Branding Is Not Synonymous With Advertising

Because they are an easy target, I’m going to use car dealerships as an example to help make my point in this blog. But, in their defense, this industry is just one of many that spends significant money on advertising each year and has very little differentiating, brand equity to show for it. So, car dealers keep your heads up! Actually, I don’t think that will be a problem.

Ok, let’s say you’re a car dealer that spends around $2 million a year on media and you fill that media with the expected car dealer language – “Hey folks, it’s the end of the month and we’re offering unbelievable deals and the big boss is throwing in free dinner for life and a flat screen TV”. Sound familiar to anyone? Ultimately, what you have accomplished is you have spent $2 million dollars to brand your company as “a car dealership.” Sure, you helped bring in bodies and spike sales, but when your dealership name is said the first thought from a consumer is “they’re a car dealership.” The problem is the guy on the corner with 25 cars on his lot who dresses up like Abe Lincoln and runs one spot a year on President’s Day also has earned the same brand result – his company, in consumers’ minds,  is also seen as “a car dealership”. Only he spent $180. If anything, for you big car guys, it should make your competitive juices boil – “we need to be kicking their butts at branding. I hate that Abe Lincoln dude!” Next time, instead of going to Sam’s and buying 50 big screen TVs for $20,000, go online and buy a branding book for $20 – may I suggest The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier – an oldy but goody.

Here’s my point. Exposure does not equal branding. What makes you different? Why is it important? Consistently communicating this brings a meaningful focus to your messaging. It creates a differentiating reason for people to give you a try and, if your promise is fulfilled, become unbelievably loyal customers. Growing a brand starts with understanding what makes you unique then embracing that selling point in everything you do. People then believe that you truly stand for something that they also believe in. Brand strength is built on shared beliefs that both the company and consumers value.  

Ever wonder why the local Volvo dealership doesn’t have “buy a car today and get pizza for life” deal? I think it’s because the brand won’t allow it. It doesn’t fit. Because of its brand strength, its focus, Volvo dealers just have to say “We sell Volvos.” For consumers that means – “We sell the world’s safest cars.” If safety is important to you, you’re going to visit the dealership – free pizza or not. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *