Brand Strategy

Authored by Valerie Vallancourt, VP of Marketing

What is a brand strategy and how do you embody it? A brand is a name (Amazon), a term (Tweet), a design (McDonalds), a symbol (Nike) or any other feature that identifies an organization’s goods or services as distinct from those of others. A brand is used in advertising and marketing, as well as for an organization to create and store brand equity and value to the benefit of its customers.

Equity in this case is the perceived worth of a brand measured by the effectiveness of its components, such as the social value of a well-known brand name – much like Kleenex is to tissues.

Branding is important not only because it is what makes a memorable impression on consumers, it allows your customers and prospects to know what to expect from your organization. This in turn gives your customers a reason to care about your brand strategy, your products, and ultimately your business.

It clarifies why one organization is the better choice over another. (Do you want to be a Walmart or a Target?)

“In a world where it is difficult to differentiate, your brand is where you can “bland out” or stand out.”

This brand strategy chapter will cover the following:

  1. OEM brands and how those brands impact a dealership’s branding efforts
  2. Single point dealership brand vs. a dealer group brand
  3. Personal, individual brand and how that ties back to the brand of the dealership or group
  4. Tying all the brands (OEM, Dealership, Personal) together to bring out empathy, humility, and humanness

The OEM Brand

While OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer, in the automotive industry we tend to use the term ‘OEM brand’ to mean the car companies themselves, and for the sake of this eBook, that is how it will be used.

When consumers think of OEM brands, they think of the brand’s personality, the utility of the vehicle that they need, and perhaps the feelings that a specific brand may evoke – maybe from a childhood memory of driving in the back of their grandfather’s truck or speeding along in a BMW on the autobahn in Germany on a family trip. The OEM brand may have a reputation for being a reliable vehicle that is more cost-effective to repair, or it may be one known for folks that love the outdoors. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of factors that go into aligning oneself with a brand and it is the brand’s job to cultivate the personality it wants to be known for and generate awareness and ultimately loyalty.

According to research conducted by Booz & Company, there are five central insights that are critical to understanding how, and to what extent, OEM brands can enhance and leverage the value of their brands.

“Good branding should instill trust and loyalty, as well as make your customers feel part of something bigger than themselves.”

  1. Perceived Product Excellence and Cost
    1. 91 percent of how consumers view automotive brands is based on how good they believe that brands vehicles are and how much they think the vehicles cost. In fact, these two factors are comprehensive enough to predict a consumer’s overall opinion of a brand with an extremely high degree of
  2. Available Information
    1. In general, consumers are well informed about brands and the products of those brands, and they build their opinions based on what is readily available to them: what is well known about a brand, what do they discover when researching a brand, and what are the passed on experiences from friends and family.
  3. Cost vs Perceived Worth
    1. Consumers recognize that, in general, better products cost more, but which vehicle or brand they choose is based on whether they value excellence or cost more. As a result, brands can differentiate themselves in two fundamental ways: by providing segments – think trim level – to balance cost and excellence to fit different needs; or by providing more of a balance across both.
  4. Perception of Getting a Deal
    1. Improving product excellence is difficult to accomplish across an entire product portfolio and generally requires up to a decade. Therefore, the only way for brands to improve their positioning quickly is to lower prices and staying ahead of other brands with similar cost vs perceived worth is the only way to stand out.
  5. Established Opinion
    1. Unfortunately, this is one that OEM brands can do little about. Brand positions tend to change very little over time, so what a consumer thought of a brand ten years ago isn’t likely to have changed today, meaning that simply changing one tactic isn’t likely to make an impact. To beat this, you must think holistically about your entire brand, and how every consumer interacts with it.

In a world where virtually all vehicles have the same under-the-hood components and advancing technology, the brand image (or equity) is where you can differentiate.

“Good branding should instill trust and loyalty, as well as make your customers feel part of something bigger than themselves.”

Single Point Dealership Brand vs. a Dealer Group Brand

A dealership’s brand is a commitment to its consumers of what they can expect from their dealership and/or group. The individual rooftop brand is an extension of the OEM brand. Therefore, the dealer (or group) needs to maintain the OEM brand/s’ image through all their marketing & sales efforts. This needs to be done in addition to promoting an individual store’s brand and that of a dealer group.

Currently, most OEM brands and dealerships have a tiered approach to marketing, where one individual consumer will receive communications from the OEM brand, then perhaps something else from the agency representing that brand strategy, then something from the dealer where they purchased their car.

