Buyers’ decisions for cars

A car may be purchased because of status, the inherent potency or the power of control that is driving. Buying decision depends on just that you like the sleek design of a particular model or swayed due to the auto majors’ portrayal of corporate social responsibility.

Emotional responses to product design influence customers to select a particular car from a row of similar products. It has a significant impact on buying decisions, researchers note. Consumers also expect auto makers to play an active role in the economic and social development of their country.

As a consequence, designers and Marketers are more and more challenged to manipulate the emotional impact of their products. Many are bent on ensuring that the firm’s inherent message of corporate social responsibility (CSR) too gets home.

Emotional connect: According to a research study by leading market information provider, TNS Automotive, around 55% of car purchase in India are governed purely by emotions. The challenge that marketers face in positioning their brand to appeal across a country as vast and diverse as India is highlighted by the clear regional differences thrown up by this study. Customers in North want to express their overt masculinity power and ruggedness through the vehicle, whereas southern customers are keener on pleasing their family and fitting in with society. A desire to demonstrate a practicality and efficiency in brand choice is prevalent among customers from the East. On the other hand, customers from the western region seek to express their authority, status and accomplishment through the cars that they buy.

Marketing is founded on the principle of satisfying consumer needs. This may sound simple but is actually very complex. Brands satisfy more than just our functional needs: there is a strong emotive component. It is difficult enough to identify and understand emotive needs, let alone how we might position a brand to tap them.

But marketers are getting there. Take the concept of social responsibility. Auto major Honda has rolled out a new ad to promote its 10 years in India and also to showcase its affiliation to growing environmental issues. Their new ad shows a little boy in a pristine, comfy car. He realized there is lady bug inside. He points this out to his father who is driving the car, and the child is allowed to release the lady bug on a shrub by the road. The tag line: Environment doesn’t often ride with technology but when it does so it is on a Honda.

TNS also conducted a global CSR study across 16 countries, which revealed that emerging markets such as Thailand, India, and China rate automotive companies higher in CSR than mature markets of the West. The study attributes this to the general public’s high rating of the automotive sector in emerging markets for generating jobs and improving quality of life.

Thailand, India and China have recorded phenomenal industry growth in the automotive sector and consumers in these markets see automotive companies playing an integral role in the economic and social development of their country. Conversely, the governments of some emerging, markets do not fully recognize the contribution of the automotive sector in generating jobs or their country – in some cases, levying high taxes on the automotive sector because the end products are seen to be luxury items that only a few can afford.

Brand personality: Be that as it may, even in the latest TNS study which represents the responses of more than 2,500 new car buyers, providing over 7,500 evaluations, consumer needs appear to have gotten more sharply defined and the relative positions of the existing brands have been altered significantly with the entry of new models like the Maruti Suzuki SX4, Mahindra Renault Logan and Hyundai Verna.
Take Hyundai and Maruti. Both these makes find similarities on some of the rational brand drivers such as good fuel economy ease of maintenance, practical cars, and good after sales service coverage. However, Hyundai’s persona is more expressive, while Maruti’s is more protective.

Increase in popularity and show off success are stronger motivation for Hyundai, while basic transportation and fit-in socially is higher for Maruti. Consequently, Hyundai finds a relatively better fit with adventure and potency as compared to utility and status for Maruti. Similarly with Honda and Toyota, superior craftsmanship is a key similarity for both brands at a national level However, Honda’s positioning is closer to the individual oriented zone of self assertion reflected in one of its key motive of ‘feel powerful’. Toyota falls more on the expressive side with motives like ‘feel young’ for adventures and fun.

Marketers are helping clients understand the way to build powerful brands by applying emotion in marketing. They have noted that brand successes are being built on the understanding of these nuances at an emotive level and this is where a strong brand connects needs to be forged.

The new brands in the market have managed to clearly position themselves to cater to a particular need segment.