Do Our Cars and Phones Define Us?

Do Our Cars and Phones Define Us?

By Lisa Joy Rosner, Chief Marketing Officer, Otonomo

Steve McQueen’s Mustang GT in Bullitt. Danny Zuko and his beloved “Greased Lightnin” De Luxe Convertible. Wayne and Garth rocking out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their 1976 AMC Pacer. Bruce Springsteen and a Pink Cadillac. Cars make a statement in pop culture, but what do they say about us?

Working in auto-tech, I often hear people say that consumers see their cars as a reflection of themselves, and I’ve wondered if it’s true.  In our recent survey of connected car owners and new car buyers, I decided to validate this theory, and asked consumers if the car they drive reflects who they are.

As it turns out, to my surprise, there is something there.  Here are the results, broken down by age and gender:

How it broke down:

  • 70% – 72% of drivers aged 25-44 share the “cars as self” view
  • Even 65% of senior citizens see themselves in the car they drive

This is a finding that has been top-of-mind for the marketing teams at automotive manufacturers, and they are right for thinking as such. I also found it interesting that there was little difference between men and women’s attitudes with the delta not statistically significant.

How do Consumers Feel About their Smartphones?

We also asked some questions to understand drivers’ attitudes towards their smartphones. And it was noteworthy that a portion of our respondents perceive their smartphone to be more important than their car, particularly in the younger age groups.

More than half of respondents between 25 and 34 years old—the people who were teenagers and young adults when the smartphone first came onto the scene—agree, to some extent, that their smartphones are more important.

On the other hand, drivers in the 18-24 year age group, who have newly achieved transportation independence, are not quite as passionate about their smartphones. (Keep in mind that this survey sample consisted only of drivers who own a connected car or plan to buy one in the next year, so these young people may be a bit more car-loving than other people in the demographic).

We also asked them whether they would choose to own a smartphone over a car, if they could only own one of these. The only group where a majority said they would choose a smartphone was in the 25-34 year old age group.

Perhaps these findings reflect their life stage or their practicality.  Yet it also supports the views among many social scientists that the mobile-native generation views smartphone ownership differently than their parents, aunts and uncles, and older cousins.

Key Insights:

  • Image and lifestyle regarding car ownership are important, even to younger car buyers. Continue to use your brand’s personality in all of your creative: It matters to consumers. Offering, safe, fun and convenient services will help consumers see themselves in connected cars.
  • Younger consumers in particular appreciate the magnitude of value that smartphones bring into their lives: to make them more connected, better informed, and more productive. Consider how your brand delivers these same benefits through the infotainment services you offer.

Stay tuned for our next connected car consumers insight as we continue to analyze the results of the survey.

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