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Defining Your Brand and Marketing Using Emotion

I´ve researched and written a number of articles on the importance and power of building brand recognition in advertising for Dealer Magazine over the years, but I must admit even I am amazed at some of the most recent research on the impact of certain brands on both the human consciousness and sub-consciousness.

Subliminal-Messaging Influence.

In the April issue of Journal of Consumer Research, an article appears on a study that found test subjects who were shown brand logos for 30 milliseconds (that´s 30 one-thousandths of a second) became more ‘honest´ or more ‘creative´ as the result of these exposures. For instance, the Apple brand made subjects more creative, Disney made them more honest.

"Brands are almost human in representation in people's minds," said Gavan Fitzsimmons, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University, and one of three authors of the 52-page study. Testing over 341 subjects, the researchers found that a subliminal flash created perceptible reactions to test questions resulting in ‘more honest´ responses in the case of the Disney logo, and more creative responses in the case of Apple. The research group got similar results in more than 10 replications of the test with a variety of subject groups.

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

We are starting to understand the real power of a brand. For years we have known a brand can generate and ignite emotional feelings such as comfort, luxury, value and integrity. Now we understand that a brand can do much more than that. It can actually motivate someone to think and behave differently. Imagine, just a subliminal exposure to a brand, in such a short flash we can´t even consciously see it, being able to stimulate creativity or elicit a more honest response to a question. What then is the real power of conscious branding?

What is Your Brand?

Amazingly, many dealers can´t answer that question. And of course, until you understand what your brand is, you cannot focus on building a unique perception in your marketplace. As I´ve stated in past articles, the easiest way to discover your brand is to ask your employees, ask your customers, ask your most trusted advisors and mentors what your brand means to them. What comes to mind when people hear your company name? One dealer friend of mine was so curious to know how his dealership was thought of, that he commissioned a survey in his market by a national research agency. Respondents were read the names of five well known dealerships (including my friend´s dealership) and were asked to say the first word or words that came to mind when they heard each name. Surveyors then asked respondents to rank each dealership on a scale of 1-5 on characteristics such as trustworthiness, community involvement, friendliness, good place to work, and overall reputation. My friend was delighted to discover his dealership rated highly in terms of trust and reputation, but genuinely disappointed that very few of the surveyed consumers recognized the dealership´s long history of involvement and investment in community activities. Over the next two years my friend made it a point to connect the dealership brand to the various community programs in which it participated.

Tell Your Story.

Once you define your brand, employ at least some of your advertising to tell your story. One of the best places to do this is on your web site. Take a look at Galpin Ford´s website, Click on the tab ‘about us´ and read the incredible Galpin history. Some years ago I recall speaking to a customer of Galpin who had driven over 30 miles to visit because he had heard so much about the dealership. The customer told me that while he was waiting for a salesperson he viewed a video story of Bert Boeckmann´s community involvement over the years and decided then and there that he would buy a vehicle from Galpin. As he told it, “I´m sure I can negotiate as good a deal here as anywhere else, but if I´m going to buy a car, I just feel good about doing business with someone who is doing so much for the community.”

Develop Brand Enhancements.

As you develop a brand marketing program, remember that different emotional cues may appeal to, and affect different people in different ways. Even well established brands must be well managed and continually add brand enhancements. For instance, Proctor and Gamble continuously tests new ‘hooks´ and refreshed packaging. Fresh New Scent, Easier to Open, Eco Friendly, Dissolves Faster, etc. You may be ignoring powerful brand enhancement ad opportunities. Do you offer a money-back guarantee on your used cars? That´s a powerful brand enhancement. Are you open more hours for service than your competitors? That´s a brand enhancement. You need to be appreciably ‘different´ in the public´s eye to elevate your ‘brand value´. Are you the only dealer in your market offering lifetime oil and filter changes to your customers at no charge? That´s a brand enhancement. Do you offer special ‘family´ discount programs for several vehicles sold to the same family? Do you pick up your customers vehicle at their home when service is needed? Do you guarantee delivery of a new vehicle in ninety minutes? Now is the time to define your value story and clearly communicate it through ‘brand advertising.´

Testimonials Define Brands.

One of the most powerful methods of defining and marketing your brand is to incorporate customer testimonials. Don´t put words in your customers´ mouths, develop a creative forum where they can say how they feel about you in exactly their own words. Utilize techniques for radio or television commercials that let your customers define what your brand is in their own words. How about a blog on your dealership website?

Now is the time to reassess the overall value you offer to your customers and clearly define your brand. Remember, every bit of communication relative to your company impacts the perception of your brand including your signage, the cleanliness of your lot and restrooms, your receptionists and service advisors. Every contact helps define your brand in a customer´s mind.

Spend as least as much of your advertising budget on ‘share of mind´ building your brand as you do on ‘share of market´ promotions. Create your own unique shelf-space in your customers' minds. Maybe your brand image won´t make a customer more honest, or creative, but if it puts your name on the short list for car shopping, your brandhas done its job.

3/24/08 Copyright © Jim Boldebook (for May 2008 Issue of Dealer Magazine)

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