Why is it we never hear: “Chesterwood McDonalds features the 2015 Big Mac – Now with two – count ‘em – two all beef patties and for a limited time only, special sauce“? or “Come on in to Chesterwood McDonalds and taste test the Quarter Pounder!”  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But it is typical of how car dealers advertise themselves.

We all expect that the products sold in Fast Food outlets will be substantively similar from restaurant to restaurant.  True, there is a little variation in the product as each meal is assembled on or about the time it is ordered.

However, there is even less variation in products between Car Dealers.  Cars and trucks are not assembled on premise but in the manufacturers’ plants miles, even continents away.

The paradox is that many car dealers focus their advertising on the product and not the distinctiveness of their services, often to get the manufacturer’s advertising allowance.  But they miss the boat and fail to advertise what could really drive their businesses: the distinctiveness of their service or culture, and, of course, their location.  That is what can drive customers to a car dealership.

Restaurant chain locations focus their local efforts (LSM) on their communities, using local sponsorships, involvement in community sports, schools, churches… where eating after or as part of events can lead to restaurant business.  Car dealers should not walk away from this kind of community involvement that can help establish them as caring and supporting members of the local community.

Car dealers should use their advertising to differentiate themselves from their real competition – other dealers offering the same lines. It is true that car dealers are branded differently than chain restaurants; but often the driving motivator for a visit is the product line the dealer is selling.  The GM or Toyota on the sign means more than the local dealer name.

Manufacturers advertising “invoice pricing” is just one of many suggestions that price is not going to differ from dealer to dealer.  Dealerships should focus on the experience or added value their dealership alone can provide and leave the manufacturer to celebrate the product features.  Much like fast food restaurants leave the product and price offer advertising to their head offices or area franchisee advertising co-ops, the equivalent to auto dealer associations.

There is a lot of room for car dealers to explore in making their dealership the destination of choice for the line of cars they sell.  Most consumers have more than one dealership within easy driving distance; time for dealers to fly their own flag and highlight the benefits of their dealership – and these days the key benefit is not product or price.

Sure car dealers love cars.  But they should love their customers more.  That means focus advertising on what dealers can do for their customers, not on the product.  They are in the service business, not the manufacturing business.

See other blogs about retail advertising here.

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