a lot less to hit in an aeroplane when you’re up there.

Darren:

Just the earth.

Peter:

That’s a big target. But I think, at its core, the car is a status symbol—look at me. I’ve got enough money to have this thing’. And that’s certainly what car makers are seeing in emerging markets like most of South East Asia and Northern Asia, India. The Tata Nano was brought out as the one Lahk car (100,000 rupees or whatever that is)—it works out at two and a half grand Australian so two grand U.S.

Nobody bought it; they didn’t want to look like a pauper. They preferred to stay on their mopeds than buy this car and that had Tata really confused. They were like, ‘hang on it’s safer, it’s air-conditioned’ but I don’t want people to think I can only afford a one lahk car.

Everyone goes ‘oh Asia is obsessed with status’. Everywhere is. Human beings are. That’s why marketing is.

Darren:

I was going to say what makes these things happen is marketing. It actually understands the deeper motivation beyond. If it was a simple point of getting from point A to point B as safely and comfortable as possible…

Peter:

There’d be one car maker.

Darren:

Henry Ford would have been right, ‘you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black’.

Peter:

Yeah, they tried that in East Germany; everybody had a Trabant and nobody wanted a Trabant because they were garbage.

Darren:

And I think there is still something about the car you choose apart from being a function of what you can afford and life stage is also a reflection of something about the person that owns it.

Peter:

Absolutely. I tend towards small fast and I don’t know what that says about me and Sigmund if you’re listening let me know. And people are often surprised by that. Once they get to know me they realise it’s because of the utility of it—I’m reasonably practical (my wife will laugh when she hears me say that).

I’m reasonably practical and don’t need all of the stuff that you get in bigger more expensive cars. You go into a car park and you go into a room full of people you can usually tell who owns what. The accountants will own Corollas—best resale value—there’s a bit of that as well.

Darren:

Apart from the other car at home, which they don’t want to show off to everyone, which is usually the European luxury car.

Peter:

That’s right.

Darren:

But they lease it.

Peter:

That’s right, which they advise their customers not to do. That status will maintain car ownership but not as widespread as it is now. I was at a lunch yesterday and Audi’s new MD of Australia was saying they’re moving from an automotive company to an automotive mobility services company. That’s not saying that they’re not going to make cars. Obviously, they are.

What they’re doing is broadening their outlook to say, ‘what we do is not just sell you a car’. Because if you buy an Audi in Berlin you may have a card in your pocket that allows you to swipe into an Audi in Stuttgart and take that somewhere or in London or anywhere.

Darren:

That’s right and going back to my daughters—the idea is wanting the functionality but not wanting necessarily the cost and the responsibility of having an asset sit in front of your house or in your driveway for large portions of time.

Which is interesting, getting back to autonomous vehicles, I can actually see that working almost as a surrogate public transport system, an opt-in, opt-out in urban areas.

Peter:

Elon Musk certainly thinks that.

Darren:

I remember driving from Sydney to Melbourne recently and seeing a Tesla owner at Euroa plugged there for an hour waiting and even at the super-charged rate had an hour to refuel. And I was just there with my fossil-fuelled, internal combustion engine, an ICE and I was just there going ‘jjjjj, click, thank you’ and back on the road.

Peter:

That’s another reason why I think electric cars are still a fair way from the tipping point. Everyone’s saying the new model is free and that’s where it’s at. I don’t think so and if you look at the German manufacturers particularly, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen they are really looking at 2025 where they’ll be selling a million electric cars each.

Darren:

Which is why hybrid has been this sort of interim step.

Peter:

Definitely. So, Volvo are saying by 2019 every new car that they produce will have electrical elements, so hybrid or fully electric. I think 2025 a million electric cars for each of those manufacturers is ambitious (Audi didn’t say they’d have a million) but they are more cautious than Tesla. Tesla has gone all in and they could because that’s where they started.

Darren:

And they were there to deliberately disrupt the whole industry in order to prove a concept to disrupt the industry.

Peter:

And they did. What I expected to happen early on did, where a few car makers got involved so Toyota owned a decent chunk but they’ve divested that chunk because I think they’ve learned all they wanted to learn or got nothing out of it and have gone their own way.

Everyone is going their own way. Hyundai is still fiddling around with hydrogen so whether that’s fuel cells or…

Darren:

Kaboom. How do we control that combustion?

Peter:

They’ve had a fleet of IX35s, which is now called the Tucson tootling around Paris for the last two, three years—nothing’s exploded.

