2021 was a momentous year for many of the wrong reasons, but set against a backdrop of the global pandemic – and occasional local food and fuel shortages – there were some great leaps made in terms of both consumer perception and uptake of pure electric vehicles. (No doubt the fuel shortage and COP26 helped expedite matters too.)
Analysts, marketers, and media often use Geoffery Moore’s description of technology adoption to predict the stage and growth of uptake for new consumer technologies. And just as we could plot the progress of phenomena like mobile phones, online banking, etc. that same model can be applied to the seismic shift occurring in the automotive industry (from internal combustion engine-powered vehicles to pure electric-powered vehicles):
- Between 2015 to 2018 we were still with the innovators (e.g. those proudly showing off their Nissan Leaf, or Tesla S).
- In 2018 through 2021 we saw the early adopters start to buy into the story, driven in part by the breakthrough moment of the Tesla 3.
- And in 2022 we are now “crossing the chasm”: the early majority or pragmatists are starting to recognise the environmental and Total Cost of Ownership benefits of a pure electric car. And the car manufacturers – from VW to Porsche to Hyundai and beyond – are coming to market with a broad range of vehicles that can offer a 200+ mile range and startling performance.
Indeed, as we can see from the great graphic below from newautomotive.org, December 2021 marked a real milestone: 26% of all UK new car registrations were pure electric cars, with a further 21% hybrid.
(Source – https://newautomotive.org/ecc)
Regulatory and tax incentives play a large role in speeding up this process, too. In the U.K. for example the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars has twice been brought forward and is now set for 2030. Similar targets are also being adopted on a state-by-state basis in the USA, with California and New York amongst those mandating that all new passenger vehicles need to be zero-emission by 2035. The world over, EV adoption is working its way to the top of the agenda.
Yet even as the deadlines to remove ICE vehicles from our roads loom, people still have their misgivings about EVs. Range anxiety, price point, charging times, and even concern about an absence of engine noise … each one a potential speed bump for a consumer considering making the switch.
For marketing teams at automotive manufacturers, the typical challenge is actually double. Not only do they have a product-level story to tell about their electric vehicles, they have a category-level adoption curve to get the customer over too.
Meta did some great consumer research last year which they summarised in their “Lets Grow Electric” deck and webinars. They gauged consumer perception of electric cars from the perspective of both existing owners and considerers and used the lens of the three main motivators for why we buy: Utility, Pleasure and Status to break down this research.
For Existing owners (the early adopters):
(Source – Meta – Let’s Grow Electric)
For Considerers (the early majority):
(Source – Meta – Let’s Grow Electric)
Anita Fox, Head of Automotive Industry for Meta UK, summarised a few of the main findings as follows:
- Existing Owners are massive advocates for the pure electric experience. Owners are often surprised that driving and owning an electric car gives them so much pleasure and they are ready to evangelise for the experience and their chosen brand.
- There are multiple barriers and motivations to considering electric car ownership which needs addressing earlier in the customer journey.
- The most trusted source of information on electric cars is existing owners and peers.
- Using testimonials and UGC from owners in marketing campaigns is a key driver in accelerating uptake amongst both early and late majority considerers.
- Alongside range and charging infrastructure, sharing information about everyday life with an electric car, for example, operating costs and safety, are important levers to drive consideration.
Watch the Crossing the Chasm Webinar
In this on-demand webinar, you’ll hear from Scott Magee at Meta, Tom Barnard at Electrifying.com, and Matt Dunnakey of Hyundai as we ask how brands can harness the voice of the customer in turning EVs from niche to norm, and well ahead of those key COP26-approved milestones.
When it comes to bringing the voice of its most passionate fans to the fore, Porsche USA has been leading the way. Using StoryStream’s creator module, Porsche were able to collate and curate a library of customer-generated content – celebrating the launch of the incredible Porsche Taycan. Owners were able to submit personal, long-form testimonials which Porsche in turn celebrated on their model page.
My favourite example can be found here: Ken, a recent Taycan buyer, tells us that his 4s car is so good that “he drove 185 miles to get a sandwich.” He finishes by saying – “Thank you for building such a perfect car.”
Porsche also uses StoryStream’s curation platform to find, get rights to, and publish the best user-generated content from social media. The post below really shows how good social can be in driving the passion and status elements of a buying decision: “A vehicle for me is more than just a form of transport” (the utility) “It’s a way of life, an artistic expression of who I am” (i.e. the pleasure and status).
And it’s not just luxury brands getting in on the act. Matt Dunnakey, Head of Marketing at Hyundai U.K. tells us that he has been getting great results with StoryStream. Hyundai uses the platform to showcase expert reviews for their electric range, and are now also starting to capture and publish customer stories into their model-page experience too. (Check out there “Explore #myhyundai” storyboard on Hyundai.co.uk, or read the full case study here.)
Hyundai’s research shows that 51% of Brits want to improve sustainability habits in 2022; through their IONIQ 5 “Drive The Change” roadshow, Hyundai is aiming to both educate and excite the British public that upgrading to an electric vehicle is a key way to reduce their environmental footprint.
Leading the way in the campaign to move us all to electric is Electrifying.com – a group of electric experts including presenters Ginny Buckley, Tom Ford and Nicki Shields. Launched in March 2020, Electrifying.com’s aim is to clear the air for consumers around electric car ownership.
The site has seen rapid growth in viewers and visitors – particularly amongst women – as Britain’s curious-but-often-baffled consumers seek jargon-free advice about the switch to electric cars.
Tom Barnard, Electrifying.com’s Editor-in-Chief says: “Even people who have been working in the automotive industry for decades are finding it difficult to understand all the facts, figures and terminology around electrified cars. Consumers are curious, but desperate for information and don’t know where to turn. The water is being muddied further because there are groups and individuals who are actively campaigning against electric cars and seeding disinformation and doubt.
“On the opposite side, there are evangelists who try and pick a fight with anyone who criticises any aspect of electric motoring. The result is a huge amount of confusion, and consumers are stuck in the middle, not knowing where to turn for information and advice.
“Electrifying.com’s aim is to fill that gap with honest and expert advice. But consumers will also seek the views and opinions – good and bad – from their friends and peers.”
We all have a role to play in accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles. Whether you are an existing owner (evangelising to others), an Auto marketer (providing compelling evidence that the shift makes sense), or an independent expert such as Electifying.com (tracking the trends, simplifying the adoption process, and explaining its key terminology) … there’s much to be said for keeping the conversation going.