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Pointers in positive messaging from Coca-Cola

Worldwide beverage brand Coca-Cola was quiet as the coronavirus pandemic raged worldwide. Rather than pushing their product, the global leader cut their ad spend to nil. But the move wasn’t knee-jerk to a problem – rather, it was an act to mobilize and perform acts of service.

Angelina Joy, Brand Director at 72andSunny Amsterdam, said in a Create with Google ‘Meet the Makers’ feature, “When the pandemic hit, what they (Coca-Cola) decided to do was ceased all of their marketing activities, and decided to divert that spend into helping support their partners and customers that were badly affected by the crisis.”

At the end of June, Coca-Cola released a new ad campaign with George the Poet called ‘Open Like Never Before’. Recognizing an opportunity to do marketing differently, the positive tone goes well beyond animated polar bears and impacts at an emotional level. Joy remarks about Coca-Cola, “The role of their marketing has always been to uplift and bridge divides where we landed in terms of the strategic approach is that when the lockdown lifted, we would be there with a message of positivity.”

While the products involved in the beverage and automotive industries are worlds apart, the customers they appeal to are the same. The one of Coca-Cola’s ad campaign is one that resonates with everyone, and the marketing strategy can be used by dealers in localized ways.

Stay True to the Brand

Ecommerce integrator Oberlo cites that “Consistent presentation of a brand has seen to increase revenue by 33%”, and “Two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world said that they would buy from a brand or boycott it solely because of its position on a social or political issue.”

For dealers, the brand is more than the badges on the new vehicles they sell. Branding is the culture your store embraces, the neighborhood reach it has, the customer experience shoppers can expect, and the unique service proposition it offers.

Building a brand is the start, but even when it hits the fan, maintaining your brand image is key to consistent sales and service. In every campaign or communication sent from your dealership, regardless of the media, your brand should be the yardstick against which it’s measured.

Related: How to Incorporate Charity and Community Give-Back into Your Dealership Branding

Create with the Future in Mind

Whether in economic abundance or uncertain times, dealers need to have a long view on marketing – evergreen, if you will. For Coca-Cola, that was using a medium that wouldn’t change with the wind.

Laura Visco, Deputy Executive Creative Director, 72andSunny Amsterdam, said, “Instead of shutting down, what if we actually just embraced this new change? Poems are one of the first and rawest forms of communication. Ads come and go but poems stay in time.”

That’s why George the Poet was brought in for the campaign. Not only is the long view sustainable for long-term advertising, but it allows companies to smooth out the ups and downs in the market.

For dealerships, that may be partnering with a local, established celebrity or musician who shares a common view. Think a scaled-down version of Dennis Leary’s work with Ford – a recognizable person who can help bring your brand further along in your community.

Use Prevailing Emotions

Connecting with a customer on a meaningful level has to be emotional. Drawing out positive emotions in marketing is always more effective than fear-based. What that looks like in a dealer’s circle of influence varies. However, even in a pandemic, it should always be positive.

During the COVID-19 recovery, meaningful connections through emotion often have less to do with product and more to do with experiences and safety. That’s a massive shift that dealers have done relatively well in the United States, showing customers how they’re taking care of them.

Joy says, “Be open to how the process might make twists and turns that you don’t anticipate and how these things can bring some beauty and difference and depth to the world.”

Related: Taking the Tesla Approach to your Personal Branding


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Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau is an automotive specialist with more than 15 years of experience at the dealership level. Focusing mainly on fixed operations and the service industry, Jason’s expertise is in enhancing the customer experience and promoting a healthy, profitable service department.

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