So much of the conversation in automotive marketing today is focused on how to leverage technology and data to precisely target consumers. While this is important, it’s just as important to remember that creative still matters.
After all, you can serve up the exact right message to the right person at the right time, but without a compelling image or copy, the consumer will simply ignore it, or scroll right by it on their phone.
When it comes to creative marketing, I find that most dealers fall into one of two categories: (1) the dealer who is content to ride on the manufacturer’s creative coattails, and puts very little time and effort into creative campaigns for their own brand, and (2) the dealer who loves to be creative and comes up with cute or funny campaigns that, unfortunately, may stray quite a bit from the manufacturer’s intended brand image.
Striking a balance between these two extremes is the key to successful marketing at the dealership level.
So, what’s the best way to achieve this balance and how can you differentiate your brand to capture consumers’ attention? Here are some tips.
Less is More
No matter where your marketing message is seen today, you have a very limited amount of time to get your message across. Don’t cram two messages into one ad, or overly use adjectives. Don’t tell the consumer what you want them to feel. Your ad should make them feel it.
The same rule applies to photos, videos and other images. If you are displaying a photo of a vehicle, there’s no need to add starbursts or other special effects. The vehicle is enough. Keep your images and messages simple and clean.
Maintain Brand Integrity
There’s a reason why auto manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on focus groups and research, and hire really expensive ad agencies to help them create their brand images. They are the experts, so trust their expertise.
If you’re a Porsche dealer, you’re not going to send out Christmas cards with puppies on them, right? While nobody can debate the cuteness of puppies, they just don’t fit with Porsche’s image.
So, before you decide to shoot that TV commercial wearing a giant Stetson cowboy hat, consider if the image you are presenting is an appropriate representation of your manufacturer’s brand, and whether it would appeal to your intended audience.
As a dealer, you definitely want to emphasize what you can offer that differentiates your store from others. Whether it’s free loaner cars, experienced staff or a smooth process, give local customers a reason to buy or service with you.
Just make sure that what you’re advertising is genuine to the experience that customers will have when they visit your store. There’s nothing consumers hate worse than a bait and switch.
If you want to get creative with your campaigns, try incorporating local nuances to engage consumer attention. Local imagery can evoke feelings of pride and loyalty.
If you’re in Brooklyn, a picture of a vehicle parked with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background may be the right choice. If you’re in southern California or Florida, sun and palm trees may be the perfect backdrop. If you live in Hawaii, wouldn’t it be odd to see an ad featuring a vehicle on a snowy mountain road?
Tailor Your Message to the Medium
Let’s say you want to promote a seasonal sale event. Because you’re a savvy marketer, you leverage your data and you decide to create an marketing campaign that includes radio, direct mail, email, display ads and social media.
Your creative message should be cohesive across all channels, so your intended audience knows exactly what you’re promoting. Yet, how you deliver that message is going to be quite different depending on the channel.
Facebook has canvas ad that allow for multiple images. Videos also play well on Facebook. For social, your images have to be thumb-stopping stunning. With ads, a simple image or a few words may be the best approach. On a postcard, you may want to incorporate spot gloss to help your piece stand out.
When it comes to building your store’s unique brand, do not underestimate the importance of creative in marketing. Remember that the quality of creative in a campaign is far more effective than strategy alone at raising brand awareness and driving sales.
Author: Scot Eisenfelder
Scot Eisenfelder is a 25+ automotive market veteran who has driven innovation across multiple auto sectors. Previously, Scot was Senior Vice President Strategy at AutoNation, responsible for major change initiatives in eCommerce, pricing, IT and creating a blueprint for auto retail transformation and before that served as acting CMO, focused on realigning marketing spending. Before that, Scot led JM Family’s dealer software business and was Senior Vice President Product Management, Strategy and Marketing at Reynolds and Reynolds, leading both companies through value creating sales. Scot is a Board member of Quorum, a public dealer software company. He has an MBA from Wharton School, graduating with distinction and is a Palmer Scholar. He attended Mannheim University in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and graduated summa cum laude in Economics from Princeton.