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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Better/Alternative Way to Market Automobiles?

Okay, after a long hiatus...I'm back. Was taking a stroll through Brentwood today with my colleague Karl S. during lunch. Somehow we wandered onto the topic of cars and marketing.

My two cents.....

From my outside-the-industry/consumer perspective, automobile "push" marketing is primarily split into three segments: (1) brands targeting existing owners, (2) mass marketing to potential owners based on demographics from media outlets, and increasingly (3) online and experiental marketing.

Kudos for #1 and #3 above, for the segmenting by #1 hits the loyalty segment while #3 leverages the power of the Internet for enhanced targeted....thus driving more specific messaging, promotional call to actions, etc., to increase the likelihood of a greater return-on-marketing (ROM).

As for #2, in the brisk walk I was on it dawned on me "wouldn't it make sense to get them in the car?" Most consumers may not be committed to the idea of buying and therfore, not committed to dealing with a local salesman should we want to actually test drive and kick the tires of a new automobile, whether a BMW, Hummer, Mini Cooper, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Hyundai Santa Fe, etc.

So....why not try to get them in with free or discounted day or weekend rentals. Not only could they test drive it, but they could actually "use" it - transporting items, picking up others, etc., and really EXPERIENCE the ride. The concept is simple: strike a business development deal with a rental car company (e.g. Enterprise Rent-A-Car "we pick you up"), find a list of auto owners for autos 5+ years old (e.g. banks and financing cos.), offer the promotion with tie in to financing co. for whatever special financing offer, follow-up with respondents after the car rental, and have a real list of targeted prospects and additional market research.

I confess that I am not an auto industry marketing professional, but I would love the opportunity to crunch some numbers and pass the idea by a focus group or trusted group of individuals who've agreed to be contacted for research to see if this concept had legs in this form or a variation.

That's all for now. Until next posting....

Ian Palmer


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