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Auto Luxury Brands Exert Leadership in Branded Content

Auto Luxury Brands Exert Leadership in Branded Content

By Jeff Youngs, March 15, 2012

It makes sense that luxury brands have emerged as leaders in attracting consumers with branded content such as entire documentaries that are spread virally on"We want to make sure we keep an engaged conversation going with the consumer and provide them with content that keeps them excited and coming back," said Loren Angelo, general manager of marketing for Audi of America.

BMW of North America marketing executive Trudy Hardy added that "a lot of research goes into purchasing a car; we're not selling packaged goods here." The brand's manager of marketing communications and consumer events added that "there's a tremendous amount of traffic and research and intentions where people engage with your brand. To these people, we have found that cars are best served up in motion, and so Web content has helped us tremendously with showing the performance of our cars-something we can't do in a traditional print ad. TV exposure also is limited. You really want to be able to tell the story of your vehicles, and web content gives you that platform."

Arguably, of course, BMW was among the biggest trailblazers in creating branded digital content with the initiation of its short-film series that appeared online remarkably long ago, at least in terms of the history of digital technology. Its series The Hire was comprised of eight short films, averaging about 10 minutes each, that were produced for the Internet in 2001 and 2002 by popular filmmakers from around the globe. The series starred noted actor Clive Owen as the "Driver" and highlighted the performance aspects of various BMW automobiles.

But every upscale brand has come to the same conclusions about the importance of branded content. For instance, Buick's Human Highlights Reel program, tied to its March Madness sponsorship of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, has become an effective bridge from its persona as a brand for older consumers to a near-luxury brand with products worthy of a look by much younger Americans as well.

Buick or its partners have interviewed and produced 5-minute videos about 20 different former college athletes, fast-forwarding from their sports careers to the differences they are making in the lives of individuals today with their various professional and philanthropic interests.

Buick is trying "to create a connection between Buick customers and this [March Madness] audience," explained Craig Bierly, Buick's director of advertising and promotions. "We view the Human Highlight Reel and the broader idea of human achievement as being the foundation for contextual relevancy and why we are an NCAA partner."

Lexus also ventures all over the branded-content universe. In 2011, for instance, the luxury brand launched a Web-based documentary series, "Fresh Perspectives," that followed six artists around the themes of "escape," "challenge" and "empower," to support its CT 200h  hybrid sedan.

Perhaps the most intense competition in newly emerging branded content is among the three German luxury brands, each of which is attempting to leverage the intelligence and creativity they can display in branded content into greater curiosity from existing customers and targeted consumers.

One thing each of them-BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi-has done to some extent is to use video production of documentaries and other formats to tackle the technological and social opportunities and challenges of the future of large urban concentrations. It's no coincidence that each of them already is engaged, as are all other automakers to varying degrees, in car-sharing services and mobile technologies to harness them that could have a large role to play in the future of transportation within the globe's burgeoning metropolises.

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