Why Building Your Dealership’s Brand is Critical to Your Success (and 3 Places to Start Doing It Today)

The term branding is derived from the Old Norse word brandr, “to burn.” This brings to mind cattle branding, which historically (and quite literally) involves burning a brand into the skin of an animal for ownership purposes. Business branding isn’t that far off – the goal is to persuasively (and gently) sear your message, your brand, into the customer’s mind. It’s to be unforgettable.

Having a brand and building a brand are very closely related, because your brand represents not only your product or service, but also the way in which you deliver that product or service and the way in which you are perceived by the consumer.

Here are some succinct modern takes on all that encompasses a brand:

“The difference between branding and sales is simple. Are you trying to convert, or are you trying to create an experience? The latter always wins. At the end of the day there is only one thing that constitutes ‘brand.’ It’s how you feel in the moment you interact with the product, service, or business.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

Serial Entrepreneur and 5x New York Times bestseller

“A brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with the product or company.”

Sergio Zyman

Author of The End of Advertising As We Know It

“A brand is … the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” 

David Ogilvy

Author of On Advertising

Brand is a known identity of a company in terms of what products and services they offer but also the essence of what the company stands for in terms of service and other emotional, nontangible consumer concerns.”

Donna Antonucci

Real Estate Agent

How focused is your dealership on its branding? This is an important question for any business to consider.

Sum It Up in a Slogan

In the past, some dealerships built their brand (consciously or subconsciously) around slogans: “Driven to exceed expectations,” “You can count on us,” “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday,” and “Believe in nice” to name just a few.

The slogan appeared everywhere – in the store, on ads, maybe even on T-shirts – and always was worded exactly the same way. That’s clever branding.

Clever because it defined what the dealership valued/values, creating consistency and giving the entire team something to live up to. It set the tone for new hires from day one. It gave customers a reassurance of a certain expectation: something to check each experience against. Even the community knew where the dealership stood.

Start Again – Start Now

If your dealership doesn’t have a clear brand, now is as good a time as any to start developing one. Although there isn’t a road map to building your brand, there are a few simple things to consider for success.

Probably the best thing you can do for your business brand is set clear values. They should be something that lasts as long as your dealership does, so take your time in determining them. You could think of your dealership’s values as your legacy.

Some of the strongest brands even have been able to capitalize on one value alone: I hear “Amazon” and I think of that little smile on the packages that come to my door. Yup, that is how I feel not only when I get a package from Amazon but even when I just hear the company’s name. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Amazon’s vision is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

Be open with your values – share them. This is a big part of brand-building!

At the Dealership: Once you’ve determined your dealership’s values, communicate them openly with your team. Give employees actions they can take to build on these values. For example, if your value-based slogan is “The customer is always right,” you could share phrasing that employees could use with unhappy customers, such as “You’re right, and let me make it up to you.”

Share values and value-based slogans in break rooms, on your internal communication platform, on mugs, etc.

On Social: Social media is a great place to share your values and build your brand. Having clear set values or a value-based slogan makes your social media manager’s job much easier; they can simply ask themselves before posting anything, “Does this go against our values, our brand?” If it does, it doesn’t get posted.

Give your team examples of what they might post on their own social media to reflect the dealership’s values.

Elsewhere Online: Reviews are a huge part of every company’s brand today. Nothing can affect your reputation more than a couple of really bad reviews – maybe even just one. Use a tool like Reputation Management from AutoAlert to easily and quickly find reviews, address the bad, and further share the good.

More Inspiration …

Check out Metro Ford of Independence, Mo.; Norm Reeves Honda Superstore of Huntington Beach, Calif.; and Marcotte Ford of Holyoke, Mass., for a few examples of dealerships that are seeing great success with brand building.

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