Ten Up and Coming Technologies for Automotive Marketing

Adapted and assembled from original source materials by Ralph Paglia (see notes at end)

Automotive marketers have adopted and exploited nearly every Web technology invented in the past 10 years. Just as today's mainstream marketing tools like Flash and Web video were once arcane technologies used only by a small cadre of geeks and innovators, many of today's fringe technologies will soon become a typical part of each auto marketer’s tool kit. Ralph Paglia looks at 10 top Social Technology candidates to explain whether or not and why automotive marketing professionals should care about adapting future plans to make use of them.

When you look at all the online use of automotive multimedia, such as BMW Films and the Ford SUV Smart Guide, automotive marketing professionals have pushed the envelope of experiences that Web technology can deliver. Meanwhile, under the radar of these slick big-budget productions, a new use of online technologies dubbed "social computing" have created a new set of values: do-it-yourself spirit, speed, and accessibility — combined with style, entertainment, and human connections. Several iterations and delivery mechanisms for this developing media that automotive marketing professionals should be aware of are: 1. Blogs: the publishing workhorse of social media. As anyone who caught BusinessWeek's May 2005 cover story on blogging can tell you, a blog is a free, easy to use publishing tool and Web journal wrapped into one. (see note 1) Blogs are important because they make the transmission of ideas — and personal voices — to the Internet virtually instantaneous; they are also the publishing tool that makes podcasts and RSS feeds possible. (see note 2) From GM's FastLane Blog to Autoblog and www.Makezine.com to www.HybridBuzz.com , blogs give voice to auto executives, journalists, drivers, car buyers and automotive enthusiasts. 2. Wikis: the online community's publishing tool. Like blogs, wikis are publishing tools and Web sites in a single package. But where a blog is a stream of posts written by at most a handful of authors, a wiki is a single site that can be edited by anyone who visits. Where blogs reflect individual ideas, wikis reflect the collective knowledge of a community. The best-known, best-used wiki alive today is wikipedia.org, which contains excellent, up-to-date information about virtually any technology — including car technology. Searching for "Audi A3," for example, produces an annotated history of the A3/S3, complete with a list of "common faults." (see note 3) Meanwhile, www.WikiHow.com provides wiki tools that enable users to produce how-to manuals like "How to Disable Reverse Beep in a Toyota Prius." (see note 4) 3. RSS: a distribution channel format that gives online content extensive re-distribution legs. RSS is a way of transforming any type of content — text, images, search results, audio files, video files, even applications — into a generic XML or RSS feed. It may look like ugly computer code, but the lowly RSS feed is a beautiful thing for three reasons: 1) It can be read in a wide range of software, from standalone RSS readers like My Yahoo! to plug-ins for Outlook and Explorer to mobile device software; 2) Users, not publishers, can add or delete feeds from their RSS readers in a single click 3) Most free blogging software automatically creates RSS feeds of blog postings, so no programming knowledge is required to create one. www.GMBuyPower.com puts RSS feeds to work delivering the latest incentives to tech-savvy car shoppers “My Yahoo!” pages or other RSS readers. (see note 5)

