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Making buyers’ hearts race!

5 minute read | Michael Brown, Associate Director, Media, Nielsen | September 2019

Why luxury car brands should sell on emotion

Image, status symbols and desire for the finer things in life are just some of the triggers that psychologists have identified when it comes to consumers purchasing prestige goods and products. Additionally, the higher the price tag, the more emotional, rather than rational, the decision becomes.

Luxury car brands are no different, with Nielsen research showing that style and design the most important factor when purchasing a prestige car. This factor is almost double when compared to all other car purchases. Furthermore, luxury car buyers are three times more likely to believe their car reflects who they are compared to normal car buyers.

The road to success

One-in-three premium car buyers make a purchase within a month, compared to the average car buyer whose normal purchase cycle is six months.There are also currently more than 250,000 Australians looking to buy a new luxury car in the next 12 months. 

The face of the Australian luxury car buyer is also changing. The average age of these buyers is now 25 to 39, with 45% having young families. Over three quarters live in major metro cities, and interestingly, 31% of these buyers speak a language at home other than English, making them more than twice as likely vs. the average car buyer.  

All of this means prestige car brand owners have to think strategically about their brand positioning to have the right messaging to attract the attention of potential buyers.

Nielsen has identified five key stages for path to purchase for this category of buyer. By studying the five stages to understand how luxury car buyers are making their decision, automotive brands can develop their marketing strategy to suit these buyers.

Stage 1: Starting the journey: Purchase triggers

When it comes to purchasing a new, high-end car, there is no time to waste with these buyers. They are emotionally charged with the mantra ‘I want it now’, with the specific brand or price being less important. Luxury car buyers are also 92% more likely than regular car buyers to want to ‘treat themselves’ or their loved ones.

The most common trigger for this purchase is due to reading an article online or in a newspaper or magazine. The reason being is that 63% of luxury car owners consider themselves car enthusiasts.  Compared to average car buyers more than half (54%) have a genuine interest in cars, and actively pay attention to new innovations in prestige cars.

Stage 2: Get on track: Researching

The next step in the process for these buyers is to conduct research. They actively seek out advice from personal friends and also use several media channels to fine tune their thinking. Luxury car buyers are 71% more likely to conduct online research through car websites and online videos, 40% more likely to view magazine ads and 19% more likely to view newspaper ads as compared to regular car buyers.

Furthermore, product placement in movies, for example James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin or the BMW M5 in Mission Impossible, appears to have a huge impact, with prestige car buyers more than twice as likely to have been influenced by embedded marketing.

Luxury car buyers are engaged and respond well to advertising. Brand marketers and advertisers would be wise to tie emotion through storytelling and highlighting performance.

Stage 3: Narrowing of the Road: The shortlist

During this stage, car buyers start to narrow their focus. They are influenced most by friends and industry experts. These car buyers will scour online reviews for additional information. Style and design are still the most important factors, and 56% state sex appeal in a car is important to them.

These buyers are also early adopters when it comes to purchasing new cars, with 45% more likely to be the first to try new cars. In fact, they are more than twice as likely than normal car owners to invest in a hybrid model car for their next purchase.

Stage 4: Driving it home: The purchase

During this stage, car brands need to focus on the customer experience. Prestige car buyers will visit more dealerships throughout the purchase journey compared to the average car buyer, and are easily swayed by the shopper experience and dealer relationship. In fact, they can be persuaded right up to the last minute based on a positive or negative experience, wanting to be made to feel important and wanting to tailor the model, make and colour to suit their particular tastes.

Stage 5: Going my way: Enjoyment

Last but in no way least, this group of car buyers are highly active online post purchase. They often review their purchase online and create positive word-of-mouth testimonials. While less likely to read reviews on social media prior to purchasing, luxury car owners often start following the brand on social media and posting about their purchase in these channels.

This plays into the status symbol aspect of the purchase. Brands don’t want to give these purchasers a bad experience, as they can be just as scathing online to future purchasers, which we’ve determined is a key path to purchase.

Luxury car brands need to understand what gets their customers’ motors revving in order to be in the driver’s seat. With the fast path to purchase compared to average car buyers, brands need to ensure messaging focuses on style, innovation and design. The targeted marketing should include multiple online and offline channels. The in-store customer experiences very important to being successful for this category of purchasers.



Nielsen Consumer & Media View is a rolling survey of more than 20,000 Australians aged 14 and above. It captures their lifestyles, behaviours, passions and attitudes toward almost every aspect of their life. It’s great for helping advertisers understand the everyday Australian consumer that they want and need to communicate with. We also include media consumption data with the fusion of official TV, radio and digital audience ratings to get a rounded view of how brands can best target and reach their target audiences. To find out more about how CMV can help you more effectively plan your marketing, please contact your Nielsen representative.


Commspoint Journey is a holistic study of a consumer’s relationship with a category and exploration of what drove and influenced a specific purchase. Journey is typically a syndicated multi-category service with exploration of up to 50 categories with around 400 purchases per category.

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