It seems that a few of my esteemed brand colleagues are a bit beyond fed up with lousy branding in the world of automobile dealerships. Here are the opinions of some of the Branding Wire Crew; Drew Mclellan, Martin Jelsema, Olivier Blanchard , Steve Woodruff, Valeria Maltoni, Becky Carroll, Patrick Schaber, Lewis Green … and now here’s my spin:
Let me preface my piece with a little bit about my background. In my former life, prior to starting my brand agency, I was employed at a national health and safety company that catered to (get this) automobile dealerships. Over the course of almost a decade I had visited and provided ongoing services to several hundred car dealers. I think I’ve seen or heard everything that can possibly happen in a dealership and some of the stories I have would curl your hair! Let’s just say there’s a reason for all those rumors and the stigma’s are not baseless. However, there are some really great companies out there who are trying to break out of the stereotypes and I commend them for their efforts. Sadly, they’re stuck in an industry with some horrific brand problems.
I’ll keep my comment(s) short with a suggestion for a field trip.
Try this; First go to a typical auto dealer franchise where price negotiation is part of the process and try to get a good deal on a vehicle. Any line will do … Ford, Chevy, Toyota, your choice. THEN go to a Saturn dealership. I’m not saying that Saturn is a better car or that they offer more value. For this exercise, these issues are irrelevant. The only comment I’m making is that they’ve removed the pain of barter-friction from their sales process. Ask anyone who has ever bought a Saturn and you’ll get a completely different view of their brand experience to any other franchise. This is a BIG DEAL! The most important and critical concept for creating great brand is knowing that you’re connecting with people. Miss that and you’re doomed.
Yes, there’s more to industry-wide bad branding than this one topic of price bartering …€” let’s not forget; bad advertising, hard selling, shady ethics, confrontational attitudes, poor creatives, and LOUDNESS… the list goes on and on.
A trip of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I look forward to a handful of dealerships (or whole franchises) that take Saturn’s lead and break out of the bad-dealership-brand mold.
Full disclosure: Until 18 months ago, when I bought a new GMC Envoy, my two previous cars were Saturns. My next car will also likely be a Saturn … yes, because of the experience in dealing with their courteous dealership staff during; the sales process, routine maintenance, roadside assistance, etc. You’ve just gotta love brand-based purchasing decisions!