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Who are the Brand Ambassadors in the Automobile Industry? Your Employees

Automotive social selling is a concept as old as advertising. When James Bond steps out of his Aston Martin, everyone is looking at his next move. How many of us actually appreciate the Aston Martin, the Omega watch, or the Heineken he will drink at the bar?

There is a percentage of people who will pay attention to the brands that silently show up in the frame. And, they might even remember it. But, how many of these people will spend thousands of dollars to buy the same product? From a marketing effectiveness standpoint, there seems to be a loophole in the brand ambassador programs, which has not been resolved for a long time. And yet, brands like Aston Martin continue to pay tens of millions of dollars to be a part of the pop culture. While they will be remembered for several years after the movie is released and consumed, there must be a more efficient and trackable way to get brand awareness of similar stature.

And that is where your employees come into the picture, literally! Employee advocacy is one of the most underutilized and effective channels for getting your marketing message out of doors. It brings authenticity, efficiency, scale, and, more importantly – results. Yet, the number of brands utilizing the channel is abysmally shocking.

So, where do we begin? We begin with exploring what happens when a brand goes down the route of having brand ambassadors and influencers.

The Ineffective Side of Influencer Marketing in Automotive Social Selling

Building on the same James Bond and Aston Martin example, let’s explore the BMW annual sales and James Bond movies’ relationship. Yes. It is not common in popular knowledge, but in the 1995 Bond movie ‘Goldeneye’, Pierce Brosnan drove a BMW, not an Aston Martin. The trend continued for the next two Bond movies released in 1997 and 1999, respectively. The sales figure for BMW during this period painted this picture:

Year Annual Sales Growth
1995 10.03%
1996 13.34%
1997 15.80%
1998 7.42%
1999 17.8%
2000 22.23%
2001 12.51%
2002 20.41%


So, during the period when one of the most powerful characters in pop culture drove the BMW Z series car, the company’s annual sales grew as high as 22% in a year. How can that be a bad deal? We often confuse correlation with causation. Just because two events (car sales growth) and the release of the Bond films took place at the same time, you cannot mix them with one causing the other. In fact, the rival brand Audi which was not associated with Mr Bond in any form also registered staggering sales growth during the same period.

Year Annual Sales Growth
1995 -6.71%
1996 -20.11%
1997 24.90%
1998 39.10%
1999 38.81%
2000 21.85%
2001 3.62%
2002 2.93%


As the trend shows, both the luxury brands witnessed growth in the same period. BMW is a great brand by and itself. But, how much did its investment to get shown in the Bond movies paid off is quite tough to answer. That opens the door to a few other challenges that come with brand ambassador programs which have now evolved into high paid influencer programs in social media marketing for the automotive industry.

1. Too Much Focus on One Social Media Channel, Influencer, or Even Message.

Sometimes, as brands start getting traction on social media, they use the same channel for as long as they can juice it. Whether it is a brand ambassador, a group of influencers, the platform itself, or the type of messaging sent out – it becomes monotonous. And such initiatives tend to have diminishing returns – you will reach a peak that is never attained again.

If your car dealership is extensively focused on Instagram or Google Ads, you might be witnessing this problem. The returns with this focused strategy often start plunging because:

  1. Unintentional Retargeting: Same people get retargeted by the message. Someone following soccer might follow Ronaldo and Beckham. If both of them start selling the same brand, the individual’s feed will start looking like spam mail.
  1. Redundant Messaging: There is nothing ‘new’ left in the brand’s messaging. Since the posts are not personalized or coming from a person who adds her/his personality to the post, there is nothing new to read. The social media message from last Christmas looks awfully similar to the one on this Easter!

2. Influencer and Celebrity Perceptions Change

Continuing with the Bond example (we do love James Bond movies!), Pierce Brosnan was furnished with a legal notice from an Indian government body. He got duped into appearing in a surrogate ad for a tobacco brand. If the Indian government had not acted quickly, it might have taken years for Brosnan or other brands working with him to measure the impact of this development. And yet, people who associate with his Bond image would have seen the association getting extend to categories not natural to the luxury persona of Aston Martin and Omega.

