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Raising Awareness for ASE Certifications

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The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has been around since 1972 with the goal of improving the quality of vehicle repair through testing and certifying technicians. Even though ASE has been around for years, consumers are frequently in the dark when it comes to the phrase “ASE certified” and what it means when a shop has ASE certifications hanging on its wall.

Jennifer Holland, ASE’s marketing manager, has been trusted with the task of spreading ASE’s message and raising consumer awareness in this brand new position for ASE. Holland was brought on in January 2015 after holding various positions at the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Her creative background in graphic design and experience with ASE partners made her an ideal candidate to enter into this position.

What are you doing in your new position to gain more awareness for ASE?
I’m in charge of all of the marketing for ASE, so anything from email blasts to direct mail, print pieces, electronic initiatives, brochures and social media all fall in my domain. I think my mentality coming into this position is that people are more apt to pay attention to something that’s relative to them. Nobody wants a sales pitch. For ASE, it’s about furthering the industry.

We’re trying new things on social media like holding contests on Facebook. We started a campaign late last year that’s been very successful. For #ThrowbackThursdays, we started taking old test questions from ASE exams and sharing them. This drew people to our Facebook page and started conversations between techs. We’ve even had feedback that shops will have weekly discussions about this.

Another thing that I’ve really been concentrating on is direct mail. I think a lot of people think direct mail is out, but we’ve found with certain demographics that it’s very useful. For marketing, ASE is getting away from the one-size fits all and trying to create unique pathways for technicians. For example, instead of sending out a mass email about a certain test, we may target a person who has just passed P1 certification and suggest another series of tests that will specifically work for that individual.

Most shops know the importance of ASE certifications, but many consumers have no idea what it is or why it’s important. Is ASE doing anything to bring consumer awareness?
We’ve noticed that, so we’re developing a consumer website that has short videos explaining what it means to be ASE certified and the value of having an ASE technician. Shops will be able to link directly to that site. We count on shop owners and technicians to promote certifications by displaying ASE logos—we now have an online shop where ASE merchandise can be purchased to be displayed in the shop—and showcasing certificates for the customers to see. Another huge thing is shops need to reach out into the community. Getting involved with a school and joining the advisory board is a great way to inform students and the community what it means to be ASE certified. We also have recently had some great exposure through our partners. There are a few national commercials that have aired that show certified technicians in them. Both Wagner and Federal-Mogul have used Mike Rowe in their marketing and have mentioned ASE-certified techs, which is great exposure.

Why does it matter that consumers know what ASE is?
It’s more about what ASE stands for—pride, commitment, dedication to the industry. We want consumers to understand that ASE certification is not required to become a technician, but it does validate a technician’s technical understanding of a system, parts and automotive operations. For most of us, our car is one of the biggest investments that we will make, so when it needs service, we want to guarantee it is being worked on by a professional.

When the site launches, how will you get the word out to consumers?
We have a multi-channel strategy we have developed to drive consumers to the site, but with all of the cluttered messaging that people get on a daily basis, that isn’t going to be enough. We are asking our certified technicians, shop owners, friends and family to help evangelize the site and get people talking about it. In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing a series of videos featuring certified technicians talking about why ASE certification is important to consumers. We are hoping that through a collective effort, we can start to raise awareness and get people asking, “Is the technician working on my car ASE certified?”

What type of research did you do to determine that a website was the best way to inform consumers?
A recent study in February by Pew Research Center found that 87 percent of the population in the U.S. (ages 18+) use the Internet. Between online shopping, restaurant reviews, directions, email and search engines—the Internet plays an integral role in the way we retrieve information.

Apart from the website, how else are you planning on raising consumer awareness?
Watch our Facebook page. We are currently working on consumer outreach initiatives for 2017.

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