Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dealing Days

We in the advertising industry have been doing those in the automotive industry a great disservice.

And we've been doing it for years.

We've sold in the notion that proper marketing can be viewed in three tiers:

Tier 1: The Brand. This is often manifested in big blowhard manifestos. Chest beating anthems. And mission statements that are brought to life with million dollar productions, European directors who want to make cinema, and blatant boondoggling that will eventually be subsidized by American taxpayers.

Tier 2: The Dealers. This advertising is meant to allay the fears of car dealers, who often look at the esoteric nature of the Tier 1 work and think, "What the fuck is that with the clouds and the koi ponds and the three legged dogs? I'm trying to sell some cars here." 

Accordingly, this work is chock full of the stuff that dealers love, panning shots of the vehicle as it winds its way on a scenic highway, and a lot of blabber about nuts and bolts and active safety measures and horsepower and advanced independent suspension. It's basically a Monroney Sticker put on film.

Tier 3: The Dealership. This is where the local guys, in their Joseph A Banks suits and their dated Hi Karate cologne and their well-rehearsed tag teaming, show the fat cats at corporate how to move the metal. "I got your mission statement right here pal. Take a look at my commission statement. I'm going to Cabo." 

There's a well-established hierarchy here. Truth is, we got it all wrong. The order is upside down. The pyramid needs to be flipped.

If we really wanted to help our automotive clients we'd start thinking about selling cars by putting more emphasis on where people are buying cars.

I know this from experience.
I've purchased two cars in the last year. One for me and one for my daughter.

Let me tell you, all that brand stuff, all that high level thinking, all those late nights and weekends spent crystalizing the planner speak, the data, the focus group findings and the last minute musings of the CMO's wife (or husband), go swirling down the toilet the minute you step foot on the expensively tiled floor of a (INSERT BRAND NAME HERE) auto dealership.

Because the men and women with the keys to the castle are the ones holding the key fobs to the vehicle. If they're not buying into the brand promise, the brand "DNA" and the brand essence, then no one is.

One of these days, some smart agency will embrace this bottoms up approach and reap the considerable rewards.

Until then, next time you find yourself buying a car, practice some deep breathing and enjoy a big heaping cup of dealership coffee.


Bob said...

So true. A great example of all this is laid-out in, "Where the Suckers Moon," still one of the best ad books ever written.

Unknown said...

I don't disagree with you but I always told car clients brand was to get them to walk into the dealership in the first place by doing work that sold the cars in a way that made people like the brand. It worked once or twice.