Business development · 18 June 2021

Marketing the Switch to Electric Vehicles

Making the switch to electric vehicles presents challenges for everyone invested in the automotive industry. From policy makers coordinating the movement to a carbon-neutral society, to the car brands inventing new solutions for electric mobility, ensuring the widespread adoption of electric vehicles by 2035 in the UK is colossal challenge that require a unified effort.

Marketeers and those commissioned from the creative industries perhaps face one of the most pressing challenges: quickly ensuring consumer confidence in electric vehicles. Recognisably, much concern lies with poor charging infrastructure and this must be addressed by those in central Government, but car brands still face challenges to retain customers in the next great era of car design.

The many obstacles present in the roadmap to 2035 require a range of solutions, from legislation to creative marketing and advertising. Consumers need to become confident and hopeful about the prospect of electric vehicles, instead of feeling pressurised or anxious about a looming deadline.

There is where the fruits of creative advertising and marketing can really bear. Creativity can debunk myths, promote sustainability and communicate the lifestyle advantages of electric vehicles clearly and accessibly. Car manufacturers will use this to position their brand as leaders in sustainability too, driving sales and commercial interest for a new generation of car ownership.

With a new era comes a new set of demands and challenges, and brands are rising to the challenge with innovative brand marketing and advertising. Peugeot and Kia have both undergone a new hyper-modern rebranding with a new logo. GM Motors also used a brand relaunch as an opportunity to advertise their corporate vision for net carbon neutral production.

This echoes the need for a new style of advertising when it comes to marketing the switch to electric vehicles. Every car brand will have to follow suit. It’s sink or swim. Speaking about the upcoming launch of their new electric vehicle range, Jochen Sengpiehl, Chief Marketing Office at Volkswagen, explains the company needs an ‘entirely new marketing approach’. ‘We are concerned with communicating a new movement’, he explains.

This sentiment is shared by many other automotive brands, including the likes of Ford, Volvo and Hyundai who have all ran campaigns to position their brand as leaders in the sustainability movement. Automotive brands recognise the need to communicate this message and show they are on board with tackling climate change and embracing sustainability, all while supporting car owners with the switch to electric vehicles. This requires an adept mix of creativity and PR. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples.

FordSwitch – Ford

To mark the launch of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Ford coordinated a bold marketing campaign titled ‘Fordswitch’, which saw them take over the Kent town of Fordwich for a weekend with more than 300 Ford Mustang Mach-E that they offered to all residents over the 2 days.

The campaign was aimed at not only marketing their new all-electric SUV, but was also based on research that suggested people who had driven or rode in an EV were 3 times more likely to buy one. With this in mind Ford dreamt up the idea to occupy the UK’s smallest town for the weekend and gift every resident a Ford-Mach E to drive. They also installed charge points across town for everyone to use.

It was a bold campaign designed to drive consumer confidence in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, all while with the clear underlying aim of buying a Ford electric vehicle. And while eventually the residents of Fordwich had to return the SUVs back to Ford, all the charge points installed in the town were left there permanently for future use.

Expect similar PR campaigns to be launched by Ford in the coming years, with 18 models to be electrified by the end of 2021 including the Mach-E and new Fiesta.

Everybody In – GM Motors

Automotive giants GM Motors launched their ‘Everybody In’ campaign earlier in 2021. It was a call to action designed to reflect the inclusivity and accessibility of the climate movement and to position GM as a leading advocate for sustainability and inclusivity across the automotive industry. The campaign included a multi-channel creative content approach, as well as a talk hosted at the Consumer Electronics Show by the GM CEO, and a refreshed logo design and branding aesthetic.

Providing substance to the message was GM’s investment of 27 billion into EV and AV products by 2025 with 30 new EV models planned globally by the end of 2025. Commenting on the campaign, CMO, Deborah Wahl, said ‘There are moments in history when everything changes. We believe such a point is upon us for the mass adoption of electric vehicles. Our new brand identity is designed to reflect this’.

The ‘Everybody In’ campaign marks the start of a new brand journey for GM Motors, including their mission to facilitate a zero-emissions future with a new wave of electric models set for release across their subsidiary brands. Like every good marketing campaign, the slogan solicits a reaction in the viewer too, inviting them to join the sustainability cause with the adoption of electric vehicles into their lives.

The Birdman – Volvo

The ‘Birdman’ is a short film pioneered by Volvo and is perhaps one of the most sophisticated and creative campaigns we’ve seen from a car band on sustainability. Aired on Sky Atlantic, the short film explores the damage caused to the natural world by human activity and presents an emotional story that follows the work of conservation biologist Carl Jones and his efforts to save endangered bird species.

The film ends with a poignant message: ‘One species caused climate change. Only one species can fix it’. It was run on TV, on multiple video-on-demand services, and on social media too, offering a clear message that just one individual can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change. You can watch the full-length version of ‘The Birdman’ here.

Remarkably the film bares little resemblance to an automotive company and this only enforces the sophistication of the Volvo brand and their own commitment to sustainability and tackling climate change. The film brilliantly stays on message throughout.

I’m In Charge – Hyundai

Personal responsibility was also the message of Hyundai’s ‘I’m in Charge’ campaign that was launched for it’s IONIQ line up of battery electric vehicles in 2020. In similar fashion to the short film presented by Volvo, Hyundai commissioned the help of an award-winning filmmaker to create this short advert.

The campaign titled ‘I’m in Charge’ reflected the central message of personal responsibility in the fight against climate change and attempted to remind us how we all must take charge of our own sustainability. Present in the campaign was Hyundai’s corporate values of ‘clean mobility’ and the solutions to clean transport and clean living offered in their new IONIQ range of electric vehicles.

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