How Audi engineered a smarter approach to brand building on social

August 17, 2018

How Audi engineered a smarter approach to brand building on social

Many people confuse building a brand with building awareness. Making the right people aware of you is a big part of brand marketing, of course, but it’s not the only thing you have to achieve. There’s far more to it than that.

The art of building a brand involves moving people through several different stages of consideration, having different conversations at different moments, and with different purposes in mind. There’s a lot of nuance to how you address the varied audiences that will decide the success of your products, and the objectives that you have in mind when you do. You need awareness, but you also need association and affirmation, building reputation and word of mouth, intrigue and interest, desire and aspiration, and the conviction that a brand and product are right. I’m fascinated by these different dimensions of brand building, because I work with clients in the auto category. The relationship that auto brands have with their future buyers can be some of the most complex of all.

It’s rare for a campaign to take on all of these different aspects of brand building at once – but in recent months I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with one that has. It was ambitious, superbly planned, and one of the most successful I’ve ever seen for an auto brand on social media. It shows what a forward-thinking brand and smart agencies can achieve on LinkedIn. It also shows how brand-building can evolve to make greater use of data and personalisation while losing none of its emotive power.

The power of in-depth brand planning

Audi and its agencies PHD and We Are Social knew from the start that LinkedIn would be the ideal platform for launching the new A8 model. The A8 is a premium saloon packed with exclusive and superior technology. The audience that could appreciate this elegance and innovation were on LinkedIn – and far easier to identify and target on our platform than anywhere else. Audi therefore made an early decision to launch the A8 social campaign exclusively on LinkedIn. As Audi UK’s social media manager Rich Burgess put it,

the high-end professional audiences we were able to reach on LinkedIn made it the perfect partner for the launch of the new Audi A8.”
  • Audi A8

This gave PHD and We Are Social the license to explore a highly innovative approach on a single social platform. The campaign that we planned was evocative, emotive and aspirational – but we also used LinkedIn data to tailor our approach to distinct audiences that would each contribute to the brand conversation. We planned different phases of the campaign that would intrigue, inform and help to define a particular concept of luxury: a vehicle with both brains and an understated sense of real style.

For those who drive – and those who are driven

We started by working with the agencies to identify the people most likely to drive the A8, to be driven in it, and to aspire to drive it in the future. This quickly produced some interesting insights. For the first time on social media, Audi was able to speak to two key audiences: top executives and entrepreneurs who buy and drive for themselves, and the chauffeurs who invest in vehicles to drive senior executives. Every aspect of our campaign was tailored to the particular needs of these two distinct audiences.

Our high-end B2C campaign targeted senior company directors and above, with a specific focus on those who had recently made a career change, which research shows is a powerful trigger for car purchases. At the same time, we reached out to those with the potential to influence brand perceptions around the A8, such as journalists and opinion formers. And we added a ‘halo effect’ to our targeting by delivering content to affluent millennials where we had the potential to build aspiration around both the Audi brand and the A8 model.

How video expands the scope of brand building on LinkedIn

From the start of the campaign planning, we knew that we had a range of LinkedIn touchpoints and creative formats available to engage and inspire these audiences. Research consistently shows how aspirational B2C brands can drive extremely high engagement in the LinkedIn feed through beautiful imagery and natural stand-out for their Sponsored Content. Long-form posts on LinkedIn were also a natural platform for We Are Social’s daring influencer strategy. This involved reaching out to style leaders across different fields of life to discuss the art of understatement and how this related to a beautiful car with brains.

As our planning progressed, crucial new opportunities emerged as well. The launch of video for Sponsored Content provided us with powerful new dimensions to play with creatively. We used short-form video teaser content showcasing the exterior of the car to drive awareness and intrigue across all audiences. Through native video, we were able to give chauffeurs a voice, talking first-hand about their passion for the A8 and the difference that its advanced features made to them. Auto brands have the assets to create exceptional impact in the trusted LinkedIn environment – and using video multiplies that potential enormously.

A brand campaign in four phases

The precision of LinkedIn targeting meant that we were able to engage our key audiences through tailored sequences of content made up of four distinct phases. The short-form teaser video was followed by photography of the A8 interior with text overlays that highlighted different features for different audiences: for chauffeurs, the touchscreen technology that helps to keep drivers safe and in-control; for senior executives, the luxurious in-car features controlled through the bespoke Audi tablet. Long-form video stories provided an expert perspective on the experience of driving the A8. Influencer posts from Michelin-star chefs and luxury craftsmen discussed the particular take on style and technology that it embodies.

All of these different campaign phases were linked to very specific and measurable brand objectives. For me, this was one of the most impressive elements in the A8 campaign.

Audi and its agencies were able to use LinkedIn’s rich metrics and analytics for a clearer view of how each touchpoint and creative approach was performing. The data available on LinkedIn video engagement, for example, goes beyond simple view numbers to give you a meaningful sense of who’s watching and for how long. That’s the kind of granularity that a carefully planned brand strategy deserves.

Linking engagement to the brand metrics that matter

Success for the A8 launch would involve moving three important aspects of brand perception: that "Audi make cars with intelligent technology", that “Audi make cars we want to be seen in”, and that the A8 is a vehicle people would be happy to recommend to friends and family. Research from Nielsen showed the LinkedIn campaign delivering significant uplifts of 8% or more across each of these three metrics. Crucially, Nielsen also found that the shift in brand perceptions increased with audience seniority. All of our target audiences were primed to consider the A8 – but it was those with most potential to buy who advanced further along the journey.

The campaign’s engagement rate was 240% above the benchmark for an auto campaign on LinkedIn. Engagement and completion rates for the short-form teaser video showed its impact across the different audiences. Our in-depth native video featuring chauffeurs showed high completion rates amongst its specialist audience. Meanwhile the long-form content developed with We Are Social’s influencers played a major role in establishing the desirability of the vehicle.

The thing that I loved most about this campaign was the holistic approach that it took to brand building. It addressed all of the different stages in generating demand, and leveraged different touchpoints in order to do so. The Audi campaign was a masterclass in combining varied video content, beautiful photography and long-form written posts, and using LinkedIn analytics and brand research to assess the impact in detail. As a result, the brand now has a fantastic platform for translating the demand it’s generated around the A8 into leads and sales.