Darren:

I actually blew up my father’s workshop with a small hydrogen experiment—I think I was about 15.

Peter:

So you’re the inspiration for young Einstein.

Darren:

Well, I understand the explosive and combustible nature of hydrogen gas especially when it’s mixed with oxygen and an ignition source.

Peter:

It goes bang. Which is helpful in engines—if it goes bang it produces oxygen, water and heat.

Darren:

But not carbon dioxide.

Peter:

But you’ve got to produce a lot of carbon dioxide to get the hydrogen out of the bore. So, I think electric is where it’s going to go. And electrics got a perception problem in Australia particularly because of our lack of infrastructure and the government looking the other way but in places like the U.S. it’s moving and moving quickly.

Darren:

I spend quite a bit of time in China. I was in Shan, which is in the traditional coal mining area and suffers a lot from air pollution. Every taxi I got into was an electric vehicle, built in China and heavily, heavily subsidised by the government for taxi drivers to drive because they have said that taxis, for them, are urban vehicles. It’s not often that people jump into taxis in China.

You imagine cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shan, the Guangzhou with ten million plus people in an urban infrastructure to have low pollution. Now, the interesting thing is that most of the electricity that powers those taxis in Shan is coming from coal burning.

Peter:

Of course it is but burning coal at scale is more efficient than burning petrol in an engine—that’s just a reality unless it’s brown coal in which case you’ve got other problems.

As an interim step and China is forging ahead very quickly on renewables.

Darren:

Alternative fuels.

Peter:

Say hello to the three dams. So, electric is really being pitched as a utility vehicle, not as a utility as in electricity companies but as a vehicle you don’t necessarily want to own and that’s why it starts in that public transport arena, so, electric buses, electric taxis.

I know London taxis are going electric over the next few years. New York’s new cabs are going electric. They don’t really make that much of a difference to the air quality of a city but it’s a way for the government to say, ‘this is where you guys should be going’.

Darren:

I know in Hong Kong the diesel buses get a really heavy hit from people saying it’s a major contributor to pollution (apart from the coal burning in Mainland China) which blows down that way.

Peter:

And all of the industry in the Pearl River delta—I mean that’s really where all of the muck comes from isn’t it? Because on a clear day Hong Kong is beautiful.

Male Focused Marketing

Darren:

That is true. Just to change the subject, to bring it back to marketing and one of the things about the automotive festival (and this is a bit of a sausage festival—two blokes talking about cars)—one of the criticisms of the automotive industry is that it has been very male focused.

Yet I’ve seen figures of between 70 and 85% of automotive purchase decisions are significantly influenced or made by women.

Peter:

Absolutely.

Darren:

I remember a Ford dealer a few years ago really pushing marketing to women and recently General Motors in the industry heyday made a comment about the need to be more focused on women. But what is going on with it as a category, an industry where it is a sausage festival.

Peter:

I think it is because the traditional male dominated things like engineering were very much just male. And when you talk to people who have worked in engineering, design, and construction in the motoring world it’s all men and they get in and they stay.

I interviewed the chief engineer for the Jeep Compass, who is a woman and I said, ‘how have you found it?’ and she said, ‘it’s been fine’. She’s worked for Chrysler (Chrysler owns Jeep and a few other brands) getting on 20 years. Fiat Chrysler Automotive owns Jeep, Dodge, RAM.

Darren:

There’s quite a few of them, yeah.

Peter:

Some of them can go although the new Jeep Compass is very good and that’s down to Audrey. She said, it’s been fine. She never felt that she couldn’t be there and given that she was working in a very male dominated industry and she didn’t strike me as someone who’s had to get particularly punchy or be one of the boys.

And she said it was just having the skills. Women our age aren’t encouraged into that sort of profession and I think women generally have been scared off.

Darren:

But even at the dealerships; you walk into most dealerships—it’s a very male dominated world. And when you look at the advertising and marketing it seems to be primarily male focused and we’re talking about numbers like 70 and 80% of the purchase decisions.

Peter:

Where the premium brands have done well; particularly Audi have done quite well in the way that they have de-sexed their advertising.

Darren:

De-gendered. You have to say car advertising is quite sexy, the sleek lines.

Peter:

One of the guys I work with who I shoot videos with, he calls himself an old teenage photographer—he used to do stuff for Ralph and all those guys.

