Does your brand portfolio strategy affect how much people talk about your cars?


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Understanding what the drivers for positive conversation and content are will be increasingly important to automotive brands as they further embrace social media. As an example of our research in this area, we have explored whether the brand portfolio approach taken by automotive manufacturers impact on the level and nature of conversations around their brands. By revealing the results of our analysis on the themes of conversation around BMW, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Beetle, we can share some insights into this issue:

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Does your brand portfolio strategy affect how much people talk about your cars?

  1. 1. Automotive research:Masterbrand v Product BrandDoes brand portfolio strategyaffect social media engagement?Contact:Dan MilesNew Business – Brand 7264
  2. 2. Contents Objective and approach 1 Key findings 2 Overview of themes of conversation 3 Themes of conversation about BMW 4 Themes of conversation about Volkswagen 6 Themes of conversation about Volkswagen Beetle 8 Conclusions and considerations 10
  3. 3. Objective and approachObjective Approach To investigate the hypothesis that the brand  We identified all English-language mentions of „BMW‟, portfolio approach taken by automotive „Volkswagen/VW‟ and „Volkswagen/VW Beetle/Bug‟ manufacturers impacts on the level of focus and within social media from 12th March to 12th June. cohesion of conversations around the manufacturer brand, by performing an analysis on  We analysed the content for each brand/model in the themes of conversation around terms of the focus of each post, using market-leading BMW, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Beetle. software including Crimson Hexagon.  This analysis was then explored in order to provide an understanding the drivers of conversation for each brand/model and the differences which exist (or not).1
  4. 4. Key findings Conversations about BMW were driven and dominated  A large proportion of negative mentions of BMW referred by aspirational mentions. These mentions tended to occur to the drivers of BMW-made cars and failed to on Twitter and contained little or no detail regarding model or discriminate by model. In contrast, negative mentions of style. Aspirational posts also made up a considerable Volkswagen were driven by and differed by model-brand. For proportion of conversations about Volkswagen, but were example, negative mentions of the Volkswagen Beetle were more likely to be driven by mentions of model driven by comments on male drivers and the sharing of a brands, particularly the Beetle and Campervan. joke referencing the model brand. Mentions of models were common for both BMW and  The marketing activities of both BMW and Volkswagen Volkswagen in conversations which shared news and drove a similar proportion of conversation. Conversations information about specific models, and posts such as this about the marketing activities of both often did not include were predominantly generated within blogs and forums, or mentions of models and therefore served to drive buzz comprised Tweets with links to external online content. around the manufactures as a whole. Mentions of models were also common within posts in which consumers posed questions or shared advice and experiences. These conversations predominantly took place within forums, were specific in focus, and contained a high level of detail.2
  5. 5. Overview of themes of conversation Themes of conversation within social media by brand BMW‟s monolithic branding consolidated aspirational comments around the master brand. Adverts/Selling/Buying BMW experienced a lower proportion of mentions of the master brand in Positive and aspirational comments connection with models. Given the lack of a brand name with which to otherwise identify the models in discussion, this is Reviews and comments on models somewhat surprising, and indicates that conversations about BMW are quite homogeneous, master brand and Marketing and sponsorship aspiration-driven. The relatively high proportion of posts Problems/Questions & advice seeking or giving advice for Volkswagen was a product of its more fragmented and evenly dispersed topics of conversation. Comments on the business Volkswagen Beetle has its own perceptual profile, which drives more singular I have/had a BMW/VW/VW Beetle conversations than the master brand.Generic negative comments/ Comments Volkswagen‟s Beetle attracted a relatively about the drivers high proportion of negative mentions about its drivers, however negativity was Other/Passing mentions attributed to the model brand rather than the Volkswagen Brand overall. This was not the case for BMW, where similar 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% negativity did not discriminate by model and instead was attributed to the BMW BMW Volkswagen Volkswagen Beetle Brand as a whole.3
