By: Taghrid Oraibi, Head of Communications for Stellantis ME

Taghrid Oraibi, Head of Communications Stellantis – GCC & Levant

Influencer marketing has increased in power and proliferation over the past few years, getting a turbo boost from the covid-induced lockdown periods and the growth of TikTok. Yet, when it comes to high-involvement purchases such as automotive, influencer marketing tends to be demoted from a ‘must-have’ to a ‘nice to have’ or ‘brand-building’ importance level.  

The reason for this is that high-involvement purchases tend to take some time to materialize (anything from a week to many months), so focusing on lead generation tactics allows us to track the customer journey and measure conversions to test drives and sales. 

In automotive specifically, this is quickly changing as brands apply influencer marketing to every stage of the sales funnel, and the increased importance that comes from them. 

Starting off at the Awareness phase, this is where influencer marketing is an easy decision, because you want to get eyeballs on your brands and there is a huge benefit in the ability to segment your audiences. In my role at Stellantis Middle East, I oversee comms for a portfolio of 14 brands that cater to various audiences and demographics, age groups and preferences, from luxury cars to off-road vehicles and Light Commercial Vehicles. The audience can vary dramatically from adventurers and off-roaders to luxury seekers, so the different subsets of influencers help us to target them with content they are interested in and passionate about.

This is followed closely by the Interest phase which allows you to reach new audiences and spark an interest in them when they might not necessarily be actively searching for a vehicle. Creative content creation plays an important role here and you need to have synergy between the influencer and brand to generate awareness and induce interest. It cannot be forced, superficial or a hard sell. 

There are many types of influencers you can use to appeal to various interests, including Fashion & Lifestyle influencers who highlight how a vehicle can enhance your daily life, or become a fashion/lifestyle accessory that represents your tastes, Passionate Car Lovers and Petrol Heads who talk about the car and what makes it unique, and even Tech Influencers who tend to focus on innovations and gadgets, which applies well to the automotive industry. 

The next phase, Consideration, is a crucial one because the prospect is making a spending decision and needs as much information as possible. This is where you really need the automotive influencers and Youtubers who are perceived as experts in the sector, know the vehicles inside out from the technical specs to the interior & exterior design, and are passionate about the topic they present. They are usually amongst the first exclusive audience to review and test a vehicle, giving their platform an edge to attract viewers and customers. 

It’s also important to note that people actively searching for a vehicle view content to educate themselves about the various models out there and compare before making a decision. According to a report by Google, in 2019 the watch time of “test drive” videos on YouTube grew by more than 65% in the US, and I have no doubt that it will be a similar case in the region. Also, with the growth of Electric Vehicles, consumers are keen on learning more about EVs if they’re considering a switch.   

Anecdotally, automotive content creators helped me personally develop my knowledge in the sector when I joined Stellantis a year ago, as I was constantly watching their review videos to learn about the products and how they are perceived. 

At the end of the funnel, you have the Action Phase which is a purchase or a conversion. Here you have some basic tactics like swipe up links to websites or exclusive offers that help convert a sale, but this is not the end of the influencer benefits. The conversion phase is coupled with the Repurchase/Brand Loyalty Phase which includes repeat customers in it, because influencers can help reaffirm a person’s satisfaction with their decision to buy a certain car or brand when they see that it is highly sought after and positively spoken about by key opinion leaders.

This part comes with the important job of making a customer feel like part of a community, so the involvement of enthusiast clubs can also play a part, as can content that educates them on how to get the best out of their car, like ‘how to’ guides or ‘easter egg’ videos (Videos of hidden features or designs in cars).  

Most importantly, this phase brings with it your biggest influencers of all – your customers. There is no WOM or referral stronger than one from a customer, and we see that daily with brands like Jeep, where thousands of passionate customers around the region organically create content capturing their adventures, customizations, and off-roading every day. 

That is brand advocacy at work, and in the end, your real win from influencer marketing is to create a community of brand advocates who market your brand for you.