You’ve Been Branded

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Squinting into the setting sun across the dusty desert plains, you notice a small figure coming toward you, growing larger in your vision as each moment passes. The soft orange glow of a glorious sunset bathes everything you see. Across the vast vacant expanse of sand, sagebrush and tumbleweeds, the ever-encroaching figure looms larger and larger in your eyes.

You continue to gaze out, stealthily hiding from your place of obscurity, and details become evident: the rider’s duster is blowing back like a cape as he heels his steed in a continuous full gallop, both his and his huge, muscular ride’s heads down low, to keep the blowing sand out of their eyes.

Nervous, but none too worried, you sit back and relax, knowing full well that he is probably just another scofflaw making his way from one no-name desert burg to the next, and then you see it. Not really sure at first, but possibly — just a small glint of sunlight reflected of some, polished brass? Then you see it again, this time clearly: An all-too obvious bright reflection of smooth polished brass, right about “I Pledge Allegiance”-level on the rider’s chest.

It can only be — Reid, that bloodhound of a lawman that’s been sniffing your trail out for weeks now.

Scrambling from your hastily thrown together brush lean-to, you grab your coffee tin, your trusty old Remington “hog’s leg” and jump on the old nag won in the faro game back in the last dustbowl you laid rest in.

As you take off in full gallop — or whatever comes close to a full gallop for this worn out old mare — you look back to see that Reid, astride his magnificent steed has closed the gap. That bright, shiny circular Texas Ranger badge, all polished with its big star in the middle, seemingly mocks you as you feebly try to escape what can only be the inevitable.

A short time later, you are indeed locked in irons and heading back to town, knowing full well that no one will ever forget you no matter where you go, because you’ve been — branded.

OK, you may be thinking, “What the heck does this have to do with a lube shop?” Nothing in general, but everything in one respect: Branding.

Just as the scofflaw in the tale above was “branded,” to forever be known far and wide for the things he had done, so too can your lube shop be “branded” by your customers and non-customers alike in your area.

Of course, you want to be branded for the positive things you and your shop do, not whatever the poor sap above did to warrant his eventual downfall.

You may be thinking that you are already branded, simply because you have your shop’s name on a sign out front and on your receipts. That’s a start, but it doesn’t even approach what a total branding concept can mean for your business.

The idea behind branding your lube center is to encourage everyone to think of your particular shop whenever the idea of an oil change pops into their heads. However, before you embark on getting your brand out there, make sure it is an effective brand.

For example, drive down any busy street in your area with many businesses and notice which signs and logos seem to “pop out” at you and which ones seem too busy and confusing to read at a quick glance.

Typically, two or three bold colors on a bright, solid background are the easiest to see, read and comprehend at a quick glance. Busier, intricate designs and colors all seem to blur into each other as you are driving down the road, rendering the entire visual useless. If your customers can’t make out what your logo on your sign says, what’s the point of having it?

I have made this mistake myself. I once spent weeks meticulously designing a logo that looked fantastic. Of course, that was on glossy photo paper, and people had time to really look at it. Boy, was I proud of that thing. Once this “perfect” logo was blown up on a 15- by 25-foot sign and erected, it became worthless. It was indecipherable to anyone driving by at 25 mph. It was just far too busy and intricate — lesson learned for me.

Think of McDonalds or Burger King: Simple, easy-to-recognize logos on plain white backgrounds. These icons can sometimes be seen miles away and are easily and instantly recognizable. They may be simple, but they are still quite unique. The overall image doesn’t even have to have their name clearly evident, the general shape and style of the logo makes it instantly clear who they are.

When deciding on a brand for your shop, take these points into consideration:

  • Use simple, easy-to-pronounce words. One and two syllable words are best.
  • Use as few words in your name as you think you can get by with.
  • Come up with as many different variations of your final choices as you can, and list them on a sheet of paper. Ask anyone you know to quickly look at the list and tell you which ones they like best. Keep track of the results. The most popular choice should be your final choice.
  • Use bold, bright colors. Keep your color choices limited to a total of two or three colors at the most. Too many colors cause the viewer to lose focus and look away. Most of you probably already have a name and logo you have been using since you opened. That’s OK; you can simply update the look of the logo when you see fit. Don’t do away with whatever built-in brand loyalty you may have now by changing it too radically. Keep it the same, but improve and modify it to make it really “pop” when your customers see it.

Get That New Brand Out There

OK, you have a great looking logo with a great sounding name for your lube shop. Now what do you do with it?

Putting your “tin in the wind” for everyone to see and having it on your receipts is all well and good, but not nearly enough. If you already have an accepted design for your logo, but for whatever reason do not have them on your customer receipts, I can only say that you are missing the boat. Get that logo on your receipts as soon as you can. If shouldn’t be all that costly and is well worth the initial expense.

Now, you have to get that brand name out there in every conceivable place you can. You want the name and logo of your business to be so pervasive that it seems to be everywhere. Every penny you spend on advertising does not have to be for coupons. Just getting your name out to the public is a great way to build your brand.

Here are several methods I have used over the years to get my brand out, and they have all served me well.

  1. Customer Rewards Program
    • A small sticker of your name/ logo that a customer affixes to the back window of their car that entitles them to discounts on future services or enrollment in a customer-cash reward program. Makes sure your logo is easily seen by all traffic behind this car!
    • A punch-card you give your customer that entitles them to free or discounted services after so many visits.
    • Discount cards that your customers give to potential new customers for you, earning future discounts for themselves.
  2. Business Cards
    • Your store managers should definitely have business cards, with a dollars-off incentive printed on the back. He should give these out wherever he goes, all the time — 500 cards every two months is the norm for my managers.
    • Why not give business cards to your long-time techs? They love them, and it can only help get the word out.
  3. Community Advertising
    • School programs, yearbooks, phone books and calendars.
    • Local high school baseball/football field sponsorship signs.
    • Local Chamber of Commerce flyers and advertisements.
    • Church-sponsored discount books.
  4. Online Internet Advertising
    • Set up a website.
    • Change, add or modify the content with ease.
    • Target the message to specific programs.
    • Make a small investment in Google Ads to make sure you show up when your customers are searching for your services.
  5. Community Services
    • Free “fluid maintenance training” for local schools, churches, civic groups, apartment complexes, etc. Show groups of people simple fluid-related and other maintenance checks on a scheduled night in your shop.
  6. T-Shirts and Hats With Your Logo on Them.
    • You can try to sell them, but I just give them away to select customers. Nothing like people all over your town wearing your name on their clothes! The cost is not nearly as much as you would think, and it creates customer loyalty.
  7. Supporting Local Charities
    • A once-a-year fundraiser where you present a check to the charity is not only a great thing to do for the public, but the local news station will also give you a prominent spot on their news casts for at least an entire weekend. Getting your vendors involved will pare your overall expenses down to near-nothing.

There are as many ways to get “branded” as any of you can think of. These are just the bare tip of the iceberg of ideas. I know you can all get creative and come up with some unique new branding methods of your own.

Send me your ideas. I’d love to hear them!

See ya’ next month, and in the meantime, make it happen!

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