Apple, Google, Facebook and Disney were all ranked in the top 10 of Forbes’ 2016 World’s Most Valuable Brands list. Not surprising, right? But if you think about it, all those brands make sense beyond their obvious large-scale marketing budgets. If you peel back the layers and focus on each of these individual companies’ histories, you will see they are all very customer focused. They have made great strides in studying their customers’ shopping and buying habits through thousands of hours of research. They know exactly what their customers want to buy, how they want to buy it and how they want to be communicated to while they are shopping. The world’s top brands aren’t just smartly designed logos and catchy taglines. Top brands evoke a feeling — one that usually is drawn from a consumer’s personal experience with the brand.
So, how can the average dealership follow these same principals to promote their brand to car shoppers?
First off, a dealership must understand what it provides its customers. It’s not just selling a vehicle — it’s selling the process, the environment and the overall experience. Like most retail stores, many other shops sell the exact same products. Nordstrom, for instance, is known for its elevated shopping experience. Customers pay more to shop in a well-organized, non-cluttered space while receiving superior customer service. Best Buy loyalists prefer the seamless Web-to-store shopping experience.
To determine how to brand itself, a dealership must evaluate itself and its market.
- What are the competitions’ main differentiating factor(s)? Are they the low-price leader? Do they provide a single point of contact? Do they expedite the sales process? Do they provide concierge services?
- What are the dealership’s organizational values? Does it prioritize customer relationships, community involvement, guaranteed maintenance work, etc.?
- What does the dealership want its reputation to be? What characteristics does it want to portray? Is it tech-focused, luxurious, friendly, professional?
- The dealer must gain customer feedback, e.g., what does its customers like best about it?
Once key themes are determined, they should be incorporated into all brand messaging.
High-Quality Creative and Simple Design
There is no substitute for high-quality creative, especially in today’s digital environment. Every new car purchase begins online, which is where most purchasing decisions begin. Consumers prefer a simple approach to design.
A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review examined the impact of price, perceptions of brand and how often consumers interacted with brand — among other factors — on stickiness of brand. The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity”— the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want, simply, is simplicity. Dealers should keep these best practices in mind as they create digital assets.
Invest in a Strong Digital Marketing Strategy
Observe the typical path in which a car shopper engages a dealership. Approximately 48 percent of new Web leads come from organic search, one in five paid ads result in a new lead, and one in three consumers who submit leads interact with auto dealers via two or more channels. Dealers need to demand of their marketing agency a robust, consistent brand package that includes assets for PPC campaigns, banner ads, a responsive website, email templates and print/digital ads that offer the same look, feel and experience all the way to the showroom floor.
A dealership must market to consumers with simple, easy-to-read banner ads. It must lead consumers to its Website with high-quality content pages. Its consumers must be walked through the inventory selection and payment process on the dealership’s VDPs. A transparent and trustworthy experience must be presented to get consumers to submit leads. A strong follow-up process must be employed to get those leads into the store. These steps should be consistent for the consumer. Consistency goes a long way in branding and creating right perception of a business.
A dealership should invest more in its brand rather than pumping money into third-party lead providers that don’t deliver a consistent experience to its customers. Although consumers may visit other third-party sites as part of the research process, data shows the majority of Web leads are submitted from a dealership’s own Website.
Look to the world’s top companies when adopting your brand philosophy. Focus on what you do best, create a simple-to-understand brand persona, make it seamless from Web to showroom floor and market the hell out of it.