4. Podcasting: This could ve viewed as the “love child” of iPod and TiVo! Podcasts are simply audio files of music, news, or interviews, published to the Web using a blog and syndicated via RSS. Podcasting is often explained as "TiVo for your iPod" because anyone can easily add podcasts to a program like iPodder or iTunes, which are RSS readers that automatically download audio enclosures. Once this is done, audio files are ready for listening at any time and on any device the user chooses. "Time-shifted audio" is another way to describe this delivery mechanism. (see note 6) Podcasts already come in a wide assortment of flavors, from hour-long DJ sets to interviews with Miami Dolphins for hard-core fans to Audioblog interviews with Toyota's hybrid team (why this is sponsored by Volvo, I cannot explain) to interviews with Chevy SSR product manager Bob Walczyk. (see note 7) 5. Tagging: people-powered indexing. Tagging amounts to real live Internet users — as opposed to automated spiders — categorizing Web pages and other content with their own keywords. Tagging can take place across Web sites (tag = keyword + URL) or within a Web site (tag = keyword + content module). As users tag, an organic categorization system, or "folksonomy," emerges. Del.icio.us social bookmarks and Technorati are two of the best-known cross-site tagging tools. (see note 8) www.43Things.com is a site that showcases a folksonomy of users' desires: Consumers post "get a mini cooper" and can explore the desires of others who want a Mini, too. (see note 9) Ford's 2006 Fusion microsite lets users post pictures of themselves and tag them, effectively creating a folksonomy of prospective Fusion owners. (see note 10) 6. Social network sites: emotional intelligence for the Internet. A folksonomy of people, their friends, and their colleagues is a social network. And social networks are implicitly what makes social computing work: A shared desire to tag Edmunds' Top 10 Coolest Cars for Soccer Moms, for example, is an affinity relationship between the taggers. (see note 11) Social network sites like www.Friendster.com , www.Tribe.net , and www.LinkedIn.com make these relationships explicit and give users tools to manage them. (see note 12) They also let users create profiles, which generate rich stores of demographic information. That leaves little guesswork for automotive marketers, who can search www.Friendster.com for married women, ages 25-35, in blue-state ZIP codes who list "kids" as an interest and just might be interested in offers for a Nissan Quest or Chevrolet Uplander. 7. Personalized search: multi-session, relationship-based search. Taking cues from del.icio.us and social network sites, Yahoo!'s social search engine, My Web 2.0, lets users: 1) Save their search histories, bookmarks, and tags 2) Share that information with email contacts 3) Search within four spheres of information: their own, their contacts', the site's users', or the Web at large. (see note 13) Amazon's A9 offers similar tools and lets users search across individual sites that they choose (i.e., custom metasearch); and Google Personalized analyzes the types of sites users visit most and pushes that type to the top of results.(see note 14) Recent college grads researching their first cars, for example, could use My Web 2.0 to search within their friends' bookmarks to benefit from research they've already done. 8. MP3 players, fashion phones, PVPs: sexy devices driving social media. It's no surprise that the devices driving social media are those most likely to be invited to a real-life party: Apple's iPod, Motorola's Razr, Sony's PSP (PlayStation Portable), and Creative Technologies' Zen Vision make a RIM BlackBerry look like a pocket protector. Users can listen to, or DJ a party with, podcasts on their iPod. They can blog from, photocast from, podcast from, import/export contacts to, search the Web from, and, of course, call friends from, their Razrs.(see note 15) Increasingly, they'll be able to watch (and send) videos, movies, games, and other rich media from portable video players (PVPs) like PSP or Creative's Zen Vision. These devices are making themselves at home in cars, with some lubrication from Bluetooth and the soon-to-be ubiquitous iPod adapter. (see note 16)

9. Personal video downloading: white-glove delivery for big media files. File sharing systems like BitTorrent take monster files and create a set of instructions for chopping them up and downloading the pieces in a highly efficient way. Videora, a new "personal video downloading" technology, combines this downloading power with the delivery capabilities of RSS. So consumers can use Videora to automatically find and download video files and access them wherever they choose. Another new technology, PSP Video 9, when paired with Videora, finds, converts, and delivers files to Sony PSPs. This means that starving students can improvise backseat indie film fests ("Two-Lane Blacktop" anyone?) with their toys on an NYC road trip, without owning a loaded Cadillac Escalade. 10. WiMAX: wireless broadband gets bigger, better, faster, more. WiMAX (or "802.16") is a new standard for wireless broadband Internet that delivers much higher data rates over much longer distances than its little brother Wi-Fi. How much higher? Think miles, not feet, and T1-type bandwidth for everyone. WiMAX cheerleaders envision a not-so-distant future where entire metropolitan areas will have wireless interoperability, and their denizens will never ever have to be offline, whether at work, at home, at play, or in their cars.

