Google Says The Old Sales Funnel Theory Is Dead For Car Marketers

Google is out to change the way automotive marketers think about their basic business, and they have new data that just may do the trick.

Ask most garden variety auto industry marketing executives about the “sales funnel” and they will talk to you about a six month process during which a car buyer typically starts the cycle of buying a new car: from the first time they decide that there is a new car in their near future to the time they take delivery. This six-month cycle idea influences the way car advertisers “flight” their ad campaigns in the media, and allocate brand building ads versus retail ads meant to drive people to the dealership.

Google’s automotive practice, though, led by former Chrysler advertising executive Bonita Coleman Stewart, says their research shows that the sales funnel isn’t six months at all, but more like one month. Thirty-percent of car buyers start the search for a new car less than a week before they make a purchase. Seventeen percent start just two weeks ahead. Nineteen percent start a month in advance. That’s almost 70% of the car-buyers starting the process no sooner than a month in advance.

While it is a self-serving piece of research for Google, the conclusion, says Stewart, is that car companies should be spending a bigger chunk of their marketing dollars online than they are today.

This is especially the case with online video. Again, it is perhaps self serving for Google to be pushing online video since they own Youtube. But any fool can see that doing dynamic things creatively with online video should be a growth area for any marketer. All you need do is compare the dreck that passes for most car advertising on TV with the often funny and witty stuff you find on youtube if you search on a brand or model, and it’s obvious.

According to Google, an astonishing nine billion videos were viewed on Youtube in just the month of July. Of those, 382 million were automotive related, either created by amateurs or uploaded by car companies.

These glaring data lead Stewart to believe that as car marketers grasp the implication they are going to quickly marry up search advertising with more online video opportunities. One thing is for sure: car marketers understand, and have always loved TV, because they know people want to see and hear the cars in ads. And that’s where more online video comes in.

Stewart, a former car company “client” says that most car marketers have been looking for data that will compel them to radically move dollars out of TV and into digital. Consider that consumers are spending 21% of their media consumption online. Advertisers are only spending about 7% of their dollars online. And auto companies are only spending 4%.

“The funnel is show short that car marketers need to be engaging 24/7, and you can only do that online,” says Stewart.

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