The five pillars of storytelling in automotive copywriting

by Anna Fozzard

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The automotive industry has been through a lot in recent years. Tesla and Google are transforming cars and car-travel. The climate emergency is putting pressure on the industry to revolutionise. And the Volkswagen emissions scandal immediately brought mistrust to the industry. We’ve seen automotive copywriting respond with words of honesty and stories of innovation.

Never deterred, brands like Mercedes Benz, Audi and Land Rover stand out for their brand perception. They’re seen as trusted to produce a well-performing car. Ford closely follows as an entry-level brand. But these marques don’t just produce great, reliable cars. They also create excellent stories.

The five pillars of storytelling

We believe the five pillars to effective storytelling in the automotive copywriting are:

  1. Honesty: In the age of mistrust, and following recent industry scandals – every story must start from a position of fact and absolute truth

  2. Inspiration: The automotive industry has a rich history of inspirational and aspirational advertising. It is what consumers come to expect, and something that will be a disappointment if omitted

  3. Real personality: People buy people, and the greatest stories have human characters at their heart.

  4. Rise and fall: Emotional ups and down, spoken with honesty, have the best chance of emotional connection with the audience.

  5. Leave them wanting more: The greatest stories have a beginning, middle and an end. And the best automotive stories have the ending as the beginning to the next conversation!

Great automotive copywriting

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 and automotive copywriting.

Inspirational: Audi – Give it an inch and it’ll take a mile

A bit of creativity goes a long way, and it’s brought to life by Audi in its advert for the A3 Sportback. No words are needed in this tale of taking advantage of an opportunity.

As a delivery truck driver has a nap, and Audi A3 Sportback slyly reverses onto the back and hitches a ride. For once, there’s no chiselled driver in a smart wool coat making it seem as though the car makes him look great. The car has a clever mind of its own. And it leaves us with a little smile on our faces.

Dramatic: Jaguar’s art of villainy with Tom Hiddleston

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 its celebrated, Art of Villainy campaign. The advert featuring 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.

Humorous: Ford Go Further

People love a good laugh, and that’s what Ford does rather well in this campaign. The advert is a montage of ordinary people finding themselves in frustrating and amusing predicaments. 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.

Surprising: Mercedes-Benz – More than meets the eye

We’re not quite sure where Mercedes-Benz is going with this advert at first. It’s clips of people enjoying a luxury a lifestyle but coming a cropper when it’s all too big and fancy to handle. Then there’s the simple message. A women cruises in her GLC at ease. Bingo – the car isn’t luxury for luxury’s sake – it’s crafted to be beautiful and to effortless to drive. The personality really comes across here. We all know who we want to be: the woman who’s made a sensible and indulgent choice. Naturally, we love the play on words with the tagline, ‘more than meets the eye’. Heaven.

The future

Social media, specifically Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, remain the hub for consumers to share content about their car purchases. A recent report revealed 45% of adults look online for information on cars, compared to just 24% relying on TV and 22% opting for a printed brochure. SEO copywriting and content targeted to a digital audience will be vital for brands wanting to make the most of the online world. But the words will need to be well chosen to bring out the story.

The most popular choice for how car brand stories are told is through a brand’s website, blog or email newsletter, where automotive copywriting plays a starring role. Customers like to deduce their own stories and be in charge of what they consume. 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 and clever SEO copywriting.

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