Reinventing the Wheel: Copywriting for Electric Vehicles in a Climate Crisis

A quarter of Americans still won’t consider electric car ownership. In the midst of a climate crisis, how can companies effectively market electric vehicles? We’ll look at some copy strategies to see what brands are doing, and what’s working.

There are numerous approaches to writing copy for electric vehicles.

Common myths cast electric vehicles as slow, cost-inefficient cars with limited range, unsuitable for real car lovers. As a result, 1 in 4 Americans still say they wouldn’t consider purchasing one.

However, with climate change more imminent than ever, the need for electric has grown urgent. A marketer’s challenge? Forcing that need into sharp focus. 

How can EV companies effectively market their product? Here, we explore the messaging of a few influential brands to see what copy strategies set them apart. 

Stand out from the competition

Lucid’s copy strategy is directly tackling common EV stigmas, like lack of speed and the inconvenience of charging during long-haul drives. With an emphasis on horsepower and range, Lucid positions its vehicle as a car by and for car lovers. 

“Electric has never looked so good,” Lucid Motors declares. Lucid hails its vehicle as “the longest-range, fastest-charging luxury electric car in the world.” With “incredible horsepower and an unrivaled range of up to 520 miles per charge,” it’s “ like no car you’ve ever known.” 

A staple of its marketing, however, suggests that Lucid’s electric vehicles are better than its competitors’. Its language often falls back on not-so-subtle allusions to the EVs that came before it. 

Aside from the obvious good-faith argument for not throwing other brands under the bus, this strategy potentially diminishes the electric vehicle cause. Phrases like “you no longer have to choose between great things and doing the right thing” risk giving weight to existing stigmas—those that turn consumers away from EVs in the first place. Sure, most electric cars aren’t fast or well-built, they seem to say, but don’t worry—because ours is.

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Appeal to emotion

EVTG, the branding group behind Moke, takes a completely different approach: it stirs up the emotion behind car-buying. It tells us its “vision is to champion the joy of motoring.” It snubs automotive jargon and specifications, instead contending that “car brands can evoke feelings, passions, rivalries, and experiences.”

It’s a romantic but effective back-to-basics approach, reminding consumers of the love of driving—a passion that’s been lost in the political and practical conversations around EVs. 

“In the global rush to electrification,” EVTG laments, “no one is championing the joy of motoring in an EV world.” The company expresses a desire to “bring… joy to the electric revolution.”

The phrase “electric revolution” is similarly compelling. A revolution is a struggle against a system of conformity, but it also carries a sense of community: there are no revolutions of one. Invoking revolutionary fervor suggests that electric vehicle adoption isn’t just an individual choice, but a global movement.

This emphasis on the emotional side of car-buying also permeates Fisker’s tagline: Quality. Style. Emotion.” Here, the brand successfully distills the consumer dilemma into three components that will make someone buy a car. Fisker taps into the mind of an electric vehicle buyer, spotlighting something often overlooked in car salesmanship. Beyond horsepower and torque, this vehicle is what you spend your life in. It’s a daily companion that facilitates both work and play. It carries you and your loved ones to both everyday and once-in-a-lifetime events. Between soccer practice and road trips, kids grow up in the family car. Why can’t it be an electric one?

Invoke hard truths 

Besides love of driving and nostalgia for the memories you create in a car, there’s another human emotion that only electric vehicle marketing can exploit: fear.

Arrival is one of few electric vehicle companies that actually capitalizes on the frightening reality of our climate crisis. Whereas most companies hint at the state of our planet with phrases like solutions for our changing world, Arrival is explicit:

“We’re facing a drastic climate and ecological crisis that needs transformative solutions,” the company declares. “Road transportation accounts for 10% of global CO₂ emissions, with emissions rising faster than any other sector.” Here, the branding evokes concerning statistics about climate change to spur the reader to action.

Arrival continues: “This is the time for radical impact.” And what form does that radical impact take? “We created a revolutionary new method of design and production to remove the cost barrier to electrification. For a clean, circular, and equitable future, we need true sustainability that’s accountable and transparent.”

The activist slant is persuasive, and would certainly galvanize a certain consumer. Referencing the “cost barrier to electrification” is also smart: it positions electric vehicles as an accessible option for all, busting another myth. 

Keep it positive and future-focused 

It might seem effective to scare or guilt a driver into buying an electric vehicle. But when people feel overwhelmed by the world around them, consumer tendencies stall. Faced with hard statistics and facts, many feel hopeless—or at least justifiably cautious. They may choose to hold onto their money, even if they think their purchase may move the needle.

At the end of the day, this is sales copy. The best strategy for getting customers to part with their money? Don’t depress them—instead, excite them. We can assume that the reader understands the importance of electric vehicles. They know about the state of the world. That’s why they’re even reading enough copy to consider buying.

EV buyers should be optimistic about a better future—as well as the intelligent designs that fuel it. By touting the “Future-Forward Features” of its vehicle, Fisker hopes to inspire that very feeling. 

The best EV marketing makes audiences feel that they’re a part of something that’s changing the world for the better. It should create a sense of community and hope. Experts have already declared that the future of automation is electric:  buyers just need to realize that they’re getting there first.

The MTA found a way to market its new payments system

The hands-down largest transportation network in North America, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York serves over 15 million riders. When the MTA decided to modernize the fare payment system and launch OMNY (One Metro New York)—contactless “tap and go” riding, it encountered an obstacle: how to communicate several options across a ridiculously broad range of languages, reading levels, digital savvy, and more. NY-based web agency Reflexions, on deck to build the new OMNY website, tapped MarketSmiths to write the web copy, introducing New Yorkers to their future of transit: crisply and effectively. As of November, 2019, OMNY rollout has been a massive success, with 6,100 taps on day 1, widespread early adoption, and installation across 472 stations. 

> Read the full case study

So, what works best when it comes to marketing electric vehicles?

Ultimately, dispelling myths about EVs is effective—especially when it’s done without putting down other brands. Appeal to the emotional aspect of driving, and hone in on the why

Marketing for electric vehicles should also follow the same rules that govern most ad copy: don’t talk down to your customer. Don’t try to scare, bully, or dishearten them. Keep language positive, and get buyers excited about the road ahead. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than hope.

Looking for copy with a thrill? Reach out to the team at MarketSmiths.

Chloe Kirby

Chloe Kirby

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