More than a few years back, I was going in to see one of largest dealerships in the state of Mississippi and I was PUMPED!
Tucked into my briefcase, I had a VHS of what I believe to have been the 4th television commercial I had ever helped create. And of this one, I was particularly proud.
We had landed the advertising account for the city-wide dealer group’s offsite sale at the state fairgrounds. A dozen or more of the state’s highest volume stores were combining their sales and marketing power and we were delivering the message. The agency had spent the last few days crafting a cinematic masterpiece about the “Top Guns” of the automotive industry joining sides, battling high prices and fighting for truth, justice and the American way.
The screen filled with strained aeronautic metaphors liberally sprinkled with urgent calls to action and death-defying jet-fueled aerobatics artistry with sunlight dancing on silver wings.
It was a beautiful thing.
I was playing the video in the sales managers office and he was, most definitely, not from around here.
This guy was straight out of Brooklyn, via the garment district. When people said fast talking New Yorker, this was the guy they thought of. Golden Pinky Ring and all.
After the spot came to a dramatic close, Mr. Garment District is, of course, the first to speak up.
“Well, that’s pretty good,” he says, taking a long draw from his ever-present Marlboro Red, then leans back and exhales sharply as he punches out the butt in disgust.
“If I was selling F&$%in’ fighter jets.”
The spot that I thought was pure advertising genius, destined to win awards and make my mark on the marketing world. He recognized for what it really was: Overly Clever Tripe!
Never mistake clever for good.
I had gotten so set on selling to the dealer. Selling him on the sizzle.
That I’d forgotten my job was selling for the dealer. The steak.
Two decades later and I still to this day tell dealers that whether you call your sale the Giant Blue Gorilla sale or The Once a Month, End of the Month, This Month Only and All Month Long Blowout, what you call it is the least important decision you’ll make.
I was watching Car Lot Rescue the other night and dealer doc Tom Stuker was riding into town to save another dealership from impending doom. This new Chrysler dealer was in the middle of their Giant Summer Sizzlin’ Sales Event complete with inflatable palm trees, bikini-clad beach volleyball and Hawaiian shirts for everyone!
But Tom Stuker gave that dealer one the best pieces of marketing advice, I’ve ever heard.
“The Beach Party Schtick Isn’t Going To Make Up For The Fact That Your Sales Staff Can’t Bring In Customers”
Now don’t get me wrong, I happen to sell store decorations for a Summer Sizzlin’ Sales Event and I’ve done my fair share of ads that start with the weather report….”The temperature is hot and the deals are hotter, this week at XYZ Motors.”
But I never let the hoopla get in the way of the message.
Keep it Super simple. And don’t get so caught up in your own BS that you forget all you’re really trying to do is sell cars. Not fighter jets.
Terry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing.
You can connect with Terry on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.