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Online Strategies : Don’t Forget Your Brand

Autosphere » Dealerships » Online Strategies : Don’t Forget Your Brand

With everyone focusing on digital marketing, it’s easy to forget about the importance of building a brand.

The Canadian International Auto Show served as the backdrop for TRADER’s third annual Carology presentation. Dealers from all over the Greater Toronto Area, and beyond, attended the two-hour event, which focused on digital marketing.

One of the speakers, Dave Winslow, Chief Strategy Office, Universe Group, explained how important it is for dealers to maintain the integrity of their brand, despite the fact that we are doing business in a world that seems to be increasingly less brand loyal.

“I started off my career in branding,” he said. “Unfortunately over the past 15 or 20 years, a lot of that has been lost. With this Google generation, brand doesn’t seem to matter as much.”

Winslow explained that brands are still important since consumers are still attracted to brands. “Your dealership has a brand in your local market,” he said, “but we’ve started to lose track of how important that brand is.”

Brand audits

He spoke about working with dealers on digital marketing campaigns over the years, and said that many don’t understand how important it is to protect and care for their brands.

“I can’t tell you how many of the dealers we worked with couldn’t get us the right logo,” he said. “We lost sight of the fact that the brand is important. You should have a consistent logo and consistent tagline. You want to separate your dealership, or your dealership group, out from the rest.”

Winslow suggested a “brand audit,” encouraging dealers to look at all their points of purchase, their promotional materials and all the communications from their staff. “Do you have consistent logos, identity, and wording?” he asked. “You want your whole dealership to feel like it’s one single brand, from the point of view of the consumer.”

One picture of them getting into their brand new vehicle with a big smile on their face and your dealership in the background can reach a thousand people, promote your store, and it costs you nothing. — Dave Winslow, Chief Strategy Office, Universe Group

Consistency is king

When it comes to building and maintaining a brand, consistency is key. “As you plan display ads, make sure your brand is consistent,” Winslow said. “Your logo should be consistent. Your product shots should be consistent.”

The same rules apply to the online world. When it comes to social media, for example, Winslow recommends consistent and authentic messaging.

He also warns dealers not to try to sell cars on social media. That approach is simply frowned upon. “Don’t promote your products through social media,” he explained. “This is an opportunity for you to showcase what you do. People don’t see an ad for a car on Facebook and decide they’re going to go buy it. Social media gives dealers an opportunity to promote the authenticity of their brand.”

Sometimes, knowing what to communicate via social media can be a challenge. Winslow suggests connecting with your community. “You’re inherently a part of your local community,” he explained. “So why not feature the employee of the week? Why not post pictures of the hockey team you’re helping support? You can even showcase some of the unique attributes of a car, but don’t try to sell it through social media.”

Winslow recommends strategies that will result in your customers doing the heavy lifting on social media for you. “Imagine if you took a photo of someone who just bought a car from you and posted that on social media,” he said. “They’re happy, and what are they going to do? They’re going to promote it to their friends, and some of your customers might have a thousand friends on Facebook. One picture of them getting into their brand new vehicle with a big smile on their face and your dealership in the background can reach a thousand people, promote your store, and it costs you nothing.”

Back to the brand

Winslow believes brands have suffered over the years, partly because dealers have had to focus their energies on the “how to” of digital marketing.

“We started to complicate things with digital,” he said. “We focused on the number of channels, key words, display options, how to mix budgets between digital and traditional. And then within digital we had to decide how much goes to search, how much to display, retargeting, etc. The multitude of options led to decision paralysis. We couldn’t decide anymore.

“Most importantly we lost sight of the consumer and how to make the consumer’s journey easier. They’re spending a lot of time researching, and we really need to focus on how we can make their journey more enjoyable.”

The good news is that we’re starting to understand digital, which means we can put the focus back on what matters most. “We’re going to get back to making our brand important again,” Winslow said, “because digital will get more simple with time.”

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