Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

Traditional or Digital? Choosing Media for OEM Automotive Suppliers

Traditional or Digital? Choosing Media for OEM Automotive Suppliers

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Please choose wisely.

I’m relatively old. When I started out in this crazy business, there was no internet, no social media. There was TV and radio, print and outdoor. Annual reports were printed on paper (a material made from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances).

The smorgasbord of marketing choices.

Today, digital media has redefined the marketing playing field. One of the biggest advantages of digital is that it can be measured precisely.

But just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it’s better, especially for OEM automotive suppliers. When several years’ worth of brand marketing can be justified, and paid for, with a single new customer and one new contract, the marketing challenge is completely different than it is for most companies.

Marketing – what you do to promote your company and products – comes in many forms. Advertising, publicity, sales, social media, merchandising, trade shows, even what you print on your product packaging. 

Which is better? Traditional marketing or digital?

The answer is, it depends. 

When in doubt, go direct.

Successful OEM automotive suppliers are adept in direct sales, a marketing tactic that dates back to cave dwellers. Oftentimes, salespeople are equipped with printed marketing materials. When executed properly by adept designers and writers, collateral materials can evoke a brand essence that makes a company look great. And because they exist in a three-dimensional form, sales materials can be constant reminders of you and your company.

Given how automotive OEM supplier sales typically happen (at the OEM, a small but mighty group makes all the buying decisions), TV isn’t too terribly efficient. Radio advertising, however, in an automotive and automotive-related hotbed like Detroit, Ohio, and Indiana, or Mississippi and Alabama, where hundreds of automotive manufacturing-related companies reside, can actually be cost-effective. All it takes is one new purchase order to justify the investment.

The downside of traditional marketing?

It can be expensive. TV spots aren’t cheap to run or to produce. Radio also can be a significant investment. Printing costs can add up. Though a lot of people will see your ad, a large majority of those people won’t have anything to do with the automotive industry except they own a car. You’ll be paying to reach an audience you don’t need.

It’s difficult to track results. How many people actually saw your ad? Who were they? How many calls or emails resulted? Answers to these questions can be difficult to come by.

On the other hand, with digital marketing (websites, SEO, online banner ads, social media, emails):

  • You can immediately see what tactics work and which ones don’t.
  • You can communicate directly with specific individuals.
  • The message you send someone can be individualized, too.
  • It’s free (sometimes).

The downside of digital marketing?

All that data can be overwhelming. Talk about minutiae. So much data to be analyzed. What data is the most important? It’s best to decide which metrics matter most and concentrate on those.

It can be time-intensive. Creating and maintaining a blog, writing and designing emails, monitoring data and metrics, responding to online inquiries, Tweeting and creating Facebook and Instagram posts: It all takes time.

It’s harder to maintain the essence of your overall brand in forums, blogs, social media, etc. (One of my absolute commandments of branding is is consistency across all your marketing platforms.)

Which type of marketing is better for you?

The question is best answered by a thorough analysis of your audience. Many automotive OEM suppliers have just a handful of people they want to reach, and they already know a lot about them. Then, deciding which marketing tactics are the best will become a lot easier.


Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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