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What does your brand say about your dealership?

By Liz Hochstedler

I ran across a discussion on LinkedIn recently that focused on branding. The person who started the discussion brought up the subject of personal branding, but it got me thinking about how many businesses, especially many dealers in our industry, don’t take ownership of their branding.

Your brand is not only the name of your dealership, but it’s also the characteristics that the name takes on. Apple, for example, is known for its ingenuity. Geico is known as the company that can help customers save money in a short period of time, a reputation gained from its "fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance” slogan.

But it’s not just big companies that have created brands for themselves. I can think of several examples of local Minnesota companies that have easily recognizable brands because of successful advertising themes, slogans or characters they’ve carved out for themselves.

You would be hard-pressed to find a Minnesotan who owns a radio or a TV that doesn’t know who “Erik the bike man” is. Erik Saltvold, owner of Erik’s Bike Shop, started his business out of his parents’ barn in 1977 and now runs 18 stores throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin that specialize in retailing bicycles, snowboards and downhill skis. Most people who aren’t hardcore bicyclists, like me, would likely not even know what Erik’s Bike Shop was if it weren’t for his branding. And yet, most of us do, and I’ve even been in one of his stores before.

Another Minnesota-based company, Pawn America, has created quite a brand for itself, promoting its “Pawn America is right for you” and “Get more. Every day.” slogans, as well as founder Brad Rixman’s unique view of what a pawnshop should be.  The company now boasts 22 stores in four states, and most Minnesotans can tell you where at least one is. I know of three within a quick drive from home.

A couple of other examples I can think of are a local used car dealer who posts all his classified ad photos with his two American Samoyed dogs atop the hoods of the cars, and a lawn care business that was hugely popular in the small town I grew up in that parked its black trucks with yellow, orange and red striping outside any house where its staff was working.

The point is, branding can set you apart from the pack. Think of a creative slogan, tagline, mascot, character, or something else at your dealership that you can implement into your branding message. Are you a family-friendly business? Tout that. Is your owner well known in the community? Make him the face of the dealership. If your branding is memorable and successful, customers will think of you first before turning to your competitors, and you’ll have a clear competitive edge.

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