“It’s our Biggest Sale of the Season!!”


It’s wearying, listening to the tired and noisy pitches from auto dealers – is it not?

Then, there is the experience of listening to the pitch from a sales person when you finally succumb to the inevitable, and force yourself to go to a car dealer because…well, you’ve got to buy a car.

Does it have to be this way? How would you change it?

That’s the challenge taken on this month by the BrandingWire team (BrandingWire is a collaborative of 12 marketing bloggers, who comment on one branding challenge each month). Automobile sales and marketing is so high-profile, yet seemingly so locked into decades-old promotional models that most of us despise.

There’s the element of the Transactional Model – it’s all about getting you to make a decision, TODAY! There’s the deception and manipulation aspect of price negotiations, including some backroom sales manager. There’s downplaying the value of your trade-in. And we could go on and on…

If you had the chance to blow it all up and start over again, what would you do? What would be the ideal car-buying experience for you? What are the negative elements that you’d want to change?

Here’s a big question also: can (or should) the current business model of car franchise/dealers continue to exist in this day of information access and e-commerce?

Share your re-branding thoughts in the Comments!

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  1. I don’t think we’ll see the demise of the car salesman’s transactional model. Like most techniques, it’s just another instrument in the toolbox. As people will always have emotions, the “Buy it Now or Never” mantra will always affect buyers’ moods to some degree.

    It just depends how much they’re affected. I do think e-commerce levels the effect out somewhat but it’s still apparent.

  2. Actually, I think that change will come – though it will be slow, and evolutionary. Some dealers really will create a positive brand/customer experience (see Becky Carroll’s post on BrandingWire for a great example), and those dealers will succeed far above their prehistoric brethren. Eventually, others will be forced to adapt or die…as it should be!

  3. nesh thompson says

    I agree with Robert to an extent. E commerce will never win over one very important area, being, seeing and testing a car. As you point out, people who visit car dealers have by necessity a need to buy a car and like lions waiting at a wateringhole there is a salesperson motivated by the sniff of a commission. Change that situation and you have the chance of changing the stereotypical ‘car salesman’ routine.

    Ideally, my desired car buying experience would be a salesman who was interested in finding me the right car rather than the right car for his bonus. I don’t think that will happen soon.

  4. I’m afraid I must agree with Robert on this one. It is a psychology of selling. As a tool it is quite effective. Even if we were to move away from the model for a time, I would suggest that we would move back to the “tried and true” to be different than the rest and frankly because it works – like it or not. I liken it to a guilty pleasure.

    If used honestly and creatively it too can be a positive brand experience because it is allowing the customer some latitude with how they pay or what they recieve as part of the sale. Just because it is loud and in-your-face doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    I don’t believe the technique will die but rather will adapt to the medium used by customers – be the web, cell phones, ROP or other traditional media.

  5. A while back, GM came out with a brilliant concept of the 24-hour drive, where you could actually take the car home for a night. Since consumers make purchase decisons almost always on emotions, this particular concept allowed the consumer to develop the emotional connection with the car to where the sale was virtially inevitable!

    My question is this: why did they stop doing this?

  6. I would suggest that they stopped because it worked. People took advantage of the offer and had second thoughts. Nothing kills a bad product faster than effective advertising.