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Don’t Quarantine Your Dealership’s Marketing in Uncertainty

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

“When the other folks go dark, I’m fixin’ to get rich.”

Those are the words of one of CBC Automotive Marketing’s long-standing dealer clients, spoken during the 2008-2009 recession. He understood something that those “other folks” didn’t. No matter how bad conditions got, there was still a market for cars and he was going to get as much of it as he could. The “other folks” made it easy for him by dialing back their dealership marketing in uncertainty and low economic times. He also knew that advertising is mostly about the “long game.” When the recession was over, he was positioned with greater market share, greater consumer awareness and was already on the launch pad for success while the “other folks” played catch-up.

Whether it’s a pandemic, economic downturn, or a microchip shortage, there will always be opportunities for growth. These changes in the competitive landscape can lead to gains in market share, reduced advertising costs, and improved brand awareness… for those who continue to effectively promote.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the current marketing environment:

1.) Audiences can be higher, and marketing can cost less.

As consumers become more cautious about their “out of home” behaviors, they consume more media in the home. This includes streaming services, online video, OTT and broadcast / cable television. With your competition trimming or even cutting their marketing completely, these platforms have less demand for their product. That puts you in a good position to strike a deal and take advantage.

2.) It’s a great time to cut through the clutter.

With your competition off the air, it’s the best time ever for your creative to stand out. We’re always talking about cutting through the noise and telling consumers what is unique about our clients' businesses. The improved share of voice will play out in increased immediate sales and long-term awareness.

3.) Major life / global events disrupt consumer behavior.

People experiencing major life events are more likely to change long-standing behaviors. This includes lifestyle changes, buying habits, brand loyalty and more. As we navigate our way through the current pandemic, the entire world is experiencing a major life event, and we’ve already seeing changes, such as online vehicle-buying and vehicle ordering, in just a year and a half. This presents a great opportunity for you to get your message out there about how you’re making it easier, safer, cheaper, etc. Stake your claim now as the “go-to” online dealer for both buying and ordering and when we come out the other side of the pandemic, consumers will look to you first with their new behaviors.

4.) Cutting marketing during a crisis has had disastrous consequences for brands in the past.

For example, during the Great Depression, Post cereal was the category leader but dramatically cut their ad budget to “hunker down” during the bad economic times. Kellogg’s was a distant second in the category. When the depression hit, Kellogg’s doubled their ad spend and introduced a new product (Rice Krispies). Profits grew 30% and they became the industry leader; a position they hold to this day. Don’t let consumers forget about you. Advertising during rough times can project a business’s stability and build confidence with consumers.

5.) This will not last forever.

Like every other crisis we have faced in the 100+ years of the auto industry, it will pass. The dealers that play the long game will emerge stronger and better-positioned to thrive after the crisis (and to withstand the next one…hopefully in the very distant future).

Remember the words of David Ogilvy:

“When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.”

When the time is right to discuss your dealership or group’s marketing, let’s have a conversation.

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