“Auto shoppers do not differentiate between messages coming from the dealer and the manufacturer. Consumers — whether they are still in the research phase or ready to buy — want to have their questions answered with as little friction and confusion as possible.” Tom Laymac, global director of digital at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Consumers today are in control of how they interact with brands, and they expect value at every point of interaction. This is a huge opportunity for dealerships and dealer groups to align goals and KPIs, particularly around brand. By presenting a cohesive image, the brands win – as does the consumer.

A major component of why the industry approaches the consumer in a tiered way is the lack of a cohesive customer data platform, i.e., a single, comprehensive, and up-to-date customer view and a way to use that consumer data effectively.

“By taking a customer-centric approach to customer lifecycle marketing, brands insulate themselves from changing market dynamics. With unified profiles, marketers have the opportunity to use data they have about customers from across channels and interact with them based in the context of an overarching lifecycle and lifecycle stage, rather than a channel-specific silo. Using a unified view of the customer connected to channel-specific activation channels allows businesses to adapt to changing customer behaviors, privacy preferences, and the ever-changing view of a ‘valuable brand interaction.’” Sam Ngo, Director of Product Marketing at BlueConic.

When putting the customer at the center of all your marketing efforts, the single point dealership or a dealer group gains a competitive advantage. If they work to provide individualized experiences based on where each individual customer or prospect is on their own unique journey, they remove the tiered approach to marketing which in turn will create a waterfall effect of positive results including:

  • Brand equity,
  • Brand reputation,
  • Regional market share,
  • Retention of customers within the group even if defecting to another brand,
  • Combined conquesting efforts,
  • Shared learning/results, and
  • The ability to scale and grow at an accelerated pace.

Individual/Personal Brand

Each person is unique, and as such, each person is responsible for maintaining their individual brand. According to Wikipedia, an individual or personal brand is “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact. The process of personal branding involves finding your uniqueness, building a reputation on the things you want to be known for, and then allowing yourself to be known for them. Ultimately, the goal is to create something that conveys a message and that can be monetized.”

A company’s culture is tied to its brand which in turn is tied to its employees. When you think of specific companies, you think of their brand first and foremost, and then the people who work for them. Certain brands may evoke a certain response: Delta Airlines (quality service/experience), IBM (intelligence, longevity), Adobe (creativity/ innovation) are a few that may resonate with you.

Personal branding can do the same thing and is comprised of a lot of aspects—a person’s values, their style, appearance, presence, impact; in short, their personality. When you think of someone who maintains a personal (and oftentimes famous) brand, some may think of Mookie Betts, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Gary Vaynerchuk, Shaun White, or Mindy Kaling, to name a few. These people stand out because of how we have been led to perceive their brands.

And while a dealership or dealer group’s employees may not be famous, they each bring along their own personal brand to their individual organizations. Hiring people who align with the dealership or dealer group’s brand builds trust, loyalty, and a deep-rooted relationship with the people in your communities.

As an industry that provides something people generally consider a necessity, as well as an expression of who they are, dealer messaging can and should be hopeful, empathetic, and human. You are here for them. You are providing deals and services to make their lives easier.

You are part of a community that is often charitable in good times as well as bad. Make sure your branding, from your store to your group to each individual employee portrays this in every interaction and communication with your consumers.


There is no doubt that in order to be among the most successful dealers, you must have a fully integrated, omnichannel approach to marketing your brand. This will need to be highly targeted to each consumer wherever they are in their individual lifecycles, whether in the early ownership phase or targeting in-market shoppers, all while maintaining communication with your current customer base.

The relationship that is built from the members of your service drive team to the finance department has an impact on your brand and in building brand equity. This is how you differentiate yourself from the competition. At the end of the day, people buy from people, not from brands. This is why personal branding is the final key to an organization’s success.

“At the end of the day, people buy from people, not from brands. Personal branding is the final key to an organization’s success.”

About the Author

Valerie Vallancourt, VP of Marketing at Outsell

Valerie Vallancourt is an accomplished and collaborative B2B marketing leader with a flair for project management. Valerie enjoys building and nurturing agile teams, as well as developing multi-channel marketing strategies that establish market leadership, increase sales pipeline, impact revenue, and penetrate new markets.

Valerie has experience marketing to SMB and enterprise level marketers understanding that there are challenges and opportunities that come with both. Valerie is skilled with developing and managing events/tradeshows as well as driving innovative demand generation programs in both the U.S. and globally.

Valerie Vallancourt
Vice President of Marketing
Mobile: +1 617.413.9270