Brand and Rebrand

March 1, 2018
What once were classic fast lube shops are upping their game and their service offerings. It's a mischaracterization to classify most shops as only fast lubes anymore, as they are that and so much more. This means, for many shops, it's time for a rebrand.

Those who stay in any industry long enough see it ebb and flow with the tides of technology and trends, not to mention, plain and simple economic factors like supply and demand. The automotive maintenance industry is no different. After more than 30 years in the industry, long-time NOLN readers know that better than anyone. What NOLN readers and industry professionals alike also know - and in many cases have experienced - is that over the past five to 10 years the quick-lube model has been going through one of these industry evolutions. They've watched as businesses have moved from quick lube models to total car care models, as shop owners have methodically added services over the years. From tire rotations and alignments, brake checks and drivetrain services to air conditioning and filtration, what once were classic fast lube shops are upping their game and their service offerings. It's a mischaracterization to classify most shops as only fast lubes anymore, as they are that and so much more. This means, for many shops, it's time for a rebrand.

For the most part, what the fast lube industry has done really right is what many industries get really wrong. Generally, when people think of a rebrand they think of the fun stuff first. People dive straight into worrying about what their new logo will look like or their new website and in the midst of blundering about comparing creative comps they forget about the strategy behind their new brand identity, not to mention the reason for it.

Just like diagnosing a vehicle that comes into a bay with a "funny noise" or an "odd smell," there are some signs and symptoms of a business in need of a rebrand. A company may want to or will benefit from a rebrand if the current look, feel and mission of a brand is no longer an accurate representation of who that brand is or wants to be. The team behind the brand should first consider what would be an accurate depiction that would also allow the brand to grow. Remember, as previously mentioned, while a new logo and brand identity package is important, it is not enough to only think about tangible touch-points of a brand; the question "Why?" must be asked.

Lucky enough, the quick lube industry has already done a lot of the heavy lifting in regard to the economic strategy and infrastructure behind rebranding. For many, the transition will probably feel natural, and they will be able to answer the question "Why?" easily. The majority of shops have already slowly admixed add-on services with their more traditional bread-and-butter offerings and transitioned existing customers, getting them to drink the hypothetical Kool Aid. Now, it's now time for them to take it to the next level: attract new customers and keep growing.

At the point a business has done the legwork and updated their identity package complete with items like logos, online and social presences, printed collateral and signage of all kinds, they are then ready to start marketing themselves and their new identity. Strategically doing so in a meaningful way that resonates with current and potential customers will hopefully lead to an ROI that will point to their rebrand being a worthwhile exercise, not to mention, investment.

Every business and every goal is different; therefore, every marketing strategy is different. Things that should be asked before launching any advertising effort are:

  1. What is the goal?
  2. How will success be measured?
  3. What is the budget (or how much are you willing to throw at this initiative)? Remember, if you're going to ask people to buy a service, you must be willing to advertise it. Also, don't forget the budget needs to allow for production and placement of ads. For example, if you decide to run digital ads via Google Adwords, you will need to budget for what it costs to produce those ads as well as run them. Same for radio, TV, social media, etc.
  4. Who are we talking to? People have a tendency to say "everyone" here. Caution, saying "We're talking to everyone!" will often not be the best way to target your audience. Now, there are certainly exceptions, like if you're geo-targeting ads to a certain zip code. Often, if your message is something more specific like, "Happy hour on oil changes," thinking about who the most likely demographic to take action and engage with you at that time is more effective. Chances are, the businessman with a regular nine-to-five job will be in a meeting at 3 p.m. and not in your bay.
  5. What do we want people to think or feel?
  6. What is our desired action? If you don't know what you want people to do when they see your ad, chances are they won't know what to do.
Once the strategy is determined, all that's left is to decide is tactics, flights and execution. Tactics can be determined by looking at desired actions and goals and then putting those things up against a budget. They are often divided into mass media, digital media and earned media categories.

Deliverables categorized as mass media are things that cannot be drilled down to a micro demo or be retargeted. They are exactly what they sound like and are meant to reach mass audiences. Things like TV, radio, outdoor boards and direct mail are examples of mass media. These things are great for getting out general messaging that applies to a lot of people. The downside is, they are often expensive to both place and produce. Digital tactics are a great solution for smaller shops or shops with highly strategic messages they want to promote to specific audiences.

Digital tactics tend to hit people when they are looking or have shown an interest - or an associated interest - in what's being offered. This means the people receiving the message are already more likely to take action.

The final category is earned media. Earned media is a component of public relations. Donating to a local soccer team, sponsoring the school scoreboard or letting a local humane society take over the parking lot for a fundraiser are all wonderful ways to garner earned media. On a very base level, this is where being involved in the community pays off - something the quick service industry is notoriously good about and recognizes the value in; keep it up!

Chances are the industry is going to change and be even more complicated in coming years. But that doesn't mean guys and gals on the ground floor, the quick service shops themselves, shouldn't lean into change with vigor and excitement the same way they always have. It's never too early or too late to make sure you're branded. If your brand isn't saying what you want it to about you or working for you, rebrand.