These are interesting and attractive technologies, and it's tempting to start using them in marketing campaigns right away. For your personal use, go right ahead; but with your company's money, you should consider how mature each technology is, and act responsibly (see Table 1): • Ramping Up Right Now: RSS, podcasting, sexy devices, and personal video downloading. Although adoption rates are still quite low compared to other new technology adoptions of the past 50 years, Ralph Paglia believes that RSS-based technologies have the potential to gain traction with much wider audiences that may approach “Mass Market” stature. (see note 17) Why? Despite the geek aura that surrounds them, these technologies are no harder to set up than activating a new mobile phone — possibly quite a bit easier (depending on your phone provider). And they take significantly less effort to maintain than an email account. Because they are communications and entertainment driven, RSS technologies are also in sync with North Americans' healthy appetite for entertainment. (see note 18) And their compatibility with seductive mobile devices means that RSS-based technologies have a firm foothold in the widening “X” Internet. Automotive Marketing Must-Have: Increase reach and visibility without annoying car buyers. RSSbased technologies enable auto marketers to reach prospective car buyers via a wide range of media in a wide range of places — but only if and when the consumer chooses. Users are less likely to be annoyed by marketing content delivered via RSS-based technologies because they feel in control — yet the freshness and uniqueness of RSS-based content entices them to check in often and spend more time online. (see note 19) Maturing in the Near Future: social network sites, personalized search, blogs, tagging, and Wikis. Ralph Paglia believes that these technologies will continue to reach a stable niche of committed users, but that adoption is unlikely to mushroom to Mass Market status. Why? First, they require a higher level of sustained interest and user participation. Second, they more often than not turn up fascinating but not necessarily useful or spectacularly entertaining information. Both social network sites and personalization have been around the block several times already: Firefly, the original social network site, launched in 1996, as did the earliest version of My Yahoo!. (see note 20) And Forrester's Consumer Technographics® 2005 North American Benchmark Study shows social network site usage holding steady at about 5% of online North Americans.

Automotive Marketing Today: Dig deep into the psyches of tech-savvy car buyers. Dealers and car companies won't find everyone using social network sites, personalized search, blogs, tagging, or Wikis, but those they do find will be those influential "alpha carbuyers" who enthuse about all technologies and likely to be willing to share their insights with far more potential car buyers than most automotive professionals would dare to admit to. (see note 21) If dealers and car companies approach these technologies and media as grounds for researching consumer lifestyles, so they can keep in touch and connected to the pulse of changing interests and attitudes or car buyers, as well as delivering highly targeted messages, they will be well rewarded with additional (and profitable) market share. Far Off… But Highly Relevant: WiMAX. Many formidable hurdles stand in the way of widespread WiMAX availability, including multiphase regulation, cable companies trying to protect their monopolies through state legislatures, preexisting Wi-Fi infrastructure and investment, and competition for radio frequencies. Forrester Research estimates that WiMAX won't have a significant impact in developed countries until about 2010. (see note 22) Dealer and Car Company Action Plan: Keep an eye on the horizon and your wallet in your pocket. Many campaigns will launch before automotive marketing professionals face the reality of operating in a broadband to the masses environment. Keeping an eye on the progress of “wired” broadband Internet access, (as it has now passed the 50% mark for all Internet users) will allow dealers and car companies to plan for, rather than react to, operating in a market filled with car buyers who are equipped with universally accessible, uninterrupted, wireless broadband.

