The auto aftermarket is no longer restricted to the car enthusiast´s  garage

The auto aftermarket is no longer restricted to the car enthusiast´s garage

Traditionally, the auto aftermarket was the exclusive territory of male enthusiasts, who would go to specialized stores looking for parts to maintain and enhance their vehicles. However, the growth of online channels and the entrance of mass retailers have opened the industry to new consumer segments, which is pushing brands to evolve their marketing communications strategies. 

In this piece we will share a few learnings about the importance of building brand equity for the master brand through diverse, multi-channel activity. Learnings that have helped us craft a winning strategy while supporting the Bosch premium wiper-blades account over the last four years.

The Category Context

The wiper-blades category is a good example of how a large number of business-to-consumer product categories behave in the auto aftermarket industry. 

Low Involvement and Long Replacement Cycle

Wiper blades create no excitement—not even among car enthusiasts. Furthermore, people do not connect wiper blades to vehicle safety while driving under severe weather conditions, when actually they play a crucial role. 

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67% of male frequent-drivers don’t feel worried, anxious or scared when driving in intense rain or snow. 

In spite of the importance of having clear vision while driving, consumers only think about wiper blades when they fail. As a consequence, they replace them every two to three years, when factory recommendation is to change them every year. 

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This consumer behavior has two important implications: Low involvement translates into a minimal understanding of products’ features and benefits; and the overly long replacement cycle makes it very difficult for users to recall and differentiate between brands.      

Innovation-Focused Communication

Similar to other categories within the industry, wiper-blades communications are focused on product innovation and performance. Category contenders are crowding communication channels with lab tests and performance stunts aimed at proving the superiority of their product lines, which in most cases are represented by sub-brands within their overall brand portfolio. 

The continuous implementation of these strategies has rendered innovation meaningless to consumers who are already disinterested in the category—as evidenced by data.

Only 17% of wiper-blades shoppers claim to make brand choices based on product features and benefits. 

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The Importance of Building a Strong Master Brand

This context strongly suggests that purchase decisions are based on price, but also that true preference happens at the brand level, which isn’t necessarily driven by product attributes and benefits intrinsic to the category. 

This creates opportunities, especially for premium brands like Bosch, that have built equity across different industries and categories. First, to appeal to a broader consumer base. Second, to have a more decisive impact on purchase decisions at the store.

 

Appealing to New Consumer Segments

Currently, wiper-blades shoppers include about the same number of car enthusiasts and car apathetics, which expands across generations, ethnicities and genders.

In our view, a strong master brand will have a better chance to become relevant to a larger number of shoppers. A good example is foreign-born U.S. Hispanics, an important population group that is often overlooked.

Purchase decisions within this segment are strongly influenced by the brand perceptions they formed in their country of origin. Brands that were considered premium yet unattainable abroad become affordable in the U.S., and still retain their aspirational high-end image. This cultural heritage turns these consumers into potential Bosch premium wiper-blades shoppers despite what their socioeconomic situation may suggest.  

Female drivers are another example of an underestimated segment who are becoming do-it-yourselfers in growing numbers and have a great impact on household purchase decisions. They are more likely to make their purchases at mass retailers. They are not as interested in the mechanics as men, and are more prone to base their choices on the familiarity they have with a brand outside of the category. Bosch, for example, has successfully leveraged its reputation for manufacturing reliable household appliances among female premium shoppers, which adds credibility to its targeted strategy focused on the notion of family safety.   

 

Winning at the Moment of Truth

We’ve established the need to reach out to a broader consumer base, but equally important is to win at the store. When standing in front of the shelves, shoppers decide which brand to choose first, and then select a particular model (or sub-brand)—a step taken with an eye on their budget. 

This proves the critical role that master brands play in elevating the perception of value. And most importantly, it stresses the imperative to build strong and relevant equity for the master brand. 

As our research revealed, nearly three-fourths of shoppers are unable to link sub-brands’ features and benefits to the master brand to which they belong.

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Key Takeaways

The auto aftermarket is no longer restricted to the auto enthusiast’s garage. To succeed in this increasingly competitive marketplace, the role of the master brand is critical.

  • In order to appeal to culturally diverse consumers with different purchase drivers, brands need to reach beyond products’ features and benefits
  • Multiple platforms and channels should be leveraged to implement targeted strategies to align the brand with audiences’ unique lifestyles and interests.  
  • Brands must build on the perception of value to support their premium product lines, especially while competing against store brands’ aggressive price-driven strategies.    

 

[ this article was written by Bailey Lauerman´s team ]

 


Sources:

MRI/Simmons. Winter 2020 NHCS.  Base: Adults 18+ Frequent drivers and wiper blades shoppers.

IMR Automotive Syndicated Market Research. Calendar Year 2020.  Base: Wiper Blades Shoppers.

2018-2020 Bailey Lauerman proprietary quantitative and qualitative research