Article

Positioning: Raise Your Branding Standard

December 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Anderson - Also by this author

Positioning is happening right now in the minds of consumers in your local target market. It is the collective perception customers have of a particular company, dealership, service or product compared to their perceptions of competitors in the same category. This is important because you have to be aware of the positioning of other dealerships in your market before you can determine if your positioning is correct and the most effective, or if it needs to be adjusted. Positioning is happening around you every day, regardless of whether you are proactive or reactive, because your target market has formed an opinion based on your message. Creating an image or identity is happening on your behalf whether you like it or not.

There are three steps to consider in terms of your brand position. First, make a list of all significant competitors and write a sentence defining their position in the market. Then, define the current position of your dealership as it really exists today in the mind of your target consumers. Lastly, identify a specific attribute about your dealership which can differentiate your business from the competition.

Positioning is the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of the target market for the dealership, brand or organization. It is the “relative competitive comparison” a dealership occupies in a given market as perceived by the target market. Two steps you can take are re-positioning or changing the perception people have of your dealership, relative to the perception of competing dealerships. The other option is de-positioning or attempting to change the identity of competing dealerships, relative to the identity of your own dealership.

Does your dealership’s main message sound something like this: “We’re the number one Dodge dealership in the southeast”? Has that message lost its luster? This overused message may be an opportunity for you to either re-position or de-position. If you decide to de-position, you have to let the marketplace know that you really are the number one Dodge dealer in the southeast based on units and no one else can make that claim. Other dealers may try to claim more revenue, but that is because their vehicles are overpriced and the market needs to know this. No other dealer can make the claim that they sell more units.

In fact any other dealer in the market claiming to be number one is being deceptive. As you might realize, this can be incredibly effective in increasing your position. It makes the target consumer feel educated and let in on a secret. I realize the manufacturer may frown on this line of messaging, but I have heard and seen many dealers use the de-positioning strategy to great effect.

The other school of thought in terms of re-marketing is re-positioning. After millions of dollars, thousands of minutes of airtime and miles of words in print, the target consumer hopefully has an idea what you are all about. But now, you are looking for a change. You want the target consumer to have a different perception of you. What do you do? You start in the same place you would if you were de-positioning. Look at how other dealers in your market are positioning themselves in the marketplace. But instead of counter messaging them, you can entertain filling a void or fill an area that is not exploited.

Is no one tapping into the sub-prime market properly in your market? There may be an opportunity for you to step into that void. Creating an opening could be as simple as offering a lifetime warranty that no one else offers. Too many dealers look outside their own market. They find a message or offer that is working for other people in other markets, so they give it a try. However, you have to take cues from the other dealers in your market and look for voids before you look outside for help.

I encourage you to constantly analyze and reanalyze your position, so when you are raising your brand standard, take a look around you at what other dealers are doing. Your perception in the minds of consumers is what determines your success over the long haul. Take heed when you create that message or take on your competitor down the street. It all has a tremendous effect on the consumers in your market. As always, I say be aware, be committed and be consistent. Don’t send mixed messages. If you are changing up your advertising be aware of re-positioning versus de-positioning. Pick one and make it your own.

Vol 4, Issue 10

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