Sales+Marketing Branding

Finding Your Smashable

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When you walk into Disneyland, there’s no doubt where you are. From the music playing to the spotless walkways to the friendly workers, there’s a feeling that Disney exudes—one that it has worked hard to cultivate. Same goes for Apple. These companies have created a true brand identify, explains Martin Lindstrom, a brand building expert that works with companies like Pepsi and Burger King and is the New York Times best-selling author of a number of different marketing books, including Buyology: The Truth About Why We Buy, BRANDsense and Small Data.

 Why isn’t that type of identity being created in dealerships?

That’s the million dollar question that Lindstrom has posed. Vehicle ownership is all about image, Lindstrom explains. From the purchase to the maintenance of the vehicle, it’s all about senses for the consumer, so fixed operations and dealerships, as a whole, need to find ways to appeal to that. Servicing a vehicle and all that it entails is pretty much the same from dealership to dealership, so beyond price matching, which doesn’t do much for the bottom line, businesses need to find a way to deliver a memorable experience.

That’s what Lindstrom calls a “smashable”—a term derived from the creation of the Coke bottle in 1915.

“The bottle was designed in such a way that even if you dropped it and it broke and smashed, you could pick up an individual piece of glass and know the brand,” Lindstrom says.

It’s a unique and distinguishable brand identity, just like the signature Ferrari engine rumble or the unique starting sound of the Harley-Davidson.  

“When I open the door to the dealership, it should have a similar feel to the car that I’m about to buy,” Lindstrom says. “This is where a lot of people miss out.”

To be successful, a brand identity is key. And a brand is more than just the logo, which Lindstrom says is a common misconception.

Here are a few items to consider that will ensure customers think about your brand long after they’ve seen your flashy logo, according to Lindstrom.

Strike a balance.

When Alfred Hitchcock made a movie, he worked off of two scripts, Lindstrom says; there was a blue script and a green script. The blue script was the technical script that had all of the motions outlined and the green script was a step by step of the way the viewer was supposed to feel. In Lindstrom’s experience, companies tend to focus heavily on the “blue” and forget the “green.” Make sure to take into account the way the customer feels, because that’s going to be the reason they talk about your brand, he says.

Create a new world.

Even if you’re on a diet, Lindstrom says, chances are you’ll buy popcorn if you go to the movies. Why? The rules are different at the cinema, he explains; it’s a new world that encompasses an entire experience. Find ways to make your operation feel like that.

Take customers on a journey.

When building a brand, figure out all the different touch points with the customer and figure out a way to make a memorable experience that the customer will associate with you, explains Lindstrom. From the purchase to the maintenance to the possible re-selling of the car, a dealership has a unique opportunity to follow a customer’s purchase from beginning to end.

Once these three things have been accomplished, the last step is getting staff to buy in. After all, without their buy-in, the branding of your company is just a logo and a bunch of words strung together. These points may seem like a given, but it’s not always as easy as it seems—especially for dealerships. However, it’s not impossible, as the three dealerships profiled in this dealership prove.   Each has found a way to deliver on these points and has found a way to use its unique tagline as a reference point.


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