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Your BRAND is Either Growing…or You’re Going!

Updated: Mar 22

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow, in the automobile retail business, may be a mystery but here are a few simple facts.  You are either building your brand for share-of-mind dominance, or you are headed out to pasture.  By dominance, I don’t mean your goal should be the only game in town like a Google or an Apple, but a look at history tells us there will be a lot fewer automotive retailers in the next 20 years.

In 1950, there were about 50,000 dealers.  When I got into the auto ad business in the 80s there were about 25,000.  Today, there are 16,708 dealers.  Of course, the public company gorging was a major factor in the consolidation over the past few decades, and it was natural attrition for some of the smaller rural dealerships, but a lot of bigger players bit the dust for no other reason than a failure to establish viable brand positioning in an ever disloyal, increasingly commoditized segment.

Important Metrics

This does not mean that volume/unit sale growth is the only metric of importance.  On the contrary, there are, and will be dealers who don’t grow exponentially in volume over the next few decades, but remain profitable and relevant as they enhance their brand within their targeted markets.   Research has shown a considerable segment of our population willing to spend a little more to do business with retailers where they enjoy a satisfying personal relationship and a higher level of trust.

One of the most prevalent themes in the articles I’ve written over the past 30 years is the concept of spending some portion of your marketing spend on building your brand.  Not the factory’s brand, your brand.  In the 80’s I coined the expression ‘Share of market/Share of mind”, advocating that advertising success should not only be measured by how many customers visit the showroom (or website) this weekend, (share of market), but how well you are building your brand for future consideration (share of mind).

How Do You Build Your Brand?

In recent articles for this magazine I’ve shared research that shows 40% of walk-in customers buy the same day.  70% do it within 72 hours!  Obviously, advertising spend that nudges those shoppers into the showroom at the exact moment they are interested in buying is probably the most important spend.  But I content that some of those nudges are not the banner ad or TV offer for a payment on a Corolla, but a rather a confluence of communications over a period of time.  Ideas that have resonated within the ‘important enough to file in my sub-conscious gray matter for future consideration’.

Okay, so how do you do build your brand?  Two important steps:

  1. Define your brand.

  2. Tell your story.

Understanding your brand perception

You must know what your brand is. Not just you, but your entire team has to know what your brand is.  You cannot effectively ‘tell your story’ unless you know what that story is.  When I wrote an article on ‘brand evaluation’ about 10 years, one of the most respected dealers in the Midwest wrote me a lengthy email sharing how shocked he was to discover what he discovered in using the Dealership Brand Survey template I shared with readers.

For a free copy of the Brand Survey Template.  Just email me and I’ll send along.  You’ll need to find someone in your organization or in your advertising/marketing company who can put this together.  It does not have to be an expensive project costing tens of thousands of dollars.  There are a few internet survey company’s like Survey Monkey which allow you to design a simple survey. Use this with employees and customers to help you define the current perception of your brand.

Tell Your Story

The next step is to effectively tell your story.  In next month’s Dealer article, I’ll share one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to spread the word about what you stand for and your unique marketing perception.  A video project that can be multi-purposed for use in the showroom, on web videos and even a Television infomercial.  I’ll share step by step information on how to put it all together.

One more free thing: The Top Ten Rules for Building a Brand.  Just email me – I’ll send along an article from 2008 which helped many dealers build their brand.

Whether your focus is building and growing a company that will be successful for generations, or building a company to for purchase by another company at maximum multiples, the word ‘brand’ is the key to your success.  The better you build it, the better your chances of success.

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