car dealership branding

When you own a car dealership, branding should always be a top priority.

It’s a typical day at the dealership, and you’re running around trying to get a million things done. Out of nowhere, a random customer walks up to you and says, “What’s your brand?”

What would your answer be? “Our brand? Well, we sell lots of auto brands here! We’ve got Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge on our lot. Is there a particular make or model you’re looking for?”

But your customer isn’t asking about the brands you sell—he’s asking about your brand. Your dealership’s brand. Would you have any clue what to tell him?

car dealership branding

What is car dealership branding?

Branding is what differentiates you from those other five dealerships down the street. It’s what people think about your business and how they view you. It’s the entire dealership experience, from the second they walk in your door, to the advertisements they see, to how the service department treats them, to the business cards your salespeople hand out.

Car dealership branding is about creating a seamless experience from start to finish. Your brand is your identity, so think long and hard about how you want the public to perceive your business.

  • Who are your target customers? How do they want you to communicate with them?
  • What’s your Unique Value Proposition, or the key characteristics you want associated with your brand?
  • What makes your dealership so special? Do you have the best prices in town? Are you the only pet-friendly dealership within 50 miles?

Once you completely understand your car dealership branding and fully integrate it into your business, it’s time to get a little creative. There are fundamental ways to brand your dealership, like a professionally-designed logo or choosing brand colors, but there are more unique touches that can make you even more memorable to customers.

car dealership branding

How to make your car dealership branding stand out

1. Cliché: Write a catchy jingle that’s used in radio and TV ads.

Unexpected: Host a competition in which you invite people to compose and sing a new jingle for the dealership. Mel Hambelton Ford in Wichita, Kansas created “Mel Hambelton Idle” and modeled it after the show “American Idol.” Over the course of the competition, several events at the dealership drew audiences of up to 300 people. 90 people auditioned live, and the grand prize winner was awarded a free two-year lease on a new Ford Focus, $5,000 in cash, and recording studio time.

2. Cliché: Put a coupon on your website for $10 off a customer’s next oil change.

Unexpected: As a way of saying “thank you” for buying a car at your dealership, offer free oil changes for as long as the customer owns that vehicle. Oil changes aren’t that expensive, but no one enjoys shelling out $40-$50 every few months on their vehicle. This will show that you care about them and keeping their new car in tip-top shape (and hopefully, they’ll also call your service department when they need repairs).

3. Cliché: Offering free, stale bagels next to a hot pot of burned coffee in your waiting area.

Unexpected: Want customers to feel comfortable—even cozy—while waiting in your dealership? Keep a fresh display of warm chocolate chip cookies available all day long. Chill a carafe of milk nearby, because everyone knows chocolate chip cookies are nothing without a tall glass of milk. Coffee is still a must in any dealership but invest in a Keurig, so you never have to worry about a customer choking down a gross cup of joe.

4. Cliché: Create a social media presence for your dealership on Facebook and Twitter.

Unexpected: Facebook is still the biggest social media site, but if you’re only on there, you may be missing an entire younger demographic in your car dealership branding efforts. If part of your brand is being technologically-savvy and modern, extend your reach to Instagram and Snapchat. Both social apps are more popular with younger drivers than Facebook or Twitter, and they’re still unchartered territory for a lot of car dealerships—which means there’s a lot of potential for being a real trailblazing brand.

5. Cliché: Only branding your dealership.

Unexpected: Support and encourage your salespeople to promote themselves. Allow employee branding, with restrictions that help protect your dealership’s brand, and give them a portion of your marketing budget to do so. Hold classes that teach them about branding, messaging, and creating a unique voice in the community. When done right, having popular employees within your dealership can bring in even more customers.

Take the time to think about how you want people to perceive your dealership —it may even help to work with an advertising agency in the branding process—and then move forward with innovative branding ideas. Your community will come to know what you stand for, and hopefully, you’ll see that reflected in your profits.

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