Eddie Davault is a realist about brands.
The 48-year-old COO of Chapman Automotive Group in Arizona and Nevada knows the company's Chapman brand isn't going to compete with the likes of Chevrolet, Dodge or Isuzu when it comes to drawing shoppers.
The company's brand, according to Davault, is designed 'to convince (customers) that we have what they want and are the best place to get it.'
The 34-year-old company, which has revenues of $519 million, pays close attention to building and nurturing a brand name in Arizona's highly competitive auto market.
Davault said company executives have spent two years trying to leverage its name identification and tie all its businesses together under the Chapman umbrella.
The name 'Chapman' is on all five of its new-vehicle dealerships and four used-car lots in Arizona and Nevada.
The 'Chapman Choice' logo is on shirts and license plates and in print and electronic media. Employees preach the Chapman Choice message, which, Davault says, tells customers the company offers a buffet of product and brand choices, buying options and locations.
He said a key is providing customers with a feeling of stability that comes with employees who have been at the dealership - many in the same jobs - for years.
'People like coming back and seeing the same people,' he said. 'The brand is built by the customers' experience, whether they buy or not. That can be positive or negative, but that impression is going to be lasting.'
The stakes are high. Davault says about 30 percent of the company's sales come from repeat business and another 20 percent from referrals.
The desire to build a feel-good approach extends to advertising. The chain prefers TV and radio to print.
John Chapman, the president of Chapman Chevrolet-Isuzu, said research backed up the idea that the electronic media are the way to go to cultivate brand loyalty. The company also feels such advertising will offer economies of scale, spreading the word for the Chapman family and not just an individual dealership.
Then there are the intangibles. The company is heavily involved in sponsoring local events and making charitable contributions.
It also weaves its way into the community's fabric through its employees joining local civic organizations such as the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis.
'The main reason for all of this is networking,' said Chapman, 39, whose father Jerry, 58, started the business and remains its chief executive. 'It really does work.'
He said the company has been doing the same things on a smaller scale since his father moved here from Mississippi in 1966 and bought his first dealership. That first Chevrolet car business in Chandler, Ariz., had 16 employees.
In 1978, the Chapman Automotive Group was formed to expand the business from its one used-car and one new-car operation.
In the 1980s, the company expanded outside the Phoenix area and then into Nevada. CAG Acceptance Corp., an independent finance company, was formed in the early 1990s, and more lots were opened.
The group now has 1,200 employees.
A Chevrolet dealership is scheduled to open in Chandler April 1, and a BMW dealership in Phoenix is scheduled to open later this year.