Your Brand is Changing
Just a few years ago, quick lube brands were built upon a fast oil change and other maintenance items. Automotive repair shops specialized in one major repair. If your vehicle had a shifting problem, you took it to a transmission specialist. If you needed brakes, you went to a brake specialist. If your car was running a little rough, you went to a tune-up shop. Tires and batteries were sold by national tire retailers and a few others like Sears. Their brand message was, “We are the specialist, and no one else can fix your problem.”
The automotive service industry’s competitive landscape is evolving. So what has changed? The answer is, just about everything. Vehicle quality has greatly improved. Products last much longer. If my father was still alive, he would never believe a spark plug could last for 100,000 miles or that tires were still good after three to four years. The result of this longevity is vehicles need less transmission repairs, brake service and tune-ups. To compensate for this lost business, the specialists needed to add additional products and services. Brands began to change and repair specialists became total car care facilities. Their challenge is, how do they differentiate themselves from all the other “me too” brands. I believe often you could take the name off of one building put it on a competitor’s shop and everything else would stay the same. In less than a minute, a Google search for the slogan “total car care” brought up 11.1 million hits. These Total Car Care brands still have a lot of work to do. If I had a heart problem, I would want a specialist with the education and proper equipment to save my life. A really sick car requires an educated technician who has the proper diagnostic equipment and the skill to use it.
I mention all of the above because it is now the quick lube industry’s time to change. With current vehicles traveling 3,000 or more miles between oil, your annual visits have been cut in half. Your shop needs additional income. Adding brake service could help with that, as well selling tires, installing spark plugs and more. The challenge is, as you add more and more services, how do you protect your brand identity?
If you lose your identity, you will become another “me too” brand. Your brand’s identity was built upon everything you have done in the past. Quick lube shops were originally built to change oil faster than a repair shop can do with lifts. If your oil change customer begins to wait for service longer than before, he will be gone.
There are many operational issues to be addressed, but for this short article, let’s focus on how these added repair services change your brand. First, what is a brand? There are many different definitions, and here is mine: A brand is the first thing a consumer thinks of when they hear your company’s name. This thought comes from everything the consumer remembers from your past messages both tangible and intangible. Some of these are your name, logo and slogan, which all add up to your brand promise. Your promise is what the consumer believes in. Their expectation is all that matters. If you fulfill it, or exceed their expectations, you win.
It’s Decision Time
Changing your service offerings may risk confusing your customers, so be very careful. What you offer, say and advertise will impact your brand identity.
Which additional services are you going to add? Will you install spark plugs? Do you have diagnostic equipment and the capability to cure sick cars? Are you selling tires? Will you add alignment service? How far are you willing to go toward becoming a total car care facility? How fast will you make this shift, one service at a time or all at once? Your answers to these questions and more may lead you to a rebranding need. If your vision has changed, it is time to revisit your brand strategy. This strategy should be built upon your new vision and the new values that will create the points of differentiation you have from your old and new competitors.
Your brand has most likely been established for many years. Many quick lube brands were established more than 30 years ago. Your loyal customers are there because they accepted your past and current concept of fast service with no appointments needed. Your customers accepted additional maintenance services that were added as long as they were still able to receive the same fast service. The overall brand message was get it done now and get it done quick.
With added services, you now have many other competitors besides other traditional quick lubes. Before you advertise these new services, you should have a clear picture of your new vision and know the points of differentiation you will use. If you are still developing your game plan, you might consider not advertising your new services. An introductory period could be considered, where your current customers are told about your new services as needed. An example would be inspecting the vehicle’s brakes while performing a tire rotation. In this way, you are gradually letting your current customers know of your product extensions. With this plan, you will keep your marketing strategy the same. Continue to market the services your brand has been known for. In this way, you are not trying to encourage a new customer to choose you for a brake service you are not known for. You are avoiding competing with the total car care brands. If you choose this strategy, you should support it with in-store materials and signage. Use your customer lounge signage to introduce your new services. When marketing to your repeat customers, be sure to keep featuring the oil change and other services that they expect you to offer.
If your decision is to go all in by becoming a total car care and quick lube, your brand most definitely has changed. Now, you will be competing with traditional quick lubes, other repair shops and tire stores. There are a few things to consider:
Identify your current brand strengths and weakness? Why do your current customers choose you? Is it time for a name change, or at least a new tag line? Should your logo have a makeover? Will your customer profile change? What does your new vision look like? What is your new message, and how will you convey it? Will your new services require an appointment? If you take appointments, will this conflict with your current brand image? Why will your customers now choose you for repair services?
Whether you choose a gradual move into the total car care business or an all-in approach, you must develop a new brand strategy that fits your business. Your goal is to stay focused on your current customers before reaching out for additional new business. Develop an exciting new message that your current customers will view positively. Keep your current creative and logo integrity while adding a new tag line and other subtle changes. Possible changes to consider are creative color changes, font changes slight logo deviations and possible uniform and other in-store differences.
Consider developing a strategy that will help you become the repair choice for your current loyal quick lube customers before you compete with the long-term total car care shops.
These are exciting times for the quick lube industry. Your new vision and brand strategy could be your road map to success.