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Dancing with the Cars: Don't Allow a Premium to Become a Promotion

A dealer called last week and asked if I could figure out a way to work “Dancing with the Cars” into one of my infomercials or incorporate it into his current campaigns. I answered the same way I always do when offered a gem like this one: “Why should you incorporate this message?” The answer is because people know there is a hit television show on ABC called “Dancing with the Stars.” Does that alone make for a good advertising campaign?

So, I asked this dealer, “You want to parody a reality television show in your advertising, but what is that supposed to say about your dealership?”

“That it’s a fun place to shop and we are in touch with what happening. Plus it’s catchy,” he said. That is fine if you have established yourself as the parody dealership in the past or really want to commit to it in the future; however, there is no reason to do a one-time spoof campaign. What I did find intriguing was a dancing analogy because that is what most dealers are doing on a month-to-month basis with their marketing. They are dancing with marketing and, in turn, dancing with their cars.

Advertising works because people are susceptible to suggestion. If you want to run a successful ad campaign, a one-month attempt will get you one month of increased sales—if the campaign catches on in a short amount of time. When you run a consistent, long-term ad campaign, you not only promote your dealership, but you also promote the concept that your dealership is here to stay. It’s practically impossible to brand a dealership with a short-term approach.

Because consumers forget quickly, you have to remind them time and time again. That is why I think it is a mistake when dealers let the premium become the promotion. For example, I have seen free airline tickets and cruise promotions completely take over a dealership’s advertising for a short period of time. These are examples of when the premium becomes the promotion or campaign. The presence you are creating is a place that has a giveaway. Don’t get me wrong; it is not always bad. It just can’t become what you are all about.

In my experience, the short-term premium approach hurts short-term sales rather than helping. Depending on your dealerships position in the marketplace, it could be hurting the dealership too.

Think about your presence in the marketplace. What does it say about your dealership? Are you all about: price, warranty, service pre-owned or a combination of these and many others? You have to be “about” something. I want you to consider never letting the core of what you’re about become overwhelmed or overshadowed by a short–term, gimmick promotion. If you lose what you are about, what you are really doing is “dancing.”

In past articles, I have talked about creating an offer or message and sticking to it. This is a more global view of that idea. You must not fall victim to a premium trap. I know it’s easy to do, and a quick bump in sales is enticing—but at what cost.

Sacrificing the long-term advertising approach for a short-term approach can be very costly. If you are “the home of the lifetime warranty,” never let that take a backseat, especially if that’s how you consistently differentiate your dealership. It seems that the hungry dealers with larger market share consistently do a good job of this, and I don’t think this is a coincidence. It happens because the only way to truly realize your full market-share potential is to avoid allowing gimmickry to take over.

I love added value offers, but only in the context of being truly added value. In terms of the “Dancing with the Cars” dealer, I do not believe there is a solid way to work in a parody during a short-term effort. Now, giving away tickets to “Dancing with the Stars” to service customers who come in to experience your unequalled service guarantee (what you are all about) would be an excellent way for a dealer to converge a short-term approach with a long-term approach. Make every campaign cohesive.

Media is too expensive and valuable to risk. Make the premium or giveaway be what it is—an added value for the consumer. Keep the airline tickets, cruises and big screen televisions; just remember to keep them in their proper place. Don’t allow any of these premiums to ever become the promotion. It is the lazy advertisers’ way to keep a campaign fresh. The more difficult, yet rewarding, road is to keep your consistent message fresh over time. Until next time to all you steppers out there, limit the dancing to the dance floor.

Vol 5, Issue 8


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