Search Drives a 90% Lift in Top-of-Mind Brand Awareness for Automotive

Trick Ricky’s Used Cars | Fast N’ Loud

We all know those terrible and funny used car dealership TV commercials. The ones where the guy with slicked back greasy hair and a half buttoned up white t-shirt talks about “incredible” deals that you can’t beat! Just like the example above from Discovery’s, Fast N’ Loud (happens to be one of my favorite shows) that is trying to drive in-market brand awareness.

Traditional media like television, is still heavily used for many car dealerships as a channel for building brand awareness. While this may still be an effective way of driving top-of-mind awareness, what a lot of marketers or car dealers don’t realize is that their search marketing efforts accomplish this goal as well.

In a recent study conducted by Google and Ipsos MediaCT, search advertising has a positive impact on top-of-mind awareness and unaided brand awareness, even without a consumer clicking on the ad. The study consisted of 61 simulated searches with (800) U.S. consumers who met each advertiser’s target criteria. For example, a consumer was prompted to search for a category term like “car dealer near me” or “new cars for sale.” Within the study, the Test search result page featured the brand in the top position while the control did not display an ad from the brand.


The study looked at 12 categories including apparel, auto, B2B, classified/local, CPG (consumer packaged goods), education, financial services, healthcare, media/entertainment, retail, tech and travel.

The results displayed that when respondents were asked what brand came top-of-mind specific to a category, on average 14.8% in the test group named that brand, while 8.2% of the control group named that same brand. Overall, that resulted in an 80% lift across all categories. search-ads-drive-brand-awareness_2

Automotive had one of the highest results, attributing for a 90% lift in top-of-mind awareness! This means that for automotive dealerships, search advertising is an effective channel not only for low-funnel conversions/leads but an opportunity to aid brand awareness. This presents a powerful and cost-effective way to aid branding campaigns.

There is an even a more powerful takeaway from this study: search advertising  impacts brand awareness in moments that matter the most. Search can hit consumers just as they are shopping and grabbing product information. This allows car dealers to connect with their target audience when they are most interested and/or actively searching for their brand or category of business.

So, what can car dealerships or agencies do to reach this interested audience in aiding their branding campaigns?

  • Utilize search advertising as a means of aiding branding efforts
  • Bid aggressively to maintain an average top position
  • Bid on category specific keywords with brand-specific keywords to reach the largest audience available for the initiative

Search advertising along with other digital media campaigns (SEO, Social/ORM, and Display) are proven channels that not only helps drive in low-funnel leads but also help increase top-of-mind awareness. This provides dealerships an invaluable tool to reach large, already interested consumers to accomplish many goals specific to brand and conversion driven initiatives.

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Tyler Rayome is the Director of the Digital Media Group at Dealer Product Services helping lead the charge for everything digital. In his previous life, Tyler worked the agency grind in downtown Chicago for national and local clients across many verticals. He was instrumental in bringing in digital offerings at a formally traditional agency, and helped grow the business tremendously in a short period of time. In Tyler’s free time, he enjoys playing music with his band, whether its gigging on the weekends at Chicago’s hot spots or recording in the studio.

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