4 steps to marketing EVs more effectively via mobility

4 steps to marketing EVs more effectively via mobility

In 2011, President Obama announced an ambitious goal of one million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015.  Judging by the numbers at the end of 2012 (with best estimates putting about 70,000 EVs on the road today—only 7 percent of the goal), it’s a long shot at best.

The blogosphere is full of speculation about why we’re not closer to the goal, with pundits pointing to causes ranging from insufficient infrastructure to lack of consumer enthusiasm, sticker shock and/or range anxiety. While increasing consumer adoption of EVs is a complex challenge and while we don’t see a single silver bullet, our decades of experience in both the marketing and policy sides of transportation lead us to a different conclusion.

The core problem lies in the way we’re all talking about EVs. Government agencies, automobile manufacturers and environmental advocates alike are focusing on the “vehicle” side of EVs – attempting to promote adoption using the same channels and marketing techniques that have been used to sell gasoline-powered vehicles for nearly half a century. But the problem is more than just how we’re marketing; it’s what we’re marketing.

What’s needed is not simply an “either-or” conversation about the merits of one vehicle over another. Instead, we need to start addressing the fundamental concept of mobility. We have spent so much time focusing on the object of transportation electrification—the cars—that we haven’t begun to address the subject: the economics and the gloomy reality of owning and operating a gas-powered vehicle in modern America.

Americans have a love affair with cars that is deeply ingrained in our psyche and history. It’s an extension of our notion of the frontier, the pioneer venturing out into the wild and building success from scratch. Cars have literally become the “vehicle” for this storyline in the modern era, not only in advertising and pop culture but also in the very fabric and design of our cities, most of which (at least on the West Coast) was built with the personal car in mind. Cars are a symbol of status and escape, the ultimate getaway vehicle. It’s easy for us to relate to the image of a hero speeding off into the sunset, not on a horse, but in a sexy sports car, top down with nothing but open road ahead.

But the consumer concept of cars has to evolve with the reality of massive population growth. In 1950, there were 2.7 billion people on the planet. Today there are 7 billion; by 2040, there will be nearly 9 billion people on our planet. For the first time in history, half of our population lives in cities.  And that shift will continue. Twenty-five years from now, two out of three people will be living in cities.

People increasingly understand that more cars on the road means gridlock. And more time stuck in traffic in a gasoline-powered vehicle means more pollution and more money out of our pockets. We need to ask ourselves: how will consumers respond if we reposition the narrative of the car from the appeal of freedom to the efficiency of mobility?

There is mounting evidence that the millennial generation (those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) is less inclined toward car ownership than the generation before them. In survey after survey, more of today’s 20-somethings are reporting that they don’t have a drivers’ license, don't own a car, and never plan to. Between 2001 and 2009, the number of vehicle miles traveled by 16- to 34-year-old Americans dropped 23 percent. This is not an anomaly; it’s a fundamental demographic shift.

Modern marketing techniques can help emphasize this shift in consumer culture by reaching beyond the choir and starting to engage new customers in a long-term, more personal and more direct conversation about cars, transportation and the idea of mobility.

To engage these new customers and reach beyond early adopters we have to create a more empathetic messaging platform and address their objections with heartfelt sincerity.  Convergence Marketing has the tools to draw in customers with exactly that messaging and create a dialogue with customers in order to understand and address their needs, concerns and objections. Then, and only then, can we begin to build their trust and earn brand loyalty. Our goal is to increase interaction with all levels of customers so we can begin a more meaningful and effective conversation. And once we move away from our assumptions and address their actual objections and concerns, we can build a platform that delivers meaningful responses and rewards, while greatly reducing risks. This approach opens the door for cost effective sales for today’s global business environment.  

  1.      Establish an authentic dialogue.      You can’t fake values. Authenticity and transparency are key and customers that like sustainable brands are particularly attuned to your ethics.
  1. Unite brand and direct. These two disciplines have usually worked in isolation from each other, but working together with the right balance they have a powerful effect – and demonstrate ROI to company leadership.
  1. Create advertising that does what you want it to do. The ROSEN Velocity ScaleTM allows you to measure the time it takes for any communication via any media to stimulate an interaction with a customer by balancing the right combination of image, copy, design and offer. This approach allows you to create the desired velocity of every communication you put out there.
  1. When you care about your customers they care about you. The best way to show your customers that you love them is by speaking to them exactly where they are in the sales cycle. You don’t want to push a car at someone who is just beginning to consider the idea – a “just looking” or “just learning” customer. Know where your customer is in the cycle and target your advertising towards the desired outcome you want from a customer. Based upon where they are, that outcome could be to obtain a sale, a lead, a trial or just building brand awareness.

Car2Go is a company that has recognized this fundamental shift toward the “Mobility Model”. Car2Go recognized that if mobility is the goal in an urban area, then they could serve that need in a really unique way. Using super-efficient Smart Cars (and electric Smart Cars) they created a new carsharing model that is a linked network accessible by smartphone. The rent-by-the-minute cars can be left anywhere in a specified area. Use as you need, when you need - this concept is very attractive to consumers, particularly younger consumers. The service—and the cars—are sold on their mobility benefits.

Getaround is another smart business that has embraced the mobility concept and focuses on “peer-to-peer” car sharing.   A customer is able to rent a car from someone right in their own neighborhood, and those car owners can earn money every month for doing so.  This provides city dwellers flexibility without having to own a car while also reducing emissions. And rather than having a car sit in your driveway, it is being used and providing a service to your own community.

It’s time for a new approach to EV marketing that requires a meaningful dialogue with customers. Cities are ready for an agile mobility model with easy options that reach beyond the old, and very limited scope of the gas fueled car. Imagine it - transportation with ease, while complimenting lifestyles of future generations at a limited expense that vastly reduces our carbon footprint. Now that’s a message that will drive EV adoption.

Photo of highway at night provided by fuyu liu/Shutterstock