The five pillars of storytelling in the automotive industry

Cars are everything to some people, and the industry has been through a lot in recent years. From the automotive industry crisis during the 2008-2010 recession, to an age where technology enhancements from the likes of Tesla and Google are creating autonomous vehicles. The automotive industry is developing all the time, and to quote Mary Barra, the CEO of Detroit’s GM –‘we are going to see more change in the next five to ten years than we’ve seen in the last 50’. Car brands have therefore upped their game in the storytelling stakes.

Headstream reported that 66% of people believe the best stories from the automotive industry are about regular people. However, realism might not work as a genre for every car brand. We’ve found some recent examples of car brands attempting different types of storytelling through their marketing.

People love a good laugh, and that’s what Ford does rather well in its latest campaign with Ford Go Further. The advert is a montage of ordinary people (and a cat) finding themselves in frustrating and amusing predicaments that are relatable, from being locked out of a house, to sitting in stagnant traffic. Ford ends the video with their voiceover: ‘no one likes being stuck, that’s why Ford is developing new ways to help you move through life’. This ticks all the boxes in terms of storytelling – snippets of society, couple of chuckles that promote the ‘I’ve done that’ thought process, followed by a sturdy and affirmative tagline.

Whether it pulls at the heart strings or makes us think, an inspirational ad is a favoured storytelling genre across all industries. In 2016, Nissan showcased true genius with their Nissan Micra – Drawn at First Sight campaign. In collaboration with Google Tilt Brush, the advert shows Stephen Wiltshire, a man with ASD, memorising the image of the Nissan Micra in 60 seconds, then drawing it using virtual reality on technology that he had not used before. The advert is narrated by his sister, then ends with a written quote from Stephen: ‘It’s easy for me to remember things I find interesting’.

Cue the celebrity – many car brands use them, and as the UK’s most prestigious car manufacturer, Jaguar secured the latest in British/Hollywood royalty with their 2015 campaign. Art of Villainy with Tom Hiddleston details the style and performance of the F-Type Coupé through an engaging and poetic narrative. Hiddleston takes us through the car as a notorious and revered character. He gazes intensely into the camera, then quotes a patriotic ‘this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…’ from Shakespeare’s Richard II. It doesn’t get classier than that.

Stories that keep us guessing are always going to be popular. With Mercedes-Benz – The Journey, a young boy leaves his house in the middle of the night. We follow him down the street, through a park overlooking the city, on the subway, until he eventually reaches the police station. ‘I’m lost’ he says to the police officer, who with a knowing look, says ‘OK, but this is the last time.’ The boy is then tucked into the comfortable and chic interior of a Mercedes-Benz. The comical element adds to the charm of this advert, and as we are not sure at where the story is going throughout, it makes it more memorable.

The future
Social media, specifically Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, remain the hub for consumers to share content about their car purchases, as a recent report revealed 94% of millennial car buyers find information online. More significantly, 79% of 18-34 year old respondents said brand stories are most likely to get them interested in an automotive brand, with a further 55% showing intent of purchase.

The majority of consumers across the ages respond better to content, whether it’s articles, images or videos, when it comes from other consumers of the brand. However, the most popular choice for how car brand stories are told is through a brand’s website, blog or email newsletter. Customers like to deduce their own stories and be in charge of what they consume, going directly to the car brand’s website, as opposed to being bombarded through other means. Storytelling for the automotive industry is therefore not limited to video, and car brands will be able to tell their stories through good old fashioned words.






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