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Marketing To Driverless Cars

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 10/8/2015

Driverless cars are going mainstream faster than many had expected. So how can you market to folks who are commuting to work but don't need to pay attention to their driving?

As I write this, laws are being passed around the world to allow driverless cars access to roads and highways.

Driverless Car as Marketing Platform

The UK, Germany, France and Italy are leading the charge. In the United States, forward-thinking states like California and Nevada have already made driverless cars legal. No, Michigan is not likely to allow driverless cars anytime soon, but, hey, that's a state where you can't even buy a Tesla if you want to.

Implications of Driverless Cars for Marketers

From a marketer's perspective, transforming drivers into non-drivers will create a huge opportunity. Previously, these folks had to pay attention to the road. Now, they can instead pay attention to your marketing messages.

But couldn't we always market to drivers with radios? Is there really a new marketing opportunity that emerges from driverless cars? And, how is this different from marketing to people who take the bus or take the train?

The big difference is that new driverless cars will effectively be large roaming computers with humans inside of them. As such, via the computer as car, marketers can interact with these non-drivers in a way that blows away what's possible with traditional radio ads, highway billboards or bus advertising.

Free Driverless Car, Just Watch These Ads

In fact, some people believe it's likely that driverless car manufacturers may give cars away to consumers (or price them at a steep discount), contingent only on the consumer being willing to watch a certain number of sponsored ads per day.

We've seen this model before, with companies giving away computers for free if the recipient would agree to see ads (interestingly, nobody ever pursued this model by giving away televisions or radios). It's very possible that will see it again with driverless automobiles.

The Impact of Driverless Cars on Local Marketing

The power of driverless car in-car marketing becomes apparent when you think through the potential scenarios.

The driverless car can literally say to you (via a paid ad): "You'll be passing a Dunkin' Donuts in half a mile? Would you like to stop and get a coffee?"

It's more than that. The driverless car will know who you are and know what you like. So, it might say to you: "You'll be passing a Dunkin' Donuts in half a mile? Should I send in an order now for your usual -- a medium coffee with cream and sugar and a blueberry muffin?"

That's right. Your car can order food for you. It can order food for you that it knows you like.

In the future, of course. Not now. Pretty weird, eh?

How Can Marketers Prepare for Marketing to Passengers in a Driverless Car?

As a forward-thinking marketer, can you do anything with this information today?

Actually, no… and yes.

No, if you are a small business owner. For small and mid-sized companies, this is something to keep track of. Jump on it when the driverless vehicle marketing platforms are mature. Impress your friends at parties by talking about this likely future for both driving and marketing.

Yes, if you are a CMO of a large company. You can start to prepare your company for this future. Get started by investing heavily in local marketing technology now, knowing that it will become massively important in the future. Prepare your IT and e-commerce infrastructure for this new world.

Whenever there is a new marketing platform, there's an opportunity that makes some companies and crushes others. Many of today's biggest companies are behemoths only because they mastered TV advertising when it first emerge or did the same for radio advertising. And of course many companies that mastered advertising on the web can credit much of their success to that mastery.

The automated car will be a similar seismic shift in the marketing world.

It will be a new marketing platform that will create incredible opportunity for those companies that are smart enough to dive in early and get ahead of the crowd. Don't miss out on that opportunity!

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