Martin Schwenk (L), MD and CEO Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd., and vice president-sales and marketing Mercedes-Benz India pose for pictures during the launch event of the Mercedes AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ sedan electric vehicle in Mumbai on August 24, 2022. Image: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFPF
or 28-year-old Shreyas Sharma, buying an electric scooter was a big decision, especially with multiple incidents of vehicles catching fire. He did extensive research and decided only after an EV owner shared his personal experience.
“I decided only after my friend who owns an EV himself answered various queries and shared his positive personal experience,” he tells Storyboard18.
Sharma belongs to a bandwagon of consumers who are extremely curious and interested in electric vehicles but are often deterred by negative news and perception, myths, and lack of reliable information available to them. This is exactly what electric vehicle makers in India are trying to solve through various marketing efforts which include awareness creation and myth-busting exercises, community building, influencer engagement and mainstream promotions.
There is a huge marketing push by major brands in two and four-wheeler categories. Tata Motors, Ola Electric, Ather Energy, Audi India, and Mercedes-Benz India are fuelling up their marketing tanks. These companies are taking over every possible media platform ranging from digital and social media to television commercials, to create awareness and intent and dispel myths around owning an electric vehicle.
Unlike regular automotive advertising, which heavily focuses on the brand and the product, when it comes to EVs, brands have to also take the responsibility of educating the customers as they are trying to shift consumption patterns.
Creating awareness, busting myths
Building awareness and busting myths in the EV category emerged as the top priority for EV makers in India. Industry executives believe that the EV category, especially four-wheelers, is still at a nascent stage. The category is broadly divided into four key barriers—a price premium, inadequate charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and limited choices.
Tata Motors, for instance, which recently launched the Nexon EV MAX, followed by the Nexon EV Prime, also unveiled two new concepts that captured consumers’ interest—Tata Curvv and Tata Avinya in April 2022. Across communication, they addressed various barriers through the four pillars of myth-busting, leveraging owners’ testimonials, range rallies, and expert opinions.Also read: India's EV boom is built on mopeds and rickshaws. Not Teslas
Vivek Srivatsa, head of marketing, sales and service strategy, Tata Passenger Electric Mobility, tells us that when the Tata Sons company launched the Nexon EV, it roped in Milind Soman and Ankita Konwar to drive the car from Manali to Leh to demonstrate its capabilities.
He goes on, “When we launched the ‘Evolve to Electric’ campaign, we activated multiple touch points, right from a stunt activity—The Electric Ascent—to social media communication that busted myths. We were also recently present at the TCS Marathon in Bangalore.”
Srivatsa tells us that owner experiences are also amplified regularly to offer an authentic opinion of owning an EV, adding that “this adds to our overall credibility.” Also read: Auto sector needs to focus on safety, design, electric for success
Influencer engagement, word-of-mouth works
Ather Energy, which sells two-wheeler EVs, has focused on community building and CRM marketing, PR and influencer marketing to get the news out about a product that will launch shortly.
“That worked well for us because we got our first set of evangelists through that route,” says Nilay Chandra, VP - Scooter Business, Ather Energy.
The company, which first focussed heavily on digital marketing has now switched to a mix of digital and mainline media platforms to truly achieve scale and become a national brand. Influencer engagement and its experience centres remain key marketing points as well.
“Our brand is known to a lot more people, we have moved to a pan-India approach and gone mainstream by adopting TV and print in the last one year. We want Ather to be considered like any other scooter company that has been there for decades,” Chandra adds.
Mercedes-Benz India, which deploys social media and television to promote its range of EVs, believes in creating customisable communication for luxury EV buyers. Marketing a luxury EV is similar to marketing a top-end luxury vehicle as the focus remains on individual requirements and brand experience desired from the brand. The company further adds that attributes like sustainable driving, zero-emission, reduced carbon footprint, latest technology onboard, hassle-free ownership and so on are highlighted through its marketing campaigns.Also read: EVolve 2022: Decoding the Indian EV consumer
“For a luxury EV customer, the marketing approach combines offering sustainable mobility with an emotional appeal and luxury brand experience synonymous with Mercedes-Benz. With our brand campaign and retail marketing approach, we showcased the EV with its world-class product attributes along with an EQ ecosystem that promises hassle-free ownership devoid of issues like range anxiety, charging infra etc,” shares Santosh Iyer, vice president of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz India. Iyer was recently announced as the next MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India and will take over the luxury carmaker’s operations in India.
All leading players are pushing their boundaries when it comes to branding and marketing. The focus is on supplying reliable products and quashing fears and anxiety around owning EVs, which will push its adoption in a big way.
Focus on reliability
Ather's Chandra tells us that what the category needs is people who are as focussed on quality, reliability and consistency.
He says, “When consumers want to adopt a category because the products are better, especially in a category where families are going to use it and deeply linked to their livelihood as it is related to the commute, I think the reliability of a product becomes fundamental.” Also read: Debunking 3 myths about electric cars
In an interview with Storyboard18, Chandra says, “Rather than pointing fingers at how things are blown up in the EV category, which might be true, the industry needs to focus on measures to make reliable products. Once consumers see evident action being taken by all players, then half of the problem will be solved, and we could do myth-busting exercises. At this stage, there’s no substitute to having good reliable products with an intent to be an industry for a long haul and not running after selling certain volumes.” Note to readers: The last decade has witnessed significant advances in mobility and transport. New technologies and opportunities have brought a dramatic change to our societies. Planet and people-friendly transportation is more relevant than ever in the history of humankind, with everything from health to climate crises hitting us at warp speed. Storyboard18’s Month In This - EVolve 2022: Building an electric future, is an opportunity to bring to the forefront conversations around charging up marketing and brand building, to exchange and share new ideas, challenges and solutions in the field of clean transportation and mobility. Catch this Storyboard18 special on Moneycontrol, CNBC-TV18 and Forbes India.