Mapping the Competitive Landscape of Europe’s Electric Automobiles

The evolution of competitive intelligence from SWOT to social analysis

It’s one of the very first lessons in doing business; know your competition. All over the world in business schools, students are taught how to use traditional tools, like the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities, Threats) analysis, to analyse the horizon and determine how their venture measures up to the competition.

With so many different metrics available for comparing your brand to others, how can you decide on the most useful way to size up the competition? This question is especially key for today’s brands swimming in an ocean of digital information. How can brands separate the signal from the noise?

The answer, as always, comes down to people. Judging your brand’s strength relative to the competition is best done by actually measuring the opinions, preferences and conversation volume of your target audience. And this is where the noisy digital world really comes into its own. On social media, consumers are talking about your competitors; about their branding, campaigns, products, and customer service experiences. Tapping into these billions of conversations, driven by AI-powered consumer insights, gives you access to the most sophisticated competitor intelligence available.

The Greening of Europe

Let’s bring our example to life by illustrating it with a case study of how three competing automotive brands are faring in the European market, specifically in terms of their electric car offering. In general, Europe is becoming increasingly environmentally aware, with more and more consumers switching to hybrid or fully electric cars.

With this trend in mind, it’s important for automotive brands to have a good understanding of where they stand in relation to their competitors, while also being able to spot upcoming opportunities and anticipate potential threats. Competitive intelligence gleaned from social media conversations is the most effective way to do this.

Crimson Hexagon collected the latest conversational data from the last 30 days, from online sources including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums and Instagram. We decided to focus on three major competing car brands: Tesla, Renault and Volkswagen, all with significant electric vehicle offerings. In this scenario, a US-based challenger brand is pitched against two homegrown European behemoths.  

Everybody’s Talkin’

For starters, let’s look at how Tesla’s share of the conversation compared to that of Volkswagen and Renault.

Here, online share of voice shows an unmistakable advantage for Tesla, overshadowing both Renault and Volkswagen. In fact, the American brand has monopolised the online conversation around electric cars every day over the last month.

But just because people are talking about a brand doesn’t always mean what they’re saying is positive. That’s where sentiment analysis comes in, helping to uncover the true nature of consumer opinion about a particular brand discussion.

Emotional Rescue

Things are still looking good for Tesla. We can see that this brand’s net positive sentiment is greater than its negative. In contrast, conversation around Renault electric cars is more negative than positive, while Volkswagen is lower in sentiment volume for both negative and positive (although slightly more positive).

 

The emotion chart to the right gives more insight into the nuances of the conversation. As shown, people discuss Tesla with significantly more joy than the other two brands. Perhaps some of this is hype from clever marketing, or perhaps it’s related to a genuinely superior product offering. Either way, we need to dig into the conversation keywords and actual consumer posts to really get a granular picture of what’s going on.  

Devil’s in the detail

Since Tesla is responsible for generating so much of the online conversation around electric vehicles at present, we’ll take a deep dive into the quotes and keywords related to this brand in particular.

In contrast, word clouds from the two European competitors reveal a more sedate and serious discussion, particularly in the case of Volkswagen, in which the audience tends to focus on discussing technical features of the electric cars, rather than newsworthy or controversial incidents.

Conclusion

Without knowing what your competitors are up to, your brand is at a distinct disadvantage. But the power of social media analytics allow you to gather real-time competitive intelligence, to better leverage emerging opportunities in marketing campaigns, product development and public relations.

Harnessing data from millions of customer conversations is the best way to achieve this.

In this article we compared the conversation around three popular electric car brands. We looked at share of voice, net sentiment values, specific emotion levels, and keywords related to the brand. We discovered that the high volume of conversation around Tesla is partly driven by press coverage and the behaviour of its CEO, Elon Musk. In contrast, people talking about Renault and Volkswagen tend to focus on more product-centric topics. Results like these can provide insights which can open up new avenues for automotive brands to overcome their closest competition, particularly important in an emerging area such as electric and hybrid vehicles.

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