Who’s Driving? Shifting Consumer Behavior Drives Connected Car Technology


Who’s Driving? Shifting Consumer Behavior Drives Connected Car Technology

Now that the high-tech dust has settled after this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, marketers have more to be thinking about than bottomless expense reports. Beyond the buzz of this year’s model-clad product demonstrations, 3D-printed swag and robotics (everywhere, robotics!), one trend seemed to become more of a mainstay than a passing fad: the Connected Car.

With a record 10 major automakers exhibiting at this year’s show, it’s clear that CES is the place for revealing what connectivity looks like on the road. From Mercedes’ luxury self-driving prototype, BMW’s self-parking demos and two keynotes from automotive executives, marketers can expect this to be a space consumers will spend a lot of time with in the future.

Trust us, we’re believers too. Pandora identified an early consumer demand for online radio in the car and is now integrated with more than 150 car models, including the top 10 best selling passenger vehicles1. And while many Pandora users still tune in the new “old fashioned” way (via an auxiliary connection), nearly 8 million listeners tune into their personalized Pandora music through an integrated dashboard1.

In-car evolution driven by ubiquity

But the idea that consumers will embrace the Connected Car is not necessarily because the technology is new, sleek and hip. More than a trend, the focus on the Connected Car at CES is an indicator of a much larger fundamental shift in consumer behavior. Automakers are speeding to catch up with an already established consumer expectation for seamless, connected experiences across devices.

Pandora’s Director of Product Management, Jack Krawczyk, recently spoke to this in an Ad Week article saying, “when viewing or listening to media, consumers expect the same experience regardless of device, in addition to the expectation that the content will be tailored to their needs.”

Nielsen’s latest study on internet-connected car owners found that one-third of them stream audio every time they get into the vehicle2. This is a place where consumers spend a lot of time. The Federal Highway Administration estimated that drivers 16 and older drove an average of 37 miles per day in 20143.

Marketing with a 3,000-pound mobile device

More than a few marketers left CES scratching their heads about how to market to this new connected driver, only adding to the woes of some who are still adapting their marketing strategies to the explosive growth of smartphones. Whether we’re talking about a 5-ounce mobile device or a 3,000-pound one, the answer is the same. The key to successful marketing is to think like a connected consumer and adopt a Mobility Mindset.

Successful marketing needs to address mobility with a more integrated and comprehensive lens, rather than developing singular marketing tactics for individual devices. Taking this kind of consumer-centric, device-agnostic approach is a central tenet to marketing success.

“This is about enabling consumers to access content on their own terms in a simple and seamless manner across devices,” says Heidi Browning, Senior Vice President of Strategic Solutions at Pandora.

Audio should be every marketer’s favorite passenger

This is undeniably an exciting time for marketers, but that doesn’t mean connectivity won’t expose new and evolving challenges. An always-on consumer can always be reached—but how do you stand out amongst the clutter of multiple advertising messages across numerous devices? Marketers must tailor their creative to resonate with consumers in an organic way—and nothing is more organic to the car than audio.

Audio has called the car home for more than 80 years, and in a completely connected world, is going to prove itself again as a powerful and creative way for brands to truly connect with consumers. Taking a Mobility Mindset to audio allows your brand to elevate above the device to create important storytelling touch points with an audience. In an environment like the car, that requires eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, audio will continue to be the cornerstone between the vehicle and the rest of a consumer’s connected life.


1Internal Metrics, October 2014

2Nielsen, “Connected Life Report,” October 2014 3Federal Highway Administration, September 2014