Car shopping website Edmunds.com has over 800,000 pages of content. Almost all of them are intended to be useful to in-market shoppers. Most of the remainder are geared toward drivers and owners who want to keep their vehicles well maintained and safe on the road. A sliver, however, have no practical purpose per se. In fact, we think they’re pretty fun… like the 100 Greatest Movie and TV Cars of all Time, Top 10 Road Trip Games and now, a playful take on a unique addition to our long-term test fleet.
Edmunds typically buys ten cars each year for the fleet. The introduction to the long-term test blog explains why: “Within the space of one year, we aim to put 20,000 miles on each of the road test vehicles, and we’ll be taking pictures of the cars along the way. We want to know what it’s like to actually live with and maintain each vehicle for a year.”
The vast majority of these fleet purchases are intended to provide deep insight into mainstream popular vehicles that shoppers are interested in learning more about as they think about what to buy. But this year, as editorial staffer Mark Takahashi put it, “We bought an icon. A Nassau Blue, 300-horsepower V8-powered wedge of classic American desire. We bought a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette.”
Though he tests cars and writes about them for a living now, Takahashi has an art background and isn’t afraid to use it. The purchase inspired him to suggest a period photo shoot, somewhat of a recreation of an actual ad campaign for the car but with a modern twist to its storyline. Given the popularity of Mad Men, it was a timely idea, and a clever one. A team was assembled and quickly gathered tastes of 1966 to build the settings for the shoot.
A Memorable Ride
Edmunds’ photography has long been a draw for both car shoppers and enthusiasts. The site earns more than a million page views per month for its photography alone. Edmunds videos also perform well, with over 46,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel. So while this content project might not drive the most direct path to purchase, a compelling viral photo shoot combined with an engaging behind-the-scenes video have the potential to draw in a significant new audience for Edmunds, many of whom stick around to explore other content. And, when the time comes to buy a car, these positive brand impressions resurface.
While we do focus the majority of our content on meeting the needs of car shoppers and enthusiasts, we believe that content can—and should—pave a path to sales that starts with engagement. Frankly, a quick review of Twitter postings by some unsophisticated businesses makes it obvious that an overt sales strategy often backfires on brands. Liken it to the stereotypical life insurance salesman who brings business cards to weddings, always on the make looking for another customer. Wouldn’t you rather engage with a dynamic personality who knows how to have fun and then, yes, is there for you if and when you want to talk business? People react no differently to a brand. The brands we love exude personality, and that personality can be built through creative content related to the brand and yet entertaining on its own.
The Spirit of ‘66
Takahashi and team selected Edmunds employees as the models and interviewed lead photographer Scott Jacobs and other colleagues on camera for the behind-the-scenes video. These are real people who make the magic happen at Edmunds. By adding in a glimpse at the team members behind the operation, we were able to go beyond the car and deliver a human interest story that people can connect with and will remember long after they’ve left the site.
There is one more angle to this story that delivers marketing gains back to Edmunds. It was no coincidence that the chosen Corvette is a 1966 model. Edmunds was founded in 1966, and regularly and proudly refers back to that year when telling its history. The year is prominently painted on a wall in the company’s lobby. The online introduction to the car includes this background: “Forty-nine years later we’ve decided to travel back in time and experience an automotive icon from Edmunds’ very first year. We, of course, wanted a car that not only defined that era, but is still in production today. It had to be a nameplate that has navigated, evolved and thrived over the same five decades as our company, through nine presidencies, three wars, two oil embargos and of course the transition from an analog to a digital world.”
This approach allows Edmunds’ to show off Edmunds depth of history and well-established reputation that has been built over its nearly 50 years of innovation on behalf of car shoppers. Coverage of the 1966 car on the popular long-term blog re-introduces and helps to cement that point, which serves as a differentiator in the competitive marketplace. We want to emphasize our differentiators at every appropriate opportunity, and this one is subtle but memorable.
With confidence in this content strategy, Edmunds is moving forward on another interesting acquisition to its long term fleet: a 1989 Yugo. Admit it: You’d click on a story about that, just for entertainment’s sake.