Perhaps Halterman's Auto Ranch took 'dealership branding' too literally.
When the dealership began using that name, the logo included a Western-style branding iron.
'There was a whole Western theme,' says Keith Halterman, general manager of the dealership in East Stroudsburg, Pa. 'We were Import Auto Service then, selling Toyotas. We changed to Halterman's Au-to Ranch about the time we got the Jeep franchise' in the 1970s.
These days, Halterman is building on the Halterman's name, rather than the ranch theme.
Halterman's father, James, entered the auto business in the early 1960s, repairing foreign cars, and acquired the Toyota franchise in 1968. Keith says his father 'loved to go out West on vacation, and at the time, Jeep had the Cherokee and the Honcho, so it kind of fit in.'
'He went with it, and it kind of took off - more than he expected, I think,' he says.
The Volkswagen franchise was added in 1990, when another VW dealership in the area closed.
Halterman's Auto Ranch is in a rapidly growing area that is changing from rural to exurbia. It now handles Toyota, Jeep and Volkswagen, with sales of about 140 new and used vehicles per month from its 3.5-acre site. This year, another service facility will be added in a new location in Stroudsburg under the Halterman's name.
The dealership brand name that has been developed during the past two decades is important, says Halterman, particularly in a smaller community. He thinks the Halterman's brand is recognized as a place to get a good price.
On the other hand, he says, 'A lot of people are loyal to the franchise, loyal to us as a dealership, but I don't know if I would consider it a brand loyalty thing.
'People are different nowadays. They'll get on the Internet for $25 (savings). They're not so loyal anymore.'
Still, Halterman continues to promote the Halterman's brand with billboard and radio advertising.
He credits a jingle used until recently with providing much dealership brand identification.
'Kids will start singing that thing,' he says, adding that a new jingle was introduced recently, but he fears the new one may not be as familiar.
FLATTERED BY IMITATION
While Halterman's has done no formal market research on its use of a brand name, Halterman claims its effectiveness can be measured by the imitation by other dealerships in the area.
While the business name remains Halterman's Auto Ranch, Halterman says, 'We've made the transition ... to (just) Halterman's.'
A new logo with a chrome-lettered 'Halterman's' over an abstract 'H' highway background has been introduced.
'You have to keep things up-to-date,' he explains.
The brand name is emphasized primarily in billboard advertising, and the products (Toyota, Jeep, Volkswagen and used cars) also are mentioned.
'We're just trying to create a brand image again, and you want all three franchises to be in there,' Halterman explains.
In newspapers, however, each vehicle line is advertised separately, listing 'Halterman's Toyota' or 'Halterman's Jeep.'
Halterman says he has received no pressure from the manufacturers to give the vehicle brands bigger play, such as including them in the dealership's name.
'We talked about changing the name to Halterman's Toyota-Jeep-Volkswagen, but it just doesn't work,' he says. 'It's just too cumbersome.'
The new logo does include the three brands, however, so they are always visible.
Halterman says the dealership's name means a good deal on a car, and the dealership's reputation is responsible for at least half of sales. Regardless of the logo, that is what is most important.