Table 1a: Social Media Delivery Channels Relevant to Automotive Marketing Delivery Channel RSS Automotive Marketing Use Specific Example of Use in Automotive Marketing Alert Highly Likely to be InMarket car buyers of Incentive Offers by Zip code Create OEM-branded music events, featuring artists as the brand sponsors Integrate portable media devices with in-car entertainment system or vehicle telematics Sponsor video content and make it available for download from the OEM or Dealer’s web sites Research and Validation of Delivery Channel Effectiveness • • • • • • “Getting Real About Podcasting” Ted Schadler, 8-2-05 “Young Consumers Love Their Devices” Ted Schadler, 7-29-05 “Using RSS As A Marketing Tool” Charlene Li, 7-26-05 “RSS 101 For Marketers” Charlene Li, 7-26-05 Podcasting For Marketers” Fiona McDonnell, 7/5/05 “CES 2005: Digital Devices Looking For Content” Ted Schadler and Paul Jackson, 1-25-05

Podcasting Reach Car Buyers using the X Internet and maintain visibility without annoying them

Mobile Devices

Personal Video Downloading

Table 1b: Social Media Delivery Channels Relevant to Automotive Marketing Delivery Channel Social Network Sites Automotive Marketing Use Specific Example of Use in Automotive Marketing Target Specific Offers to narrow demographic, psychographic, and behaviorally defined segments Gauge effectiveness of new vehicle campaign by measuring search traffic both pre- and post-launch Research and Validation of Delivery Channel Effectiveness

• • • • •

Personalized Search


Tagging and Folksonomies

Dig Deep into the Psyches of Preview product and technical Tech Savvy Car information to innovating car Buyers buyers Analyze shared tags and bookmarks to understand brand impression in car buyer social networks Monitor Wikipedia entries for own and competitive vehicles, auto technologies, and brands


“Personalization Attracts A Valuable Crowd” Chris Charron, 3-9-05 “Blogging: Bubble Or Big Deal?” Charlene Li, 11-5-04 “First Look At Yahoo! 360” Charlene Li, blog posting, 3-24-05 “Profiles: The Real Value Of Social Networks” Charlene Li, 7-15-05 “Amazon.com’s A9: Search With A Purpose” Paul Sonderegger, 9-20-04

Table 1c: WiMAX Delivery Channel that may become Relevant to Automotive Marketing Delivery Channel Automotive Marketing Use Specific Example of Use in Automotive Marketing Research and Validation of Delivery Channel Effectiveness • “Broadband Users Are Hooked”, Maribel D. Lopez, 7-27-05 “Let’s Get Real About WiMAX”, Charles S. Golvin, Lars Godelll and Michelle de Lussanet, 7-13-05


Keep an eye on development horizon… Especially local municipalities

Monitor WiMAX adoption among target segments and start experiments when penetration justifies it.

RECOMMENDATIONS Use social media to influence and understand, rather than control
Today's users of social technologies are early technology adopters. And like pouty billionaire rock stars, the earliest adopters make a show of distancing themselves from the establishment that supports them, i.e., corporate marketers. When tapping into social media, dealers and car companies must: 1. Be truthful, creative, and generous. To hang with the cool kids, auto marketers must: a. Keep themselves honest by committing to a social media publishing code of ethics b. Challenge their most creative people to do something innovative with social technologies, rather than emulating competitors c. Give a little to get a little, as Apple has by providing free visibility to small-time podcasters, or as A9 has by letting sites upload OpenSearch feeds for free. (see note 23) 2. Build strategy around real people who embody brand values. There are two voices in social media: the individual's (via blogs) and the community's (via wikis). A booming marketer's voice would be painfully out of key. (see note 24) Taking this into account, smart auto marketers won't just try to get copywriters to emulate a natural voice; they'll make way for real people who best embody the brand's voice — be they execs like Bob Lutz, designers like Ralph Gilles, or even customers. (see note 25) 3. Lead marketing campaigns with exclusive social media. Despite the buzz, the audience for social media remains a small, technologically sophisticated crew that uses RSS, podcasting, and tagging, among other things, to get the inside line on news before it's been digested by major publications. They expect exclusive information delivered in advance. Which is exactly what auto marketers can give them, by previewing campaigns for new products via exclusive social media that provide more detail and insight than the mainstream receive. In doing so, marketers align their own goal of generating buzz with users' desire to demonstrate their expertise. (see note 26) 4. Build an audience for social media by rallying their base. Social media, or Web 2.0, has a third name: "the living Web," because social computing tools have made it so much faster and easier to put new content online. What that means for auto marketers is that they must approach their social marketing strategies as ongoing efforts that need to be maintained to remain vibrant. Launching a blog around a new product, for example, faces the double hurdle of: 1) having no preexisting audience, and 2) drawing on a decreasing amount of news over time. Regularly launching products from a brand blog, however, rewards loyal readers and draws on a continuous stream of fresh news. 5. Begin modularizing marketing collateral. While auto marketers experiment with social media on a small scale, they must also begin thinking about how to modularize all of their marketing collateral. As the hands-on approach of social computing gains traction with the mainstream — and podcasting is on its way — ubiquitous wireless broadband becomes a reality, and sexy communication/entertainment powerhouses seduce more consumers, auto marketers must be ready to deliver their messages (and experiences) not just on Web sites, but wherever consumers choose. And if this means chopping long, immersive, flash microsites into RSS-, podcast-, and search-digestible microbites, so be it. Few of today's site visitors will complain.

