Driving Desire – Are Dealerships Keeping the Brand’s Promise?

22 Feb 2007|Added Value

Cars have to be one of the most emotionally charged purchases a person can make.  They become expressions of who we are. A vision of who we’d like to be.  We give our cars names.  We read the specs, are seduced by the ads, lust over newer, better, more improved models.  Most of us couldn’t imagine life without them.

But in our heart of hearts, we know that cars aren’t a good investment.  In a recent Moneyweb article about the depreciation of car values, Porche and Mercedes produced the cars that depreciated least in value in a survey of over 600 vehicles.  Analysts quoted agreed that in fact reputation, collectability and lifestyle choice were they key factors in the long term value of any car.  Roger McLeary, radio journalist and motor analyst summed it up: “Perception, what the brands stand for, and the quality the brand delivers will drive the demand.”

But what does this mean?  As we drool over the ads, do we ever actually think about the largely unsexy, day to day implications of owning and servicing our four-wheeled object of desire?  And how that automotive admin will make us feel?

Added Value’s work with the latest research in neuroscience shows that we make brand decisions based on how we want to feel.  Simply put, we choose one brand over another because of how we think the brand will make us feel.

So, when we decide to buy that car, we’ve weighed up the rational and emotional pros and cons, projected ourselves into the car, onto the road and into the drive of our desired dreams.  A colleague joked that people buy luxury German cars because they make them feel successful, sexy and in control.  The stuff about safety, quality and resale value is how they justify the purchase on the way home. You get the point.

So far we’ve been talking about the points of purchase.  But how long you keep that car, and if you would buy another one, or recommend that brand to someone else, tends to depend on what happens when you start servicing your vehicle.

It should be no surprise that car owners see the dealership as an extension of the brand and expect the service they receive there to match up to the brand’s advertising promise.  But what’s more interesting is that it’s not the generally defined service standards that really count.  The consumers’ level of involvement with the brand and their level of confidence in the dealership are more likely to influence how they feel about the brand.

Added Value’s research shows that car owners’ fall into four broad categories, depending on their engagement with their brand and their confidence in their dealership, each requiring different types of service from their dealerships.

Some customers, for example are all about “delight me”.  They are passionate about their cars and want their dealers to share that passion.  On the other hand, “reach out to me” car owners are fairly sceptical of dealers and not really married to their brand.  They’re looking for reassurance and the knowledge that their dealer will keep them mobile.

”Just do it” drivers have low brand involvement and see their cars as functional items.  They trust their dealership to keep them mobile and are unlikely to leave once they’ve found one that they trust.  Lastly, “convince me” clients need a little more TLC.  They’re passionate about their cars, but need a bit more convincing from their dealers.

So, it makes sense.  Being able to identify and deliver the appropriate level of service for different consumers, based on these needs, is crucial for dealerships if they are to play their role in brand and relationship building.  Can you imagine it?  A world where even servicing that piece of German heaven leaves you feeling successful, sexy and in control?  And for brand owners, if the dealership is part of the brand experience, you’re basically driving home the brand message for the life of that car.

By Dave Blackshaw, Added Value South Africa

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