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What is Brand Loyalty, Really?

What is Brand Loyalty, Really?

The automotive industry is extremely competitive – not just locally, but also at the manufacturer level. Manufacturers spend truckloads of money on conquest marketing and brand loyalty – which you would think should be great for dealers – and, to some degree, it is.

But think for a just a second here, does your OEM really care whether your customer stays loyal to your dealership? If you answered “No,” you are 100% correct. While manufacturers like dealers to treat their customers well, and build a loyal base, it really doesn’t matter to them whether your customers buy and service their vehicles with you, or any other franchise store, as long as that customer stays loyal to the brand.

That’s reality, folks. Those CSI surveys are only important to the manufacturer because they want to ensure customer stays loyal to THEIR brand, not yours. And there’s a critical difference between the two.

Think about all the initiatives manufacturers have implemented to make every dealership look and feel the same to every customer. Why would that be important to them? Imagine if every McDonalds restaurant looked different. You might not realize it was a McDonalds.

So, if every dealership is destined to look exactly alike, what will compel a customer to come to YOUR dealership over the one that looks exactly the same as yours just 5 miles away?

Step up efforts to differentiate your dealership from any competitors. The problem is that many attempts at unique value propositions are, sadly, exactly the same as the competition. So most dealerships end up not only looking the same, but also broadcast exactly the same messages. It’s time to stop marketing messages that state such things as, “family-owned, “low prices,” “large inventory” and “fast service.” These should no longer be part of your dealership’s marketing vocabulary! They are meaningless to a customer and, for that exact reason, don’t have any impact on achieving your marketing goal, which is to differentiate your dealership from its competition.

Take a minute to truly analyze your operations and pinpoint things your store is really good at. Then use those as your unique selling propositions. Maybe you have an efficient quick lube service set up and can get someone in and out in 30-minutes. That would be something a time-pressed consumer would care about. Perhaps you have loaner cars for service, or a pick-up and delivery service. Those are also very attractive to most customers. BUT, before you run out and start broadcasting your newly found selling propositions, there is one thing that MUST be present in order for your marketing messages to succeed:


Customer experience is all a matter of perception. For example, let’s say you advertise a 30-minute oil change. Customer ‘A’ comes in and it takes you 45 minutes to complete the work. Customer ‘A’ leaves disappointed as it took longer than you advertised and they expected a 30-minute turn around. However, what if your message advertised a 1-hour oil change. Customer ‘B’ comes in and you complete the work in 45 minutes. In this case the customer is very happy as their vehicle was serviced faster than they expected. The exact same work was done in the exact same amount of time. But, because the promise you made through marketing was different, one felt the experience was mediocre, and the other felt happy.

Consistency is king. If you are advertising something that differentiates your dealership, be sure you live up to your promise and frequently review processes to ensure that every customer finds that to be true every time they visit.

Differentiating your dealership should be a priority in your marketing. Without offering a unique experience, customers won’t care whether they visit your dealership, or the one 5 miles away.

If you don’t differentiate yourself, you could quickly find consumers deciding which dealership to go to in the same manner they decide which Wal-Mart to shop at that day… and that would not end well for your dealership.