Darren:

So, he’s a modern man?

Peter:

He’s a modern man but he says that photographing cars is very similar to photographing bikini models because of the curvatures and all of that kind of stuff.

Darren:

I haven’t met so many bikini models that have that many reflective surfaces. Most of the cinema photographers say the hardest thing about shooting a video of a car is that it’s got all of these reflective surfaces and when you pick up bad reflections it just destroys the line of the vehicle.

I mean automotive designers spend a lot of time (apart from wind tunnels that make sure air passes over it efficiently), they also want visual appeal.

Peter:

There’s a phrase that not just journalists but enthusiasts use, ‘that car looks like it’s come from a wind tunnel’ and McLaren’s first car in their modern era of creating cars was the MP412C and it looked like it had just come out of a wind tunnel.

Darren:

Like a wedge.

Peter:

Yeah, it was basically a wedge with a flat front.

Darren:

It didn’t have curves.

Peter:

But the newer McLaren, the 720S, the designer likes to say it was shaped by the wind not in the wind, which is quite a nice way to say it and when you see the car you think it looks like a stone that’s been eroded by the wind.

Going back to what Audi have done—you rarely see people in Audi advertising. You see the car and it’s always in a neutral tone like silver and it doesn’t seem to be speaking to a particular gender. It’s speaking to a particular market and that market is generally people over 35.

Darren:

So, this is the point; they’ve gone to neutral. But can you think of any automotive manufacturer that is actually specifically aimed at women, as in had women in the advertising or marketing or even had a very specific skew towards appealing to women.

Peter:

You get individual models that are like that. You look at the current Mazda 2 ad in Australia—there are three humans in it and they’re all women—about 70% of buyers are women. And the Nissan Micra has what sounds like a kind of patronising ‘oh, this is for the ladies’. There’s a tray underneath the passenger seat to put a pair of shoes in it because women have told them.

Darren:

Sneakers, joggers—well it’s dangerous driving in high heels. I know; I’ve tried it many times.

Peter:

There have always been individual models but what has changed because of that figure you were talking about (75-80%) I think women are very much one of the forces behind the rise of the SUV because their parents told them you want to be up high, you’re safer up there and women are generally physically smaller and to have the bulk around them it’s a safe kind of environment in those bigger cars.

I know that the attention I get in a car like a Q7 or an S3 is very much female skewed. Men are interested in the X5N, the fast one with the V8. Women are interested in can I get seven kids or people into this? Can I do this? It’s a practical element.

Darren:

Is it easy to park? Do I feel safe?

Peter:

I think some of the early autonomous stuff was driven by female customers. I remember BMW saying some years ago, ‘we’re not going to have auto-parking in our cars’ so why does this car have auto-parking? Well a lot of our female customers wanted it.

Darren:

And they’re a significant part of the market.

Peter:

And they’re busier in the car than most men are because they’re often the ones dragging the kids off to school …

Darren:

I’ve got a hypothesis, Peter, which is that the dealers rarely see women come in to do the deal on the car.

Peter:

I think you’re absolutely right.

Darren:

So, the dealers have a huge influence on the factories and marketing because they say where ultimately the purchase decision is. Because women often don’t feel comfortable going into that environment to buy a car from a dealer’s point of view all purchase decisions are made by men and the bit they’re missing is he is sent there to buy this car, with this configuration and this colour because that’s what she needs.

Peter:

And she’s been able to sit on the internet at home and build that car.

Darren:

So my disconnect is that all the research is telling them that women are such big decision makers but the practicality is that they’re not actually going to buy it. I’m sure if women could buy a car on the internet, if they built it and then just went like that and got a deal.

Peter:

Subaru is doing that.

Darren:

I think they would find that the numbers of women making those decisions would be infinitely different to the ones that go into a dealership.

Peter:

Particularly when you go into a premium dealership, the German brands there will be more than one female dealer there and they will go straight to the women. I think car dealers generally are dinosaurs, particularly the blokes. It’s a very testosterone environment and they’re going to sell, sell, sell; it’s all about volume—it’s that Wall street vibe.

I’ve worked in car dealers—they’re terrifying.

Darren:

Apart from Peter Warren, ‘and this segment’s brought to you by Peter Warren Motors’.

Peter:

Men are terribly competitive and that’s again I think why they dominate sales. For years I worked in IT where again most of the sales people were men and I think that’s the problem the automotive industry has as far as marketing to women—that weak link is the dealer.

