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Posts Tagged ‘consumer insight’

Automotive Online Communities

Posted by Bill Sluben on August 18, 2009

Online communities are an excellent source of honest feedback, praise and critique from the most important constituency:  consumers.  The long practiced strategy of rolling out product introduction upon product introduction without including consumers as the stakeholder and creative adviser has to cease in order for automotive manufactures to realize success today.

Consider the following examples of automotive online communities (courtesy of our friends at

    Mini Insider

The Mini Insider online community is a fantastic example of amplifying word of mouth. The community was originally set up to work in tandem with an offline advertising campaign but has since grown in both numbers of people engaged and the ways in which it is used. It’s reported that 75% of Mini owners in the USA are now a member of the community, providing a rich resource of advocacy and of information. Not only do most members of the community stay loyal to the brand and buy another Mini, but it’s claimed that about half of all sales leads are actually generated by the site.

A resource like this is a great way of decreasing your conversion costs. Getting existing owners to talk about and showcase their own Minis helps those who are new to the brand to understand what they could have and what they might want to buy. We know that people trust peers more than a marketing message and so the Mini Insiders online community can be a much more powerful conversion tool than other sales and marketing routes. And when compared to face-to-face advice or sales, the online community is significantly cheaper.


GM’s GMnext community is an interesting example of using the brand and the consumer’s relationship with it to talk about another issue. The site brings together people from senior GM executives (up to and including Chairman and CEO Fritz Henderson), front-line employees, and retirees as well as consumers. They are encouraging conversations in five areas: vehicle design, current and emerging technologies, the environment, ideas and global corporate social responsibility. For GM, these are the areas that they think will drive the future of the automotive industry and they want to be part of (and perhaps own) the debate in these areas.

This is a good example of brands using their position in an industry to discuss issues amongst themselves and with their consumers in a very public arena. This can be a great way to position yourself as both being at the forefront of your industry, and also of being an innovative and responsive communicator. Using internal expertise and seeking external commentators is what many brands probably want to do, and online communities make it really easy for them to do it.

My note:  One would (rightfully) argue that the GM Next “community” is nothing more than a blog…an informative source of information, opinion and insight, but not a true environment where consumers engage in open and honest dialogue with each other and the company.

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