There Are No Apologies in Branding

Posted on by Jason Cook
Categories: Automotive

As an automotive advertising company, we fall subject to a wide range of expectations regarding the wealth of services that we offer. Truth be told, we doubt you’d be surprised by the vast majority of them, seeing as you’re probably aware of the traditional role played by digital marketers. And yet, there are those expectations that are less-publicized…such as the expectation that we are intuitive mind-readers or clairvoyants.

Last time we checked, we were unable to peer inside the human mind or transcend the laws of space-time. However, our inability to bend the laws of the universe to our whim doesn’t leave us exempt from the expectation. Far from it. Dealerships (and the other kinds of businesses that we work with) expect us to get a jump on trends, to notice patterns in their infancy and to have an inherent understanding of any thought, and every whim. Fortunately, technology offers us a number of tools that prove supportive of our own instincts. And thus, we continue to fuel the illusion.

Mind you, we’re not complaining. Not one bit. We like what we do (and like to think that we’re pretty good at it, too) but our abilities shouldn’t minimize the responsibilities that our clients have…to themselves. Specifically, a willingness to brand fearlessly.

Allow Us To Explain

Recognizing the branding limitations that most franchised dealers are beholden to, we’d be remiss if we preached emancipated branding as though it were an option that was open to everyone. And yet here we are, ready to do exactly that. Why? Because (i) not every dealership is handicapped by such restrictions, and (ii) it’s important for any organization to own their own branding. That sense of self should be purposeful, well-defined and consistent through every facet of the organization’s being; the union of its public face and private culture embodied by recognizable iconography.

It’s up to the individual dealership to identify the level of wiggle-room they have in terms of iconography, color scheme and overall aesthetics. But those are just the tangible elements of your branding, intended to tie various elements together while reinforcing the brand. What about the intangibles? What about the unique approach that you take in order to differentiate yourself from competitors? What about the adaptability of your message and content for a wider audience, or the kind of sentiment crucial to the stirring of emotion?

These are the components of your brand that you have exclusive control over. And it’s about time that you embrace the power of that control, and how effectively it can drive your online conversions enhancing your various revenue streams. It’s time for you to start branding fearlessly; and if you need any inspiration in that regard, let’s look at some of the lessons we’ve learned from major players who have embraced the power of fearless branding, earning all the more success as a result.


Kicking things off, the handheld cameras of GoPro have taught us two very important lessons, over the past decade-and-a-half. The first is simple, and helped to fuel the current push towards video content. By inspiring (and making affordable) user-supplied content, GoPro’s burden in terms of marketing budget was minimized. Today, over 6,000 user-branded GoPro videos are uploaded to YouTube every day!

But more than that, GoPro changed the way that we looked at things. First-person perspective allowed us to view an activity through the eyes of an enthusiast, rather than as a simple bystander. As such, the content contributions were not-only-numerous, but a completely organic means of generating brand excitement.

Applied to a Dealership: Video content is king. It should be the foundation of your marketing strategy, and adapted to multiple formats, as needed, in order to succeed on various platforms. Thanks to GoPros, drones and advances in cell-phone cameras, a dealership can provide fresh new perspectives on both vehicle walk-arounds and test drives. That’s right…NEW PERSPECTIVES. Not just ‘new’ in terms of how your dealership has marketed in the past, you might be delivering something brand new to the eyes of prospective customers. And when it comes to cars, trucks and SUVs, why wouldn’t you want to show a vehicle through the eyes of an enthusiast (rather than a salesperson)?

A man writing "Does your brand stand out?"

Life is Good

Who can remember the point in the mid-to-late 1990’s when ‘Life is Good’ shirts and hats began to appear indiscriminately? Whether or not your hand is in the air, answer me this: when have you ever seen a commercial for ‘Life is Good’? How did a brand, formed by two brothers in 1994, boast $50 million in sales within the first decade and reach $100 million by their twentieth anniversary? According to the founders, they relied “on the good vibes of social power of their community to spread the word”. In other words, they took a simple message and relied upon the consumers (who the message resonated with) to build the brand.

Applied to a Dealership: What kind of culture do you offer, both to your customers and employees. Is it positive? Is it tangible in your marketing? Does it resonate with your target demographic(s)? No-one wants to be told about a ‘low-pressure sales environment’ by the dealership (especially if it’s not true). If true, let them hear it from the satisfied customers who felt benefited by the positive culture you’ve created. To quote a thirty-year-old movie, “if you build it, they will come”.


I believe the joke goes something like this…

“A vegan, an atheist and a Crossfitter walk into a bar…everyone knew within minutes, because they wouldn’t stop telling people about it.”  Jokes aside, the exercise phenomenon known as Crossfit is a billion-dollar business, and the ultimate key to its success was based on “harnessing a natural camaraderie”. This inspiration of ownership in a brand has empowered members of the Crossfit community to live their lives as brand advocates. United (and continually supported) by one another’s shared values, that community continues to grow (in almost cult-like fashion).

Applied to a Dealership: like it not, there is a time and place for zealotry. After all, what brand wouldn’t exchange a ‘satisfied’ customer for an ‘enthusiastically loyal’ one? Simply put, you should tailor your online presence to generate excitement and tailor your real-world culture to support and validate that excitement.

Bringing it Home

It’s easy to fall into the pitfall of redundancy. It’s why we’ve spent a lot of time this month trying to get people to recognize the trappings of their echo chamber. When we only heed the input of the like-minded, and avoid new or different approaches, we grow stagnant in everything that we do.

The brands above were willing to step outside of the norm, be it by choice or by chance. In doing so, they changed the game, proving that the same old methodologies would only bring a business so far in terms of generating excitement and increasing revenue.

Bottom-line, be open to new ideas and perspectives. More importantly, seek them out. Learn the lessons offered by the success of others, while recognizing that the landscape is evolving just as quickly as the expectations of your customers are. The same old, same old mindset just won’t work anymore…and you need to start branding fearlessly.