A curious byproduct of the data age is that, despite our access to technology that lets us segment, dissect, and analyze like never before, we tend to talk about marketing in sweepingly broad terms, often limiting our discussions to the platforms themselves.
You’ve heard this conversation, I’m sure—“What’s your Facebook spend? Are you doing any print?” And so on. The sheer number of different platforms is partially to blame, but there’s also a false equivalence at work here that could be costing your dealership a legion of opportunity.
False equivalence #1: All advertising on a given platform is equally effective, therefore the platform itself should be the main consideration when making advertising decisions.
Let’s take TV, for example.
This false equivalence causes dealerships to spend tens of thousands on airtime, several more thousand on production, and then use a spokesperson who is uncomfortable, flat, and forgettable, because we assume that just being on TV is enough. One spot is as good as the next. Why has imagination suffered so much when we have access to almost unlimited technological potential?
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (which I can’t recommend highly enough), was interviewed for this month’s issue of Marketing News, and though he wasn’t specifically referring to the automotive industry, he spoke in car metaphors as he described how he feels digital marketing hinders marketers:
“If you’re a business, it (digital marketing) ends up making you less confident in your creative, innovative potential. They have less belief in their ability to author a new reality, a new set of products, a new line, and are much more reactive to the data that’s coming. They think of that data as real time…But because you’re looking at what’s just happened in the store, you’re necessarily looking back. Even though it’s in the recent history, you’re still looking backward. You’re driving forward using the rearview mirror as your guide, and when you do that, you limit your creative and your profit potential to variations on history, to what’s already happened.”
Digital marketing now bears an uncanny resemblance to standardized testing in public schools. Instead of creating enriching, memorable experiences for our community, we’re busy filling in bubbles with the hopes of getting the right score to satisfy humorless adults in remote locations. And worst of all, it’s boring.
That boredom is profitable, but not for you. Follow me on this one…
1. For marketers, an “ideal” consumer base acts with 100% predictability.
2. To the platforms and agencies you buy advertising from, your dealership counts as one consumer.
3. The platforms profit when you are predictable, because the only way for you to stand out is to spend more money.
We are not the marketers. We are now the customers, and the odds are not in our favor. Instead of focusing on our own strategy, narrative, and customer relationships, we find ourselves quibbling over the latest algorithm updates and best practice blog posts, hoping that one day, the carousel will stop spinning long enough for us to figure out what’s going on. Are these constantly changing rules an inevitable byproduct of emerging technology, or part of an intentionally misleading shell game designed to destroy the confidence of its players? Perhaps a bit of both?
The enforcers of this boredom, the Predictability Police, appear in many forms—sometimes from outside the industry, and often from within. They’re not all on the same team, but they are working toward a common goal: The blanding of your brand. OEM-mandated widget-driven websites? Predictability Police. Social media vendurus who run Facebook ads using iStock photography? Predictability Police.
Fear is the iron fist of the Predictability Police, and it flows freely in the automotive blogosphere.
Sometimes in the form of contextless diagnoses, such as: “That isn’t what sells cars.”
Sometimes with mystical tea leaf readings: “According to what we’re seeing, you should…”
Apocalyptic prophecy also makes regular appearances: “That might be working for you, but you’d better change now before you get left behind.” Easy there, Kirk Cameron.
And my personal favorite: “Are you selling cars because of that strategy, or in spite of it?”
Yes, customer behavior is changing. Yes, dealers should adapt. Yes, digital offers immense, breathtaking opportunity. What we don’t talk enough about is the fact that dealers also have the power to shape reality, and we don’t need anyone else’s permission. At Super Car Guys, we have enormous, undeniable success with marketing on TV and radio. What a shame it would have been had we asked around to figure out if TV “still works.” What a shame it would have been had we resigned ourselves to the idea that “TV watching will be different twenty years from now,” and not taken action to shape the reality of this present moment.
On whichever platform you decide to use, develop a creativity-first policy. The science of content promotion and digital strategy is worthless if there is no art, so make something real, and don’t get caught in the trap of the false equivalence. Customers will respond when you can give them something they can feel.
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