  6. 6. Themes of conversation about BMW (i) BMW: themes of conversation within social media Adverts/Selling/Buying Positive and aspirational comments Reviews and comments on models Marketing and sponsorship Problems/Questions & advice Comments on the business "I own a BMW" Generic negative comments Other Passing mentions 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25%4
  7. 7. Themes of conversation about BMW (ii) Opinion-based consumer conversations about BMW within  Reviews of or comments on specific models made up 12% social media were dominated by aspirational posts. These of all conversations. These discussions primarily took place were predominantly generated on Twitter and, although some on blogs and within forums, and tweets commonly linked to posts did cite specific models, (“I want a 1990 bmw 325i...#boss longer-form content. They tended to comprise s***”), posts were more likely to omit details, (“I want a BMW reviews, news, and more general consumer comments (“BMW #wishfulthinking”), or quote other details, such as colour, („”Ive AG revealed a convertible roadster version of its i8, a high- also always wanted a 1999 white convertible BMW”). performance plug-in hybrid concept car.”) The aspiration surrounding BMW was also evident in the 5% of  Mentions of specific models and their respective features conversations in which consumers informed people, either were also common within the 7% of conversations in which directly or indirectly, that they, or someone they‟re connected consumers discussed problems, offered advice and shared to, owned a BMW. Within these posts it was again common for experiences in very detailed terms (“My car is an n54 with a consumers to omit details about the specific model they owned step-tronic transmission. No launch control from bmw, but I (“So I just bought a BMW... #TheUltimateDrivingMachine”). discovered that if you do a 2nd gear launch, you can build up to 2500rpm and have no wheel-spin during the first 20ft.”) BMW’s marketing activity drove 7% of all consumer conversations, but despite being widely shared and  Negative comments about BMW tended to focus on their commented upon on sites such as Twitter, again consumers drivers, with a link to a study which found that BMW more often than not failed to cite which model was being owners are ‘twice as likely to be adulterers’ featuring advertised (“@TheFatKidNaTion I love that commercial with the prominently (“Study: #BMW owners twice as likely to be BMW racer wearing the head cam. So cool.”). adulterers as drivers of other brands: Filed under: Etc., BM...”).5
  8. 8. Themes of conversation about Volkswagen (i) Volkswagen: themes of conversation within social media Adverts/Selling/Buying Reviews and comments on models Positive and aspirational comments Problems/Questions & advice Comments on the business Generic negative comments Marketing and sponsorship "I own a VW" Other 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25%6
  9. 9. Themes of conversation about Volkswagen (ii) As with conversations about BMW, posts commenting  Negative comments were varied, but included a significant upon specific models, and positive and aspirational posts proportion of jokes and comments on the drivers of specific were the most common drivers of conversation about models, such as the Volkswagen Beetle. Volkswagen. However, these topics of conversation were significantly less dominant for Volkswagen than they were for  As in conversations about BMW, a significant proportion of BMW, and topics of conversation about Volkswagen were more conversational about Volkswagen comprised posts asking evenly spread. questions or sharing advice and experiences, most commonly within forums. Within these posts, mentions of Posts mentioning and commenting upon specific models specific models and their respective features were again were more common than positive or aspirational posts common and posts often included a high level of detail (“Ive within conversations about Volkswagen. These posts tended removed the pedal cover assembly using this "howto", Brake to comprise the sharing of news or reviews of various models master cylinder removal on VW Passat and Ive lubricated all of (“This VW Passat just drove a record-breaking 1,626 miles on a the moving parts with first 5-56 spray [...] but still, no luck.”). single tank of gas!”), and commonly linked to external online content.  Marketing activities drove a similar proportion of conversation for both BMW and Volkswagen, and as with Unlike posts about BMW, positive and aspirational conversations about BMW‟s advertising, consumers were not comments about Volkswagen tended to be driven by likely to mention the model advertised. Instead, posts about mentions of specific models, most commonly the Volkswagen Volkswagens advertising tended to comprise short comments Beetle (“I want a Volkswagen beetle so bad:( “) and without much detail (“That new Volkswagen commercial is Volkswagen Campervan (“I want an old school VW #priceless #DasAuto”). campervan”).7
  10. 10. Themes of conversation about Volkswagen Beetle (i) Volkswagen Beetle: themes of conversation within social media Adverts/Selling/Buying Positive and aspirational comments Reviews and comments on models Comments about drivers "I have/had a VW" Problems/Questions & advice Negative comments Other 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25%8
  11. 11. Themes of conversation about Volkswagen Beetle (ii) Unlike overall conversations about Volkswagen, consumer  The most distinguishing topic within conversations about discussions about the Volkswagen Beetle were driven by the Volkswagen Beetle was comments on the drivers of the positive and aspirational comments. These posts were most car. The Volkswagen Beetle was widely cited as a „woman‟s commonly generated on Twitter and were simple in format (“I car‟, with almost all posts within this theme comprising negative want a Volkswagen Beetle so flipping bad. #favoritecar comments about men who drive the car (“seeing a guy driving a #cutestthingsever”). VW beetle is actually hilarious #girlycar”; “Any guy that drives a VW bug should have their man card revoked.”). A similar proportion of posts comprised more specific comments or reviews of the model. These were common on blogs and within forums, or comprised tweets with links to external online content (“Volkswagen New Beetle Diecast Model Car 1/24 Yellow: Made of diecast Opening doors Opening hood Wheels roll Stee...”). Posts often shared news about new releases, with the Fender Edition commonly cited (“Volkswagen Beetle Fender Edition will hit the roads by year end Passion Parade:”).9
  12. 12. Conclusions and considerations Although the themes of conversations surrounding  BMW’s more monolithic approach to the branding of its BMW, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Beetle appear similar models appears to have consolidated the desirability of at an overall level, with similar topics driving mentions of BMW as a aster brand, whereas the desirability of Volkswagen each brand, we identified some significant differences is driven more by specific model brands such as the Beetle. when exploring these conversations in more detail. The monolithic branding of BMW resulted in very focused conversations surrounding desirability, whereas Volkswagen‟s Conversations about BMW were significantly more model-brand portfolio led to more fragmented discussions. homogeneous than were conversations about Aspirational mentions of the Volkswagen Beetle tended to be Volkswagen, with adverts, positive and aspirational more isolated, and did not drive master brand perceptions very comments, and – to a lesser extent – reviews dominating the directly. lion‟s share of BMW conversations, with conversations about Volkswagen much more dispersed across the different themes.  The Volkswagen model brand portfolio appears to have been successful in generating a number of separate brand It might be expected that BMW’s monolithic brand identities, which drove relatively isolated and specific approach would lead to a much higher proportion of model- conversations. Although positive and aspirational posts were specific mentions which were prefaced by a mention of the therefore less powerful for the Volkswagen Brand overall, this BMW master brand. However, the proportion of model did mean that negative mentions were also largely confined to brand mentions were in fact fairly even for each brand model brand mentions, such as comments about male drivers analysed, in spite of the relative lack of other name options of the Volkswagen Beetle. In contrast, where negative themes open to BMW drivers wishing to identify their model easily in arose surrounding BMW – again including comments about conversations. drivers – they tended to encompass the brand at an overall level, thus strengthening and consolidating the negativity.10
  13. 13. Considerations As we have seen that the model-brand approach taken by Volkswagen led to isolated and fragmented conversations, it may be useful to conduct an analysis of conversations surrounding every model brand within a portfolio, in order to understand the perceptual profiles and themes driving conversations of each model brand. We could then consider the impact of these conversations on the master brand. It may also be insightful to test further the hypothesis that a monolithic branding approach leads to more homogenous conversations, and that this is a particularly beneficial approach to take when seeking to drive perceptions of desirability.10
  14. 14. Contact:Contact:James WitheyHead of Brand 7264