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Automotive brands have traditionally been TV-centric. But recently the automotive industry has started reallocating marketing resources to incorporate influencers and social video.

Platform-specific content

Consumers don’t want their social video feeds crowded with TV ads (if they even watch TV). Instead, young shoppers want to be entertained: they want to see brands with original and engaging content created with them in mind.

Brands can easily fall into the pattern of using their YouTube accounts as mere dumping grounds for existing TV commercials. But unless those TV ads were as hilarious as the BMW’s recent Super Bowl commercial, or as touching as Dodge’s Super Bowl spot, audiences won’t actively search for them online.

The key to a successful social strategy is understanding how, why, and where your customers interact with social video. Leading auto brands understand that they need to create captivating, platform-specific content. And that kind of content can perform beyond expectations: in 2014, four of YouTube’s top 10 trending videos came from brands.

Three auto brands doing it well

Videos that succeed on YouTube are short, creative, and relevant. The right tone is crucial. And brands such as Kia, BMW, and Lexus understand the importance of this platform-specific video content. While Kia takes advantage of brand-sponsored events and famous personalities, BMW takes an emotional approach. Both strategies have proven to drive high viewership and engagement.

Kia‘s “One to Watch” follows popular musical artists through the Kia-sponsored Billboard Music Awards. In one episode, artist Tori Kelly gets chauffeured to the red carpet in a matching red Kia. Kia also provides a backstage interview. When a brand like Kia features young artists in their content, it’s able to stay relevant online.


 
BMW‘s #BMWStories series showcases customer stories, ranging from ‘The Secret BMW Collector’ to ‘The Marriage Proposal with a BMW M3’. Though professionally produced, the content is raw, interesting, and relatable. BMW’s playlist houses 33 stories, which have received anywhere from 7K to 14M views on each video. #BMWStories drives, on average, a 5x engagement rate compared to the average automotive brand. (We define engagement rate as total likes, dislikes, and comments divided by total views.)


 

Lexus recently published a video that demonstrates what it means to experiment with new interesting content on YouTube. ‘Lexus Presents: Slide’ features a hoverboard that Lexus innovators created. This type of content shows that Lexus thinks outside of the box while still maintaining a strong position in the automotive industry.


 

The role of UGC

According to a 2014 report by Tubular Labs, the top five auto-related YouTube channels don’t belong to brands—they belong to car enthusiasts and reviewers. That means car brands looking to expand their social video footprint need to keep tabs not only on competitor brands but also on user-generated content (UGC) from professional vloggers and other content creators.

To stay afloat amid the chaos of social video, automotive branded content needs to be just as appealing as this UGC. And the savviest brands will consider collaborating with enthusiasts directly to create influencer-led content that aligns with their brand and engages their audiences.