March 6, 2018Published by: Andrew McClenaghan

How online influencers helped Jaguar launch the new I-Pace with a bang

The Geneva International Motor Show gets under way later this week (March 8-18), and it’s safe to say the automotive world has gone into overdrive.

From Lamborghini to Lexus, every major player will be there with a new model, special edition or concept, but one of the most highly anticipated vehicles, the Jaguar I-Pace, has already been making noise with a little help from social media.   

For context, the I-Pace is Jaguar’s first all-electric car and positioned as the future for the marque, as it moves to target younger customers as part of a wider overhaul of the brand’s product range and image.

It’s also clear from a basic search that the PR basics have been comprehensively covered; the car has already been given countless column inches and articles by motoring press, including AutoCar, Auto Express, and many more. These are of course highly influential in determining whether a new car is deemed a success or failure, and a good review can make all the difference when it comes to sales.  

It’s the social side of things that is more interesting in this case however, as Jaguar’s parent company, JLR, is well known for its portfolio of online influencers. For the launch of the new Discovery last March, for example, the firm flew a number of celebrities and social media stars to Utah to drive the car off-road. By including those influencers alongside ‘traditional’ motoring press, it helped the brand achieve blanket coverage in print, online and social.  

Despite the I-Pace being a very different proposition to the Discovery, the same tactics have been deployed, with the likes of Jim Chapman and Nicki Shields helping to launch the car to their thousands of followers on social media. There’s almost certainly going to be more to follow as select YouTubers get their hands on it, just as they did with the launch of the Kia Stinger and Audi RS3 saloon in recent months.

It’s no surprise really, as influencer marketing is already a proven tactic. Influencers help to drive awareness in new models and a whopping 70 per cent of car buyers who use YouTube say videos have a major impact on their final purchase.

For Jaguar, which is actively targeting a younger demographic, it allows the brand to tap into the right audiences and help shape a new direction for the company. That’s something traditional media really struggle to do, especially when it comes to matching the sheer reach of the content.  

This type of influencer activation has been successful for a lot of the brands we work with at Battenhall, across a wide range of sectors, but we also noticed something a little bit more unusual last week with the I-Pace. This time there was a backlash (albeit a mild one) against influencers, as senior journalists sought to justify their own coverage over celebrity hype.

It’s hard to say whether they might feel threatened or merely annoyed that it could undervalue their work, but the reality is that they’d better get used to it, because it doesn’t look likely to change in the near future. 

That doesn’t mean it should be all doom and gloom though, as both are fundamentally important for brands. Influencer content is vital for increasing awareness, which in turn leads consumers to do more research, read reviews, and drive consideration. It’s a simple process, and one the manufacturers have clearly thought out.

So while the journalists’ influence undoubtedly remains strong in the automotive world, it’s increasingly likely they’ll be sitting next to a YouTuber on the flight to the next press trip. Time to start practising those pre-takeoff selfies...

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