The same issue emerges when brand ambassadors or influencers face a personal crisis. When Tiger Woods faced a series of personal crises, several brands like AT&T, Gatorade, Tag Heuer, Accenture, and Gillette reacted closely and cut ties with him. Even brands like Nike, which has mastered the craft of brand ambassadors, have faced grave issues. The brand got into a pit when Oscar Pistorius, one of its key ambassadors, was charged with a criminal prosecution.

In short – you cannot put the image of your brand in the hands of one person outside your business.

3. The Vampire Effect and Inflated Reach

This is a two-way problem. What happens if people remember the influencer but forget your brand? After all, they follow the influencer for what she/he has to offer and not for getting promotional content from your brand. This is called the vampire effect – when you pay the influencer, the influencer gets the recall value instead of the brand.

Inflated reach is another major problem. If your influencer has fake followers on social media, you are paying for a suboptimal channel. Such influencers tend to have concentrated followers posting poor quality comments or not engaging with the influencer. You should pay close attention to such influencers and pay attention to the signs of fake followers.

Automotive Social Selling Practices and an Untapped Influencer Base

By now, you might be thinking that influencers rarely result in great marketing outcomes. While that is true in several instances, it not a universal fact. The right ambassadors and influencers can generate a ton of value for their brands.

It is more important to understand the landscape of challenges before devising solutions when it comes to the USA automobile industry.

1. Long Road to Recovery

The Detroit Bureau has published comprehensive data on this issue. To touch the 2018 sales levels, the automobile industry will need time until the end of 2023. As the road to recovery remains long, automotive brands and dealerships will not have excess budgets allocated to expensive brand & influencer marketing campaigns.

2. Increasing Salary Expenses

Before the pandemic came across, the industry registered EBITDA of around 10% – including labor costs and salary expenses. Human capital is not easily accessible for the industry, and increasing salary expectations are not helping the bottom line.

3. Cost of Raw Materials and Logistics

The cost of raw materials and logistics has been increasing. Many dealerships have faced increased cost per unit on receiving the cars, as the manufacturers deal with inefficiencies in the supply chain.

Put together, these three issues are further making it more difficult for automotive dealerships to work with influencers and brand ambassadors. The limited resources and problems of working with influencers are not two problems that can be dismissed without taking an active stance. The challenge is – can you solve this problem with one solution?

Yes. If you are reading this and want to explore Inrelay, you can hunt both the birds with one stone.

Employee Advocacy: The Untapped Influencers in Changing Social Selling for Car Dealerships

Employee advocacy is a unique and underutilized solution. If you want to understand employee advocacy programs and how they can help you, click here.

1. 2 Million Employees = 1.4 Million Micro-Influencers to Change Social Media Marketing for Automobile Industry

Industry estimates show that over 2 million people are employed by car & parts dealerships across the USA. This is a base of people who are already aware of your brand, understand your marketing goals, and rely on posting genuine content that drives genuine results. When looked at, this resource changes the way most marketers perceive social selling for car dealerships.

Now, how does that make a difference to your brand? Our estimates show that over 70% of your employees will be glad to promote your brand on social media when nudged the right way. By that logic, this is an army of 1.4 million micro-influencers who can help auto dealerships grow their reach, engagement, and conversions.

2. Historical Performance: 25 Cars Per Employee.

Using the aggregate sales of 50 million units and the number of people employed by the industry, you get 25 cars per employee. You might say that this is misleading because several factors go into selling these cars – advertising, offers, after-sales services, local dealership brand, etc. And – you would be partially correct. While several other factors go into each sale, making your employees an essential part of your sales & marketing process is an efficient strategy. This is because they understand the process and can provide an authentic interface to your brand. Inrelay makes it all the more impacting for your dealership.