NOTES: 1. Source: Stephen Baker and Heather Green, "Blogs Will Change Your Business," BusinessWeek, May 2, 2005. 2. To publish rich media files via blog, users must choose a blogging tool that supports RSS 2.0 enclosures, such as Radio UserLand. 3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audi_A3 4. See http://wiki.ehow.com/Disable-Reverse-Beep-in-a-Toyota-Prius 5. See the My Yahoo! and XML buttons on www.GMBuyPower.com 's "View Current Offers" page: http://www.gmbuypower.com/viewCurrentOffersPage.bp?zip=94117 6. New digital audio services like satellite radio, online radio, HD radio, and podcasting with new subscription and data service business models are changing the way consumers listen to radio. All four digital audio markets will grow steadily — by 2010, 20.1 million households will listen to satellite radio and 12.3 million households will synchronize podcasts to their MP3 players. Broadcasters and music labels must learn to deal with this new, fragmented audience. The keys to success will be subscriptions, ad targeting, and monetizing the many ways that digital audio will be consumed. See the March 21, 2005, Trends "The Future Of Digital Audio." 7. For "Dolphins On The Run" podcasts, see http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/special_packages/ontherun/ . For Autoblog podcasts, see http://podcasts.autoblog.com/ . For Bob Walczyk on the SSR, see http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/archives/podcasts/index.html 8. Using del.icio.us, consumers can tag Web pages like the step-by-step instructions on how to install a PC in a 2001 Chevy Malibu on a blog called www.Aydiosmio.net , and then explore the tag streams of others who tagged the same page. Del.icio.us also lets users publish RSS feeds of their tags that other people can subscribe to, sometimes called "subscribing to my brain." All tags on del.icio.us are publicly viewable. For a more detailed explanation of del.icio.us' capabilities, see http://del.icio.us/doc/about or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Del.icio.us 9. See http://www.43things.com/ and type "mini cooper" into the site's search engine. 10. See http://www.fordvehicles.com/futurevehicles/2006fusion/ 11. See http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/list/top10/103745/article.html 12. Social network sites like Friendster increasingly tie email, search, blogging, RSS feeds, tagging, and classifieds to profiles. But their ownership of these profiles is increasingly under fire. The FOAF — for "Friend Of A Friend" — project is a movement toward standardizing very detailed, rich profiles that can be imported into, rather than housed on, social network sites. This not only makes it easier for users to keep multiple profiles up to date, it also gives profile-ees ownership of their own information by giving them the power to turn their profiles on or off. For more information about FOAF and how to create a FOAF profile, see http://rdfweb.org/topic/FAQ 13. As many have pointed out, Yahoo's My Web 2.0 offers tools very similar to del.icio.us'. What's the difference? Yahoo!'s integration with email contacts and its ability to market these services to a mainstream

