[column] 2020: winners and losers

The media was central this year. Television, video and radio went through the roof, and we spent an average of more than two hours a day staring at our phones. And for all that media time, content was and is needed. Content that interests you as a reader, but also that inspires and informs you. In that context, looking back at 2020 may be interesting, because in the last bizarre months I have again written a lot of automotive columns for MarketingTribune. Articles that have highlighted the different facets of the automotive sector, always seen through those beautiful marketing glasses. Content that one time was about the cars themselves, but the next time showed more about media, automotive advertising or the business model of the sector. And it is precisely these different subjects that make it interesting to look back now. Because which angle is most appealing to a car-interested target group? Which piece was best read? And what was less interesting?

For this last 2020 column I look back on the past year from a marketing perspective, but especially in a fun way

The DS9 will definitely be Car of the Year

If I rely on the likes of a column on the MarketingTribune platform, the new DS9 is without a doubt “Car of the Year”. Even in my time as a marketer of French brands, I would not have dared to hope that a French limousine would get so many thumbs up in the air. In total, the article in which I plead for the great success of the new DS9 (and also a bit for the Renault Talisman Initiale Paris) was read almost 20,000 times by visitors. That is a nice readership volume, but much more striking was that 90 of these readers pressed the like button. If I were a DS marketer, an interesting mission by the way, I would see this number as 90 potential leads for the new voiture.

In any case, maybe they should consider an advertisement on MarketingTribune at DS, because 90 enthusiasts in front of a French limousine is not wrong in car marketing terms.

Anyway, the DS9 was not only one of the stars of 2020 in the national media but also on A great starting point for sales after the turn of the year.

Four-door rules

Sedans, traditional four-door models with a trunk for the non-connoisseurs, did well on MarketingTribune anyway. The article in which I advocated this conservative model car on October 16 also scores very well. Almost 30,000 times, your MarketingTribune readers read about how SUVs are taking over and how the malaise in the lease market is pushing the traditional four-door to second place. This immediately makes the article one of the best-read columns of 2020 and that can mean two things: firstly that people seek confirmation of their suspicion and read this piece as a kind of personal conclusion to the sedan era or secondly that readers read it. quite a bit of shock and want to know more why these years of successful trunk models suddenly do a lot less. The future will tell, but a concrete article about a body shape that is disappearing, at least turns out to be content that catches on well. It should be noted here that the approach of my story has not helped very much, even Volkswagen recently announced that it would probably stop with the Volkswagen Passat sedan. The number of sedans in the car range is therefore still decreasing.

Unfortunately, the industry is still not at the forefront when it comes to data, data quality, resources for data, data analysis, and data driven marketing

Boring data

Data remains a difficult story in the automotive industry. Although every car company should be fully committed to it, every importer should be obliged to add a benchmark data department to its business operations, the reading figures of the columns that deal with data show less interest from the marketers. Apparently data is boring. And let this observation confirm the image that I and other marketers have had for some time. Unfortunately, the industry is still not at the forefront when it comes to data, data quality, resources for data, data analysis, and data driven marketing. While data and profiles are a very important sales tool for the sector. On November 2, the article about data as a game changer in the automotive sector was read almost 20,000 times, but you could still see that the interaction on this subject was far behind the columns on concrete cars or sexy marketing topics. And yes, the ones and zeros are a bit tough material, but I would still like to use my contribution of today for an ardent plea that you can do really beautiful things in automotive marketing with data. I would like to tell you more about it, especially if you are open to a session with a few real data experts. And perhaps these kinds of sessions also contain the trick to make data a sexier topic among car marketers and agencies. Hopefully the data articles will score a bit better next year.

The hero of 2020 is a Kadett

The Opel Kadett also did well in 2020 almost thirty years after the production stop. The article I wrote on July 28 about the enormously increased choice in car models, the role of marketing in this and the clarity of the car range in the time of the Opel Kadett, was read almost 29,000 times. Secretly I suspect the MarketingTribune reader of a bit of nostalgia for those good old days when you could choose from a small Corsa, a medium Kadett or a large Record in the folder. Also the period in which you either chose the economical but very bare LS version, or just bought a little more luxury with the purchase of a GL. Not that the last version was richly equipped, but at least you had the letters Grand Luxe on your boot lid.

