‘It’s easy to reduce everything down to cup holders’: What the auto industry needs to know about women

Automotive brands can reduce everything down to cup holders and swatches on colour, but they really do not understand the female consumer, said Fiorella Di Santo, Bauer Media’s director of sales.

“The car industry is overwhelmingly dominated by males, but its main customers are female,” Di Santo said.

Presenting to an audience at Mumbrella’s Automotive Marketing Summit, Di Santo said while the car industry was “overwhelmingly dominated by males”, not only are automotive brands not satisfying its main customers – women – but at times, they are “making a mess” of communicating with them.

Di Santo: Car industry is “overwhelmingly dominated by males”

“Women don’t see car makers as fundamentally tapped into them, underneath they still see a category that is dominated by men,” Di Santo said.

Frustratingly, for the female consumer and you as the marketer, even brands that are trying to do the right things in talking to women can sometimes make a mess of it.”

“It’s easy to reduce everything down to cup holders and swatches on colour, but then you are kind of not really understanding what motor makes the female consumer.”

She noted the example of a recent car brand, which was providing a colour matched nail polish to the car colour – which Mumbrella understands is the Renault Twango.

“Somewhere in all of this, was probably a research and a focus group that thought this was a great idea, but in my mind that’s a really poor decision,” she said.

Later she gave Mumbrella some examples of automotive brands who are effectively communicating with women: “Some of the luxury brands do it better because they are starting to do that lifestyle work, they have an association with fashion or food, or they are doing activations at fashion festivals and music festivals, and I think that’s more about the auto category playing out as a lifestyle brand.”

Commenting on a local study by Bauer, which surveyed 500 women, Di Santo said 45% felt car advertisers did not understand them, despite the fact women influence 85% of decisions.

Other statistics showed 42% of respondents found car advertising patronising to women, and 79% belived the car buying experience is better for men.

Bauer conducted a study with 500 women, which explored women’s attitudes towards the automotive industry

A total of 50% of respondents felt dissatisfied with the car brand as a result of their experience.

Di Santo pointed out none of the statistics were new or overly insightful, but questioned why women’s sentiment towards automotive brands remained the same.

“It can only lead us to the conclusion that the industry just doesn’t know how to change its approach to women, or simply doesn’t care to,” she said.

“When a male walks into a dealership, the conversation tends to be about what they want. When a woman walks in, the industry tends to slip into assumption mode.”

“There are plenty of generalisations that can be made about women and cars, but they’re only generalisations.”

She said women want to be engaged around individual needs and wants, are more careful, practical and ask more questions.

“If we are going to go down the road of assumption, a safe one to make about women is we are extremely savvy, and educated shoppers who know what we want,” she said.

“Understand the women’s path to purchase is not linear. Women have driven this trend to be better at researching their options before they go to buy.”

Moving past “rational appeals” and becoming more “adept in emotion” was a key learning put to marketers in the room,

“Lifestyle plays an incredibly important part in the decision. Essentially you are no longer being evaluated as a car brand, but as a lifestyle brand.”

“Women are driving this whole new set of car evaluation, they are driving away from additional car specs, to more lifestyle specs.

“It’s about practicality, it’s about design appeal, it’s about connectivity and entertainment, driver assistance technology, and value of things like warranty.”

“It’s about an association with and approach to life, rather than performance of the car.”


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