Internet audience, with millions of registered users. For a more extended discussion, see the thread on Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3516381 14. For an explanation of its features, see A9's "Using A9:" http://a9.com/-/company/help.jsp#using . For an introduction to Google Personalized, see http://www.google.com/psearch/help.html 15. For instructions on how to podcast from a phone, see http://www.andycarvin.com/000711.html 16. According to Mac News Network, Apple is working with BMW on its next-generation adapter; Mercedes, Volvo, Scion, and Nissan will offer iPod adapters in 2005; and Alpha-Romero and Ferrari will also offer iPod integration. See http://mwsf.macnn.com/ 17. Just 2% of online North Americans said they use RSS (really simple syndication) feeds. Source: Forrester's Consumer Technographics 2005 North American Benchmark Study 18. Entertainment is the primary motivation of 28% of online North Americans. Source: Forrester's Consumer Technographics 2005 North American Benchmark Study 19. Adults that use RSS spend 15.6 hours per week on average using the Internet, compared with 8.4 hours per week for non-RSS using adults. Source: Forrester's Consumer Technographics 2005 North American Benchmark Study 20. Source: Amy Bruckman, "Finding One's Own Space in Cyberspace," Technology Review, January 1996; and "Web users can personalize their own Yahoo! online service," Information Today, September 1996 21. Forrester has identified three types of alpha carbuyers — the few individuals who exert a disproportionately strong influence over everyone else's auto purchase decisions. Among them are the car fans we call "engine enthusiasts." In March 2005, Forrester asked online vehicle buyers whether they considered themselves auto enthusiasts; 22% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I am an auto enthusiast." We then found that 72% of Enthusiasts are technology optimists compared with 55% of those who are not auto enthusiasts. See the July 15, 2005, Best Practices "Spotting Alpha Carbuyers" and see the July 29, 2005, Trends "Alpha Carbuyers: Engaging Engine Enthusiasts." 22. According to Charles S. Golvin, Lars Godell, and Michelle de Lussanet, WiMAX will indeed have a big global impact on consumers, enterprises, vendors, and telecom operators by making high-speed wireless access cheap and mobile, but not until 2010 or later — because of myriad spectrum, customer premise equipment (CPE) availability, regulatory, cost, and competitive reasons. WiMAX's impact will be gradual in developed countries but more disruptive in emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Russia that have less existing fixed and mobile network infrastructure. See the July 13, 2005, Trends, "Let's Get Real About WiMAX." 23. Charlene Li proposes a 13-point Blogger Code Of Ethics, which begins: "1) I will tell the truth. 2) I will write deliberately and with accuracy. 3) I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly. . . ." See the November 5, 2004, Best Practices "Blogging: Bubble Or Big Deal?" 24. Arizona State University professor Robert Cialdini's social proof principle says that people trust their peers and readily accept ideas and behaviors they get from them. For example, the Acura RL showroom uses social proof — the testimonials of RL owners, delivered by unpolished, real owner voices — to teach you about the car's advantages.

25. Despite a jumble of confusing terms and concepts, planning a word-of-mouth (WOM) campaign comes down to some basic marketing concepts: the audience, the message, the vehicle, and the metrics. Finding the right combination will give a WOM marketing campaign the greatest chance to spread faster than a hot stock tip at a cocktail party. See the July 5, 2005, Best Practices "How To Build A Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Campaign." 26. Podcasting, the latest addition to on-demand media, has attracted the attention of both tech-savvy young early adopters and innovative brands seeking to create some buzz while the phenomenon is still new. As both consumers and organizations begin to create podcasts, the market will segment based on content. Successful brands will provide engaging, relevant, valuable content along with a simplified user experience. See the July 5, 2005, Trends "Podcasting For Marketers."

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful