A satirical commercial from 2011 posed the hypothetical question, “What if everything ran on gas?” to viewers. The commercial for Nissan’s electric-powered Leaf depicted a world where combustible engines replaced wires and plugs in alarm clocks, microwaves, coffee makers, and even dentist drills. Now, a decade later, automakers are all pondering the same question: What if all cars were electric?
Automakers have been changing how they sell electric vehicles (EVs) to attract more general audiences by using high-profile filmmakers and celebrities, new showrooms, and media stunts. Will the strategies, however, lead to a more permanent shift?
Major corporations and startups alike are unveiling a slew of new tactics to go with their new cars, batteries, and environmental pledges in the hopes of making electric vehicles the standard within the next decade. A Super Bowl commercial with an all-star cast was aired by General Motors. For the Tokyo Olympics, Ford chose a well-known director. To educate the market, startup Lucid and Mercedes-Benz have created new showrooms that are in New York City. Hyundai is running electric vehicle commercials starring Spider-Man.
This year, electric vehicles are expected to be a major focus once again. GM and BMW will unveil new electric vehicles at 2022 Consumer Electronics Show that will be held in Las Vegas later this week. Nissan will show its first Super Bowl commercial since 2015 in February, promoting the Ariya crossover as well as Z sports coupe. Mercedes-Benz is also preparing a huge relationship with the upcoming blockbuster Avatar 2 later this year.
In October, Monique Harrison, Mercedes-Benz USA’s head of brand, informed Forbes, “As you know, they don’t live on earth in the series.” “They are not going to reside on Earth in any future, hence don’t anticipate them to be driving EQS down Fifth Avenue. However, the series’ creativity and placement are ideal for discussing our EQ item and what it can bring here on Earth.”
Automobile manufacturers have been progressively marketing to consumers who are interested in luxury and performance, moving beyond promoting specific models to promoting the companies as EV pioneers. Experts say they’re also more willing than in the past to tease out new vehicles or technologies sooner than in the past, painting a picture for skeptics of an electric future.
“If you look at the history of EVs, we’ve shifted from marketing to Birkenstock-fitting, soy latte-sipping green viewpoint with Prius and Leaf kind,” said Jeffrey Osborne, a sustainability and mobility analyst at Cowen Securities. “And Tesla has proven that mass marketing works.”
Early in the year, GM revealed a new corporate redesign to emphasize the company’s commitment to electric vehicles. It also launched a new “Everybody In” commercial that included author Malcolm Gladwell, famous Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby, and surfer Bethany Hamilton the same week. Then, in February, GM, which plans to have 30 electric vehicles on the market by 2025, aired a Super Bowl commercial promoting the Lyriq crossover with Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina, followed by a separate partnership with Disney for Chevy Bolt featuring classic Star Wars, Dumbo, and Peter Pan characters.
In a March interview with Forbes, Deborah Wahl, the GM Chief Marketing Officer said, “You can’t be any further mainstream than Disney.” “And that was really intended to shift the perception that electric vehicles are only for a small portion of the general population who are absolutely concerned about climate change, to demonstrating how ideal these automobiles are for all types of usage, for road-trip driving and for families”
According to Wahl, GM has tried to strike a balance between the timing of these advertising investments and the chance of capturing the market. This includes using emotional appeals while also teaching people about electric automobiles.
Ford released a new commercial during Tokyo Olympics this summer, directed by Chloe Zhao, who has been renowned for writing and directing popular films such as Nomadland and Eternals. Zhao directing the video, according to Alix Toothman, who is a strategy director at the Wieden + Kennedy and who works on Ford’s EV advertising, assists the formerly niche electric vehicle sector feel more desirable and accessible to broad viewers.
She remarked, “I think she’s known for catching extremely human individuals and imbuing all kinds of Americans with passion, depth, and character.”