Creative Ways to Market your Dealership

by Lindsey - Posted 4 years ago

Marketing has evolved along with the digital trends. It isn't enough anymore to have some good billboards or TV commercial. Younger generations aren't watching TV, and they expect a more immersive experience. Your brand needs to stand out from the constant bombardment today's consumers undergo, in the physical world and the digital one.

How can your auto dealership stand out from the competition? You need to get creative and get your consumers invested in your brand. Here are a few creative ways your auto dealership can grab the attention of consumers:

1. Give back to your community.

Consumers prefer to buy from businesses that are doing good, even if it means they’re paying more.

Find a way to give back to your community and so some good as a business. This will humanize your brand, and tell potential customers that you’re putting your money where your mouth is – that you really care about people and your local community.

What are some ways to give back in your community? Hold a food drive or car wash at your dealership to benefit local groups. Hold a competition like “Community member of the year” and have people nominate others in your community that are doing good and give out an award, perhaps even donating a vehicle. 

To successfully launch two new stores into the new markets of Boston and Massachusetts, Carmax wanted to do something different with its marketing.

By combining technology and social media the brand looked at what issues were important to people locally during the holiday season. Based on these insights, CarMax partnered with ‘Cradles to Crayons’, a non-profit organization based in Boston who provide homeless or low income living children with essential items.

Through the partnership, CarMax set up an interactive tree display, which allowed consumers to use iPads to select a gift for a child in need, including winter clothes and accessories.

Participants took to social media to share their donations and messages which generated 7.9 million impressions, 425 engagements and 683K video views.

The key to a successful campaign is choosing a cause that your target audiences care about and getting the community involved. Don’t forget to reach out to your local press for additional exposure.

2. Build a referral program

Getting consumers to trust your business is the most important part of getting them to choose you over the competition. What better way to earn their trust than by getting a positive referral from someone they already trust?

A referral program is a way to encourage customers to share their positive experiences and send leads to your dealership. You can offer incentives like free oil changes or cash rewards in exchange for leads. 

Referred leads are more qualified leads, and Wharton School of Business found that referred customers are 16% – 24% more loyal on average than others.

Customers in the Max Madsen Auto Group's referral program receive a prepaid reward card.

3. Try experiential marketing

Experiential marketing is another buzz word you may have heard being thrown around lately. What is it?

Experiential Marketing definition: This marketing type, also called engagement marketing, encourages consumers to engage in the development and proliferation of a brand. 

Why is Experiential Marketing so popular? 

Millennials have grown up in a hyper-connected world, with the Internet and social media, smartphones and smart-everything being part of their daily life. 

As a result, as consumers they expect a much more immersive experience from brands than any generation before them, who were used to experiencing brands from a more detached perspective, such as TV ads or billboards.

How can a dealerships offer experiences? Test drives are one way dealerships have been using experiences to attract customers. But how could a dealership create a mix between digital and physical experiences? 

Remember when those quizzes online were so popular? “Find out which Disney princess you are”, or “Which character from Harry Potter are you?” Create an experience that is about your customer. “What car would be your ideal fit? – Take the quiz and come down the dealership test it out.” Other experiential marketing you might have heard of includes “keep your hand on the car the longest to win it”. 

When Ford's “Try More” Campaign was launched across Canada, the campaign goal was to get consumers to try new things to tie in with a recent redesign of its core models.

To achieve this in the Canadian market, Ford hosted live events which encouraged consumers to try activities like axe throwing, mechanical bull riding and MMA fighting. The live events also featured the core model Ford cars, which were displayed on site for consumers to see and test drive 

To promote the campaign, “Try more” was advertised across social media networks and TV.

Creating an experience draws in more people to experience your brand, and it can also draw media attention.

Get creative and create an experience for your potential customers.

4. Be unexpected.

Think of some really memorable car commercials. Is it going to be one where the car is driving around on a road somewhere with uplifting music? Probably not. That might be appealing, but to be truly memorable, sometimes you need to throw in a surprise.

I love seeing a cliché commercial that throws in something unexpected at the end. 

This doesn’t need to apply just to television ads. You can use your website, display ads, or social media to tell a story with an unexpected ending. 

In a bid to attract Millennials and steer away from their 'outdated' image, Chevrolet launched the #BestDayEver campaign on April Fools day.

Consisting of influencers and celebrities doing"Acts of Awesomeness”, the campaign included actors like Alec Baldwin and Olivia Wilde taking over college classrooms as substitute teachers while artist Kelly Clarkson hosted a lunch for new moms. 

To promote the campaign and raise brand awareness Chevrolet partnered up with Youtube to host an eight-hour live stream of the events hosted by Jon Dore/Garfunkel and Oates, who gave updates throughout the day.

Just like in any movie or book, the story is best when you don't know how it will end. People are inherently wired to want a conclusion or an ending, which is why storytelling is such a powerful marketing technique. And part of the formula for great storytelling is including something unexpected.

By being unexpected, you’re more likely to be remembered.


The best way to compete is by getting creative with your marketing. Think hard about what would appeal to your community and your audience. Don't just follow the trends. Set your own trends.

Give back to your local community.

Create an immersive experience for consumers.

Build a referral program.

Try doing something unexpected.

Have you had luck with a creative marketing campaign? We'd love to hear about it! Share your thoughts in the comments below.