Dealers' ad dollars hit the streets
D.C. Chevy retailers' events target buyers
About 400 recent Chevrolet Cruze buyers in the Washington, D.C., area got a party with their purchase.
Their dealers sprang for each of them to host a private party for 20 friends. The only string attached: Each owner was asked to park the Cruze in the reserved spot by the restaurant entrance.
Photos from the parties were shared with about 120,000 of the owners' friends on Facebook. And countless more friend-to-friend conversations about the Cruze took place in a market where Chevrolet isn't exactly top of mind.
The parties came courtesy of the Washington Area Chevy Dealers, a 28-dealership local marketing association. This year, the group will spend about half of its $5 million budget on such street-level campaigns. Local marketing associations, funded jointly by manufacturers and area dealers, typically spend their budgets mostly on broadcast advertising.
A few years ago, nearly all of the D.C. group's money was spent on traditional TV and radio spots. But in a market where Chevrolet's market share hovers around 7 percent, vs. 13 percent nationally, dealers need something besides commercials trumpeting weekend blowout sales, says Harry Criswell, president of Criswell Automotive, which owns a Chevrolet store in Gaithersburg, Md.
"We've reinvented our entire LMA process with the understanding that we're going to have to do untraditional things to get buyers to come see us," says Criswell, a former president of the local marketing association.
For another campaign, dubbed "Intercept," product specialists parked a Cruze in front of Starbucks and other restaurants and offered $5 gift cards for patrons to check out the car.
About half of the 5,600 people who obliged agreed to answer a short survey. The stronger leads were contacted with the offer of a $50 gasoline card in exchange for agreeing to take a test drive.
The experiential promotions have two goals: increase sales and build Chevrolet as a tech-savvy brand, says Brad Nierenberg, CEO of RedPeg Marketing of Alexandria, Va., which runs the events.
For example, at about 150 events last year, including state fairs and college football games, RedPeg set up 70-inch high-definition screens where thousands of consumers built their own Chevys through clicks and drags. The dealers' marketing group spent more than $200,000 on hardware and software for the display.
"Before they even sit in the car, we change their perception of Chevrolet into an innovative, forward-thinking brand," Nierenberg said.
Dan Adamcheck, director of sales, service and marketing for Chevrolet in 15 Northeast states, says GM has encouraged Chevrolet dealers to do more experiential marketing. The D.C. group's innovative approach "takes it to another level," he says.
Jim Stutzman, owner of a Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership in Winchester, Va., some 50 miles outside the metro area, measures success from the buzz he hears about the promotions in his small community. For years, Stutzman felt like he got only a peripheral benefit from the group's TV spots.
"I feel like I'm getting a greater local impact for the dollars we're spending now," he says. "I think it's helping to at least put us on people's list."
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