Branding Or Directing Response Spending Dollars Wisely For Both

April 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Anderson - Also by this author

The ultimate goal of branding is to cause ‘Top of mind awareness’ (TOMA).  TOMA is when a specific brand immediately comes to the mind of the customer when purchasing a particular product. Do you believe your dealership’s advertising and marketing plan needs to build your brand? 

An excellent example of when branding works is on the toolbar of almost every computer desktop. It’s red, green, blue and yellow, and it appears as if it’s flapping in the wind. Have you guessed it? It’s the Microsoft Flag that everyone knows and recognizes. Are you having trouble remembering exactly what it looks like? Try to think like a customer not a marketer. Do you think you can create more impressions than the Microsoft Flag? It’s impossible, but that is the requisite mindset if you are going to create a lasting brand campaign. If there are two bottles of shampoo on the shelf and I have to select one; that is when successful branding takes effect. Consumer goods are brand reliant, while auto retailers usually are not.

If the billions of dollars spent every year by your manufacturers on tier-one advertising doesn’t create TOMA for your product, then nothing likely will. Many general managers I have spoken with believe branding is the responsibility of the manufacturer.  In many ways, I concur. Branding makes sense on two occasions. If you have the opportunity to impress your brand on the same person hundreds of times over the course of an average month branding makes sense. The second occasion is when branding enhances direct response. Direct response is a form of marketing designed to solicit an immediate response which is specific and quantifiable.

It is a fact that consumers can be moved to action by a strong message or worthwhile offer almost immediately. When it comes to the question of brand v. direct response mechanisms the real issue is TIMING. How do you reach that customer with the right message at the exact moment they are making a purchasing decision? Fortunately, we have a huge advantage by being in the automotive industry.  Research indicates that at any given time 2 to 3 percent of the overall population is in the serious vehicle purchasing mode; meaning they will complete a car purchase in the next 30 days.

A market, with this many potential customers at any given time, is conducive to the direct response model of marketing. Therefore, a good direct response message and ‘call to action’ will garner a response. Capture the consumer while they are in the market. What good is that logo or jingle if the consumer is not serious about purchasing a vehicle? Who cares about a consumer’s consciousness unless they are ready to walk on a lot? You are not selling toilet paper, bottled water or any other consumer good, and because of that the value of branding is far less than the value of direct response.

Branding has no value if the buyer never comes in contact with your business. There is only one way to make branding work effectively. REPETITION!  Do you have checkbook big enough for the frequency required for branding without any direct/guaranteed car sales?

Dealers are in the business of selling cars today and the best way is to do this is with some type of direct response mechanism. This is why dealers are so good at creating new and interesting offers. The offer is king in direct response, and establishing a new brand is expensive and takes considerable time. Think about it, are you really going to take the time, steps and measures it takes to create a brand? If not, advertise with and in direct response mediums.  

So, is there a way for dealerships to create that TOMA awareness branding provides without the time and expense?  Yes, simply work branding into your direct response advertising. Never run an ad which doesn’t solicit a response directly from the consumer, at the exact moment of ad delivery, via the Internet or telephone. Make your advertising quantifiable and accountable by using direct response.

Vol 4, Issue 2

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