I have a theory that if I were to fly to Beijing next week and go into car dealers I will see far more female dealers than I do in Australia.

Darren:

On the floor ready to transact.

Peter:

I think women find it difficult because every dealer principal I’ve ever met is over 60 so he’s not going to hire women; ‘all they want to do is have kids. They’re trouble.’ It’s all garbage of course.

Darren:

Yet, in that decision-making process they are really (what does Google call it?) the last ten metres. Where sure the decision is made but the fact is no one goes into a dealer anymore just to suss it out. A lot of the purchase decision has been made online, talking to friends, working out what the options are.

Peter:

Reading car journalists.

Darren:

Reading reviews and then even hunting around to see what the price range is because a lot of the market is driven by pricing and offers especially towards the end of every month and it’s just a matter of going and closing the deal.

Peter:

It’s interesting because when I used to buy cars I would actually take my wife because she took all the emotion out of it because she didn’t care. She just wanted the cheapest car that she could get her hands on that I wanted.

Darren:

Because she’s not emotionally attached to the outcome.

Peter:

Yeah, you stand over there; I’ll sort this out and she’d knock five grand off it, make the guy cry and get floor mats thrown in.

And that’s another reason I think why dealers go more towards the men.

Darren:

It’s an emotional decision. They’re thinking with their other brain.

Peter:

It is an emotional decision for a lot of men or their other brain. I’ve met a lot of men who, ‘I’ve got a great deal on this car’, ‘no, you really didn’t get a good deal on this’ and the wife will go ‘yeah’ and they roll their eyes and say, ‘I was there and I watched him get sucked into this stuff.

I do find that women are much more practical at buying cars, which dealers don’t like so they push them away.

Darren:

Or create an environment that’s not inviting for women to attend or participate.

Peter:

I went into a redacted Australian automotive manufacturer, who is no longer manufacturing cars, dealer for the first time in ages and I thought I don’t even want to be here. It’s a very (what my wife would call) masculine environment, just the way that the furniture was, faded black and white stuff on the walls—it didn’t present well. I thought most women are not going to come in here and feel comfortable buying a car in here.

Again, it comes down to the dealer. No matter how much work is done at the marketing and PR level if you go into a dealer and it’s all wrong they’re in trouble.

Darren:

That’s right.

Peter:

One of the German brands has that problem—very masculine environments and that ruins all the progress done up until then.

Darren:

We’ve been talking about automotive because you’re an automotive journalist but it’s more pronounced in automotive because automotive has traditionally been as you say a very male dominated category but I think a lot of different categories suffer from the same thing.

Rather than think about male and female they’ll either go gender neutral. I remember Axe Lynx; it was all aimed at young teenage men—you’ll be sexually more successful. It was turning away the main buyers of that product.

Peter:

Their mums.

Darren:

Mums and girlfriends who were buying it for guys because they stank. They bought it because he’ll like it and it smells better than he does. So, why not make it so that you’re actually appealing to the audience?

Peter:

I agree and again I’m picking on Audi (in a good way obviously). I look at the way they’ve advertised the Audi Q2, which is by all objective measures a chick’s car. It is aimed fairly and squarely at women but that is not how it’s advertised.

It is aimed as a lifestyle vehicle for young people who want to get out there, go surfing, do this, do that and it’s not aimed at women.

Darren:

So, I’m wondering if it’s a bit like beer for women. Every time they’re tried to make and market a beer for women, women don’t drink it because they don’t want to drink a beer for women they want to drink a beer. If they’re going to have a beer they’re going to have a beer. They don’t want the beer that was just made for them.

Could it be that automotive is just the same and that it’s about breaking down the barriers? Could it be that going gender neutral and then it’s just a matter of breaking down the barriers that allow women to participate more in that purchase process?

Peter:

Women dig Audi and they’re all over Audi—I’ve been quite struck by that because as their marketing has evolved into that kind of de-gendered look and feel and there are a lot of women in Audi particularly locally (basically the whole PR team apart from one person is female) and that seems to be reflected across the company.

There are a lot of women working in it. That seems to have had an effect; the more women that are working in it and the Germans do something more progressive and it just seems to be working its way through.

A lot of the PR even for the high-end sports cars, which are very male, the marketing is done by women, which I find very interesting.

Darren:

Hey, Peter, it’s been great catching up. Thanks for your time. So, one question: what does the automotive journalist drive home in from this chat?

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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