What Social Media Insight Can Tell You about Automotive Recalls and Brand Perception

Rion Martin
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Key Takeaways

Through social intelligence, marketers can glean: 

  • An in depth understanding of consumer awareness 

  • The historical impact of crisis situations (in this instance, automotive recalls) ​

​​Social media has had an enormously positive impact on marketers, opening doors that didn’t even exist prior to the age of the tweet and hashtag. Through social media, brands are able to communicate and interact directly with the people that love – or could potentially love – their products and services. 

And as social media intelligence platforms continue to up their game alongside our favorite social networks, marketers are able to glean insights into the marketplace like never before. 

Infegy, provider of social media intelligence technology, recently partnered with research firm Phoenix Marketing International​ (PMI) to take a closer look at the impact automotive recalls can have on car brands and purchasing decisions in the age of social media. The report combined traditional survey research with social media intelligence research to rapidly uncover consumer insights.

Last year proved to be a major one in terms of recalls, with GM, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Ford and Nissan all experiencing safety-related recalls. And it was not just the automotive brands – airbag manufacturer Takata, which supplies nearly every major car maker, was forced to issue a recall for defective airbags in 2014. 

By combining social and online dialog research with a field survey, the report was able to gain a better understanding of what happens when there are recalls, how they affect brand perceptions and people’s opinions in a social world. 

Recall Awareness

The data collected and analyzed showed that the considerable media attention brought on by automotive recalls seemed to drive, above all else, extremely high awareness. It isn’t surprising that in 2014, with every opinion being shared to the masses with the click of a button, that awareness levels were extremely high. 

What’s important in this is how marketers utilize this information. In any given situation –especially in the event of a crisis, such as this – marketers can apply social listening to get a better idea of not only who is aware of the situation, but also what they’re aware of. 

This knowledge can help marketing professionals to craft messaging that will resonate with their audience and can often help to repair negative brand perception. 

Historical Impact of Recalls

By focusing on four major brand recalls and delving into a sample of online commentary from six weeks prior to the Takata airbag incident, as well as six weeks after, Infegy was able to gauge how customer perceptions shifted. Findings suggested that although these recalls had an adverse impact on consumer opinion, they generally declined after about six weeks. 

However, when taking into account year-over-year changes for GM specifically, several disparities were noted in the measurement of negative sentiment and perceptions of quality. 

These suggest that while lasting upward trends seemed to settle after reaching the six-week mark, the overall impact on consumer opinion compounds over time, having measurable – and often negative – effects on brand affinity.

Reaction Matters

Perhaps one of the most significant findings from the study was the difference in consequences to consumer opinion dependent on how each company responded to the recalls. 

The different tactics that each automotive brand employed in an attempt to remedy the situation had a compelling impact on the customer conversation. Mazda, for example, limited recalls to only select consumers in specific geographic locations, which seemed to have more profoundly negative ramifications to public perception. 

Long Term Implications

Although brand impression and purchase consideration are likely to rebound as the impact of recalls fade, these types of publicized and highly discussed controversies often come with stigmas attached that might affect consumer brand perception long term. 

Thanks in part to social media, consumers are able to gain a greater awareness into things like design and assembly of critical vehicle systems. This heightened awareness could impact consumer purchase decisions as they seek to educate themselves on brands and avoid those associated with negative connotations. 

This automotive industry example shows how social media intelligence platforms like Infegy are helping marketers across a wide variety of industries obtain a well-rounded understanding of what their customers are discussing. 

These findings not only help marketing professionals glean insights that might not have been discovered through traditional methods of research alone, but applying these findings to their own branding and marketing endeavors can give marketers a steep advantage over the competition as time goes on.  


Author Bio:

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Rion Martin
Rion Martin is the marketing director of Infegy, provider of social media intelligence technology for marketing and research professionals. In this role, he is responsible for developing and leading Infegy’s global marketing program to boost awareness, working closely with ad agencies, market researchers, and consumer insight teams. Learn more about Infegy at www.infegy.com
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