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America’s Love Affair With Cars Is Lost on Millennials


Word of mouth (WOM) public relations is highly effective both on its own and as an amplifier of messages in other media. The WOM research discussed below reveals that kids just aren’t talking about cars they way they used to. Does it bode ill for car companies?

Teenagers’ Conversations About Cars Declined 27 Percent Over the Last Six Years, According to Research by Keller Fay Group

Keller Fay Group, an Engagement Labs company, in partnership with Morpace, Inc. a full-service marketing research and consulting firm, has released word of mouth (WOM) research that found teenagers, between the ages 13-17, are talking far less often about car brands than teenagers six years ago. The results of the study potentially signal a major change for the automobile industry and the broader automotive culture.

2016 ranks the first year when those born at the beginning of the 21st century will have the opportunity to get their driver’s license. According to Keller Fay’s WOM research, there was a 27 percent decline within the last six years in the number of people talking about cars on a daily basis among the millennial demographic of teens from ages 13-17, indicating a very different relationship with cars than the generations before them.

“Keller Fay’s research demonstrates a profound change in the marketplace which raises the question of whether this current trend will turn out to be teenagers going through a phase based on their life stage, or whether this trend will become a long-term, generational change,” said Brad Fay, Chief Research Officer at Engagement Labs and Chief Operating Officer at Keller Fay Group.

TalkTrack Rankings - Automobile WOM Conversations

Source: Keller Fay’s TalkTrack® rankings of increase in consumer WOM conversation among the automotive industry (Jan-Dec 2009; Jan-Dec 2015)

“For the last few years, leading automotive brands have seen a decrease in sales among older millennials and have wondered why this age group was buying fewer vehicles than expected,” says Bryan Krulikowski, Vice President of Business Development at Morpace. “This six year decline in daily conversations about cars among millennial teens is evidence that this generation overall does not find them as interesting as they once were to baby boomers. Given the long-term nature of this decline and the resurgence of urban areas, the trend towards ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft and autonomous vehicles will have staying power — they are not just passing fads.”

Image 1

Source: Keller Fay’s TalkTrack® consumer WOM data (Jan-Dec 2009; Jan-Dec 2015)

Keller Fay looked at daily conversations in other major industry categories among the same demographic — teenagers 13-17 — and found that the decline in WOM conversations is unique to the automotive industry. In fact, within the technology, quick service restaurant (QSR) & casual dining, and media & entertainment industries, the data showed a dramatic rise in WOM, with QSR & casual dining having the most significant increase of 53 percent.

“Teens are among the most talkative demographic, and their engagement in media, technology, and restaurants is skyrocketing. Therefore, we are confident that this downward trend for automotive is real and needs to be top of mind for the industry since brands can no longer rely on the car to be a symbolic measure of freedom for teens, which has helped to fuel demand in years past,” noted Fay.


This post originally appeared on the Keller Fay Group website, and is used with permission.

Thanks to pixabay for the image.

Brad Fay

Brad Fay

Brad Fay has had been a leader in the market research industry for more than two decades, recently serving as the President of the New York-based Market Research Council. He also is a winner of the Grand Innovation Award of the Advertising Research Foundation. Today he is the Chief Research Officer of Engagement Labs, following its 2015 acquisition of the Keller Fay Group, for which he still serves as COO. He is also the past Chairman of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.
Brad Fay
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