Another column about a specific car model that did well is my story about the German brand Alpina. A premium brand that hardly does any marketing but has been known for years as very desirable. So they do that well there in Bavaria and here too, based on the MarketingTribune audience, I see more sales potential for Alpina than orders are being written now. What would 2021 be a great car year if the DS9 and Alpina models would actually be at the top of the sales lists. In that case, we will suddenly soon forget 2020, I suspect.

YouTube, boy… what is the automotive sector loosing leads and engagement with customers here

YouTube 2021 must-do

Finally, this year I also worked hard for YouTube as a serious marketing channel for the automotive industry. You read this as MarketingTribune readers almost 15,000 times. The observation that really no car brand has its search results on YouTube in order, rubbish comes up when I enter a logical consumer question about any make or model of car on this largest video platform, was, or rather, is sour. And also surprising, because half the world does not search Google but YouTube. Boy… what is the automotive sector loosing leads and engagement with customers here! Dealers are taking the video strategy a lot better, by the way. That will not all have been due to the attention on, but dealerships do show one good Help video after another in which an employee often explains a specific car. The car brands themselves are in almost all cases still not easy to find on YouTube, they also fall short in the Google ranking and can provide a much better service to their customers with help content on YouTube. And that also at a time when video is an important tool for selling cars (remotely). So if I can give the car brands a good intention for 2021, it is investing in a solid YouTube strategy and making this platform an integral part of your marketing strategy. And that priority for a YouTube strategy also saves the bottom line a lot of media money, which means that an extra sales and service channel can be set up cost-neutral. YouTube is also an excellent tool in automotive PR, because as a car brand you increasingly catch the consumer or relevant news media with video and less with the traditional press release.

Fuel cell

Finally, 2020 brought more fun around the MarketingTribune columns. A conversation with Jort Kelder about cars, for example. He responded after I suggested in the column “Back to Business” that it was not Suit Supply but the automotive industry that should have used his self-invented lockdown campaign. In addition, I noticed the discussion about the fuel cell. Readers are either strongly in favor or don’t see it at all. The reactions were interesting, while companies like Hyundai, Toyota and Shell really know what they are doing. I myself maintain that the hydrogen car can become a good alternative to Battery EVs and I assume that such large companies will continue to perfect the technology and infrastructure in the near future. There will soon be something like that to choose and in terms of marketing there is an interesting mission for the fuel cell brands. On YouTube for example …

Marketing landscape

Now it is time to get a few days of new marketing inspiration in peace and read back interesting content from the past. 2021 will be a year of growth for the automotive industry. Industry associations predict around 400,000 instead of 350,000 cars this year. In addition, more than 60,000 vans and further electrification of the market.

According to experts, automotive media spending is also going up by about 12% and there are a few very nice and potential newcomers eager to enter the market. Think of the Volkswagen ID4 and the Citroën e-C4. With all the developments in the media field, 2021 will undoubtedly also bring an inspiring automotive marketing landscape. A scenario with more players, because more and more (Chinese) brands are entering the market. It will be quite a job for them to become top of mind with the consumer. I am therefore curious about their marketing strategies.

Fortunately, that makes our profession interesting. By the way, if you want to know more about the latest automotive marketing developments, sign up for one of the digital Marketing Landscape 2021 Masterclasses that I will give next month

At BranchePartners we kick off 2021 with a compact marketing overview for, for example, automotive marketers but also agency employees who work for car customers. And yes… we will also explain to you why YouTube as a fully-fledged automotive marketing channel is really a priority next year. Another exciting automotive marketing year is approaching.

We wish you very nice days for now and stay healthy!

Jos van den Bergh (1973) worked for almost 20 years in various PR & communication positions in the automotive industry and nowadays advises with his company MediaMondo automotive and media parties in the field of marketing communication, PR and media. He is also a dealer marketing advisor at BranchePartners in Houten. For MarketingTribune he critically follows the developments in the automotive world. Do you also need marketing advice? Mail Jos without obligation at


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