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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Chris Costner

Chris Costner Account Executive

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Will the Real Owner Please Stand Up?

I wanted to drop in and share a perspective of mine regarding our brands and who really owns them now that we are nearing the midway point of 2012.  We have all seen a huge increase nationwide in the number of dealerships and OEM’s participating in social media and this certainly excites me as I see it as a risk to not be involved.  While many dealerships and OEM’s are now taking social media very seriously, what does this actually mean for the brand strategy as a whole?  Are the dealers more in control of the brand or is it in the hands of the OEM?

Well guess what, it is your customers who are in control of your brand now more than they ever have been. Brand strategy, historically speaking, has always asserted to some degree that a brand is something that is cared for by the dealerships and owned, at least on an emotional level, by the customer. Now for many dealerships, thinking in these terms was more of a “mind exercise” than reality. The issue is by not putting the customers needs first, and allowing them to own the brand, a corporate culture can develop that doesn’t ever realize the full potential of the brand as a whole.  After all, aren’t we here to service our current and future clients?

Social media is forcing dealerships and OEM’s to rethink the “customers own the brand” philosophy and in a very quick way.  From this point forward I am going to use the term “brand” to include both the dealers and OEM’s.  In the social web we as the brand can direct, participate and engage with our current and future clients.  Now here is the kicker, so can they.  We can find out in a very easy way what people are saying about our brand and become part of the conversation and so can our customers.  Neither side has the upper hand.  It is a level playing field. Our advantage should come down to resources and strategy. If we have those well planned then you can mange the difference between success and failure.

Thinking about our brand’s personality traits is vitally important in today’s market. A brand is more than a logo. Every “touch point” or “moment of truth” our customers interact with will shape his or her view on our brand whether it is in person or in the social web.  On the social media platforms, our current and future clients interact with our brand in much the same way they do as their friends.  Would you agree? They treat it as a person and if our brand has not developed a personality with virtual emotions, then they will assign emotions and personality to our brand and chances are it will not be the ones we want.

Do you recall any past experiences that you can describe as an example to this?  It happens on a daily basis I assure you.  Maybe you called your Internet provider because of a billing or technical issue and found the person on the other line to be rude.  We have all been there and many of us were thinking in the back of our minds, “I really don’t care for this company.”  Then we look for data to back up our point of view, because we don’t like to be wrong. At this point, the emotions have been assigned and convincing us that they are incorrect will not be easy.

This same process happens at all the touch points of our brand, would you agree? The difference with the social web is that we now are able see the reaction and for those of you engaged, the good news is that you can do something about it. Only then your current and future clients will look for the evidence to prove that point of view.

So now I leave you with the mindset of taking the time to build a brand strategy that incorporates interaction in the social web.  Define your personality and make sure your team understands it with the ability to express it both in person and in the social web.  It isn’t going to happen overnight but if you want to elevate your brand and social strategy to the next level, this is a great focus to do so.  Once you get it right, the rewards will come.

I am sure many of you are just as busy as I am with daily business and I feel this post will find all of you doing big things.  Thanks for reading and keep making it happen.

Jeremy Alicandri
I'm curious what GM would think of your article? Social media and brand influence is trully dynamic - and you need to be present in order to participate. What are the ultimate benefits? We will find out eventually.
Chris Costner
I asked myself the same question Jeremy. Of course I am unable to wrap my head around the strategy they are using or lack thereof. The "ultimate benefits" I can't pinpoint at the moment other than my opinion of it being a cornerstone of doing business.

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