Flogging a dead horse


Flogging a dead horse: how brands can navigate complexity to define a new era of mobility

There is a famous quote from Henry Ford which explores an age-old dichotomy for brands when it comes to innovation.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Do you give the consumer the product they think they want? Or do you build a product that you know they need? Does innovation come from collective consumer feedback or a singular vision?

Whilst consumers in the early 20th century may have wanted a horse - the needs of modern consumers are much more nuanced. Today consumers are faced with an unprecedented amount of choice. And this breadth of choice, combined with wider social, economic and environmental factors, has led to mass uncertainty.

Consumers want to reduce their environmental impact, but can they afford to make the switch away from cost-effective ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) auto models? How does the current economic uncertainty magnify this? Is the wider infrastructure (charging points etc) needed to support EV’s ready and available?

The choice is no longer horse or car. Or even petrol or diesel. Consumers today are faced with an unprecedented amount of complexity when making a future mobility purchase - and so it falls on automotive brands to help them navigate this shifting landscape.

But, how can brands make the decision making process for consumers as simple as possible in an increasingly complex environment?

Buying more than a car

The automotive industry is constantly evolving and changing. But what has not changed is the significance of an automotive purchase to consumers. These purchases are defining moments in the lives of consumers, and remain vehicles for signalling values, status and purpose in equal measure.

The appreciation of this importance needs to be reflected across the entire journey to purchase. The experience of a vehicle doesn’t begin when a consumer first gets behind the wheel, it begins from the first interaction with the brand.

In a complex and crowded market, providing consumers with well-crafted, informative and engaging experiences helps maintain purchase consideration and prevalence. From the speed of the site to the adjectives used by a salesperson, each point of contact is an opportunity for a brand to reinforce the confidence of a consumer in their choice.

Supply chain transparency for OEMs

A growing percentage of customers will want more visibility of the provenance and impact of their purchase of a vehicle.

According to research by MIT Sloan, whilst 75% of consumers considered transparency helpful in strengthening trust between businesses and consumers, 81% of companies surveyed did not have full visibility into their supply chains.

There is an opportunity for OEM’s to capitalise on this desire for transparency and win consumer confidence as they explore. It is commonplace for auto-brands to provide details of sub-brands that add value to a vehicle - for example, the addition of Bose speakers. Auto brands should look to expand on this - offering greater detail into the lesser-known components and their provenance, helping communicate to consumers that their choice has strong technical and ethical foundations.

A next-generation experience

The experience of riding a horse and driving a car are wildly different. Similarly, the difference between driving an automotive, and being automatically driven, will be an equally radical jump for consumers.

The future of the automobile sees the car acting as a ‘third space’ between home and work rather than solely offering a driving experience. This shift was underlined by entertainment and technology giants Sony unveiling their first foray into the automotive market with the Vision-S.

The automotive and mobility industries are ripe for innovation here. As the process of driving becomes increasingly automated, auto brands have the opportunity to transform the generic in-car experience into a rich array of highly specialized offers dependent on context, user and use case.

Complexity, simplified

We are evolving through an era of mass change - and living in a moment of mass uncertainty.

For automotive brands, the most effective way to engage consumers in this landscape is to take this complexity and translate it into easily understood and actionable insights. This is increasingly powerful in a world where you are only ever a few clicks away from comparison with a competitor.

At Oakwood, simplifying complexity for customers (and internal teams)is in our DNA. We help brands define positioning, purpose and value proposition through a blend of creativity, strategy and psychology. We have worked with global teams to define and communicate complex technical and product solutions across the energy sector, and worked with businesses in the OEM supply chain such as Anglo American, Saint-Gobain and Renishaw, to elevate how they deliver a tangible difference for their customers from GM and Toyota to BMW.

The needs and pressures influencing modern consumers have never been so complex. But the opportunity for automotive brands to define the next era of mobility has never been so great.