An automobile is the second most expensive purchase for consumers, and today’s consumer is keystrokes away from reviews and research.
In the purchase funnel, advertising can get a consumer’s awareness and interest in a particular vehicle, but the funnel consists of: Awareness, Interest, Decision and Action.
With a vehicle purchase, the pivotal point rests between interest and decision. That pivotal point of decision is where the field gets narrowed. “Decision” is the pivot point often determined by content consisting of reviews, road tests & comparisons.
The difficulty in a vehicle launch, however, is that a handful of news sources can make or break a vehicle. A bit like the New York Times Food Critic reviewing a restaurant. The palate of one, however, may not be representative of the general public. One car may be the best handling vehicle on the road, but when going on a three-hour highway road trip, the general public may be more interested in avoiding a herniated disc.
Consequently, this automotive manufacturer was more interested in having the vehicle reviewed by writers and bloggers that actually fit their demo versus a writer having a love affair with a Porsche, only mildly interested in the rest of the pack.
So the automotive manufacturer selected 50 bloggers, and 15 non-traditional journalists to drive, and live with the vehicle.
In some cases ad buys were made in conjunction, but in most cases no ad buys were made. The one hitch, however, was that if the writer did end up writing a review or post, a C3 Metrics tracking tag was placed on the page of the review or post. The costs of the entire content marketing program were fully loaded with every cost associated with the effort which included: transportation of vehicles in certain markets, amortized PR fees for the effort, cost of employee salaries working on the content marketing effort. Costs not associated were the ad buys if any; the review was considered a bonus in addition to the ad buy. However, if the content was “boosted” with ad dollars in social media, those costs were included.
C3 Metrics provided the tracking tags to be placed on the content pages, and pre-populated every tag. The PR person would simply provide the blogger or writer with the tag and simple instructions with a contact at C3 Metrics if the blogger had any questions. In addition, standard banners were provided to give the writer/publisher a choice to use that creative and embed the banner in the body of the review or post, essentially acting as a native ad within the review or post. Additional tracking included C3 Metrics tags on the auto manufacturer’s site with their tag manager.
Four online conversion events were utilized as a proxy KPI to retail sales: Dealer Zip code lookup, Car Configurator (build your vehicle), brochure download, and appointment to drive the vehicle. Each KPI was given a net present value based on data available through on-site web analytics. Meaning, the ratios of Dealer Zip Code lookups to Car Configurations, to Brochure downloads, to Appointment Sets to sales was already known and the NPV of each was set in the C3 Metrics platform. False attribution metrics such as non- viewable ads, cookie stuffing, ad bots and last place media were controlled through a series of standard algorithms in C3’s platform to remove false positives.
Results were measured over a six-month period. Vehicle sales are typically bi- modal in nature: a consumer will either buy a vehicle in two weeks because of an accident, vehicle theft, or urgent situation; or the purchase can begin and end over a long period of time with anticipation of a lease coming due, or a life changing event like a baby’s delivery. C3 Metrics tracking was set to keep every granular piece of data even beyond the measured period to an 18-month horizon.
Measuring all four scored conversion events against the fully loaded cost of the program with C3 Metrics’ attribution platform, the automotive manufacturer could definitively connect the dots between the content marketing of each article, review, and post (and the boosting of those with social ad dollars).
After six months, the entire content marketing effort yielded a 7-to-1 return on spend.