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Car Buyers Consider Twice as Many Brands When Shopping, According to New Report

3 minute read | October 2018

Top-of-Mind Brand Awareness Drives 90% of All Auto Purchase Intent—A Critical Insight for Auto CMOs

New York, NY—Oct. 17, 2018—Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN) released findings today that revealed the dizzying array of choices car buyers confront along their path to purchase. The Nielsen Auto Marketing Report 2018 shows that by the time car shoppers are ready to buy, they have twice as many brands under consideration than when they started their search. Findings from the report also highlight the importance of being top-of-mind with car buyers, which accounts for 90% of a brand’s purchase intent.  

“When it comes to automotive brand building, quality awareness is more important than quantity. Brands need to build salience and relevance with consumers, not awareness for awareness’ sake,” said Damian Garbaccio, EVP at Nielsen. “To account for the nuances in a buyer’s path to purchase, automotive marketers need to employ an omnichannel strategy. This means cohesive messaging that elevates the brand and converts shoppers into buyers. You need the right combination of buyer-based data, technology and measurement capabilities to make this happen, something our recently launched Nielsen Auto Cloud fueled by J.D. Power excels at.”

The report provides deep insight into the car buyer’s path to purchase. It looks at how advertising, demographics and brand market share impact buying behavior. This helps auto brands and their agencies develop more informed strategies that improve marketing effectiveness.

  • 90% of all purchase intent is due to unaided —or top-of-mind—awareness
  • Car shoppers with unaided brand awareness have 10X the purchase intent as those with only aided awareness
  • 71% of car shoppers recall the advertising they see on linear TV in the final days of shopping
  • Purchase consideration for social media users is 25% higher than non-social media users
  • Millennial purchase consideration nearly doubles during their car buying journey
  • Large brands have four to five times the unaided brand awareness of smaller brands, leading to three to four times the purchase consideration

The Nielsen Auto Marketing Report helps auto marketers better understand and act on the key drivers of long-term brand equity, shopper engagement and—most importantly—car sales. It effectively captures the voice of the U.S. car buyer and offers a unique perspective on what impacts buying decisions the most.

This year’s report makes it clear that auto marketers need to build deeper connections with consumers and balance brand building (for top-of-mind awareness) with customer acquisition tactics to encourage purchase decisions late in the buying process. It takes a more media agnostic, customer-first marketing approach to build these connections long before prospects are actively in the market for a new vehicle.

The research is based on quarterly online surveys of over 9,000 people/respondents planning to purchase a vehicle in the next two years. Since 2012, more than 220,000 surveys have been completed.

For additional insights, download the Nielsen Auto Marketing Report 2018.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail and fast-moving consumer goods industries.

An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit



Gorki De Los Santos