Inrelay’s Professional subscription costs around $1800 per year. On average, automotive dealerships spend nearly $500,000 per campaign – from ideation to execution and promotion. This means, for 0.36% of the cost per campaign, your dealership can tap into a base of resources that can bring.

3. Post Like a Leading Brand: Frequent and Authentic Social Selling for Car Dealerships.

Leading brands like Mercedes Benz post as many as 34 times in a day. This way, by standardizing the quality of each post, they get results by heavy volume instead of relying on creativity. Can your dealership afford to post 34 times in a day?

If you cannot do that, you can tap into the employee base you possess. According to National Automobile Dealers Association, dealerships have around 65 people employed on average. This means, even if half your employees are a part of your advocacy program, you will match the frequency of posting of a global brand. And with Inrelay, coordinating with each of these 30-32 people will be as easy as a few clicks.

4.  Use Every Dollar of Your Sales, General, and Administrative Expenses.

Let’s focus on your marketing dollars now. This will be a simple exercise focusing on how much you spend and what you get. Franchise dealerships spend nearly $552,000 on advertising every year, as per data published by Automotive News. Industry data shows that nearly 60% of this budget gets spent on digital mediums. Now, take a look at the salary data – using the average salary of approximately $55,000 per employees, dealerships can spend as much as $3 million a year on salaries & wages.

Basic accounting dictates that both advertising and salary expenses are presented as a single line item called Sales, General, and Administrative Expenses. Of this $3.5 million, how much of the budget are utilizing as a leadership? Our estimates suggest that you might be underutilizing nearly $2.6 million of this budget if you are not running an employee advocacy program. Hence, there is no surprise that social media marketing in the automotive industry is not the most efficiently executed medium.

The figure comes from two simple ideas – 70% of the salary expenses, using the average number of employees agreeing to work on employee advocacy programs and $500,000 in advertising expenses.

If you have ever believed that your dealership is not spending enough on marketing and advertising, you might have overlooked the most important marketing assets your dealership has – its people.

5. Invest in a Micro-Influencer and Get Higher Conversions

As your employees become regular participants of your employee advocacy program, they will start generating opinion leadership. When Derek from your accounting team posts on LinkedIn about the various automotive financing options, he will become a micro-influencer in the area. The same happens with Mike from your servicing team when his videos on Instagram show people who to change engine oil.

When such influencers make recommendations, people are more likely to trust their opinion. This is because such micro-influencers are more relatable and reliable. HubSpot suggests that 82% of people are more likely to buy on the recommendations of micro-influencers.

Social Media Marketing in Automotive Industry is Changing. Are You?

social media

If your dealership can afford to allocate 10%-20% of its marketing budget to hire a movie star or add your offerings in a popular movie, you can do so. Maybe it will work, or maybe it will not. But, if you want more definitive results with higher engagement, conversions, and brand trust established on social media – employee advocacy is the much easier way to go ahead.

Inrelay is helping automotive dealerships win at the employee advocacy game. On one platform, you can get it all done – invite all your employees for the program, measure the acceptance rate, create content categories for the entire calendar, and analyze the program’s impact. For more information on how you can transform your dealership marketing efforts, explore Inrelay.


  1. Will My Employees Willingly Be a Part of the Employee Advocacy Program?

Our estimates suggest that over 70% of employees will be glad to be a part of your employee advocacy program, as far as you nudge them the right way. You will find that in terms of social media influence, each employee has something different to offer. By using Inrelay, you can manage all employee participation requests and performance on one platform.

  1. How Much Does the Inrelay Platform Subscription Cost?

You can get more information on the subscription here. You will notice that our platform costs a small margin on a percentage basis against your overall marketing budget while unlocking hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential conversions.

  1. My Dealership Has Not Used Social Media Marketing in the Past. Can We Still Utilize Inrelay?

Absolutely! Employee advocacy does not correlate with your past promotions. We recommend the Ultimate subscription, which will help you formulate monthly strategies and creatives without additional costs.

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