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Closing out our commentary on automobile sales here in August, a great little video making fun – in a rather striking way – of those annoyingly loud TV commercials.

Hat tip – Brand Flakes for Breakfast blog.

An interesting perspective here from Matthew May, whose Elegant Solutions blog deals with many automobile-related issues. This post discusses the move of a higher-ranking Toyota/Lexus executive over to Chrysler. The point: she may have reached a “ceiling” in the Toyota/Lexus camp because she had not done a spell in automobile sales.

(A similar culture, by the way, exists in pharmaceuticals – an almost-always necessary bottom rung of the ladder is having “carried the bag” as a sales representative, if you hope to move up into high-level positions in Sales or Marketing).

For a boatload of valuable marketing/branding perspectives on automobile dealerships and sales, read our collaborative BrandingWire posts from earlier this month…

Just came across this post on Seth Godin’s blog, about an (attempted) car-buying experience he had not long ago.

The money quote:

…it’s obvious that a great salesperson is going to sell far, far more than a good one. That’s because it’s not a linear scale. The great ones reach out. They work the phones when they’re not first in line. They understand what a customer wants. They’re not just better than good. They’re playing a totally different game.

His take on how to improve things (fire half the sales force!) is pretty interesting…

PLUS – here’s a quick post on how a Toyota executive outlined the problem of shoddy customer service at dealerships. I love this quote:

One consumer, responding to a survey of car buying, said she’d rather attend a funeral than do business at a dealership.

Hurry on down! Bad credit, no credit – you qualify to read and comment!

truck-deal.jpgThis month, the BrandingWire posse takes on auto sales. No marketing backgrounder needed on this one – we’ve all experienced what it’s like to go into a car dealership. We all know how cars are branded and sold in the retail environment. Now, the BW marketing gurus give their suggestions on what works, and what needs to change.

But wait! Before you click on the links and read our various posts on the topic, we want you to take part! Tell us your stories – good, bad, or ugly. Click on the Comments and give all of our readers a paragraph on what you’ve experienced. How would you change the automobile sales process?

You see, the marketing blogger community, and certainly the group at BrandingWire, want to see better branding and marketing practices. And the best way to do that is to proclaim, with a loud voice, what is good, and what really stinks. Join us as we seek to provide input to the auto industry on what we, the customers, would like to see for a buying experience!

Here are the posts (so far!) from the BrandingWire team:

Becky Carroll

Drew McLellan

Steve Woodruff

Valeria Maltoni

Patrick Schaber

Lewis Green

Martin Jelsema

Olivier Blanchard

Kevin Dugan

Derrick Daye

And, a guest blogger post from Ed Roach (Brand Corral), with follow-ups from Ed here and here.

Also, Chris Brown decided to jump right in with a post of her own on this theme, as did Acorn Creative (both praising the Saturn customer experience).

UPDATE: Cam Beck weighs in with some thoughts of his own, as does Jeanne Bliss over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix.

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20070709174047.jpgThis month, the BrandingWire posse has taken on the real-life challenge of suggesting creative branding ideas for a “destination” town – Estes Park, Colorado.

For some background on the town, its demographics, and the branding challenge, read this post.

Each of the BrandingWire pundits has a unique take on the ways that Estes Park can differentiate itself, and more effectively market itself as a destination for various types of travellers. Practical ideas include logo/tagline development, website re-design, outreach to travel writers, more effective use of social media and referrals, and many more.

Here are links to our various posts on the topic:

Martin Jelsema

Lewis Green

Kevin Dugan

Valeria Maltoni

Steve Woodruff

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Derrick Daye

Gavin Heaton

Becky Carroll

(Image credit)

Be sure to check out last month’s challenge, the branding and expansion of a coffee shop!

The July BrandingWire challenge is a destination – Estes Park, Colorado. Our collaborative suggestions for optimizing this town’s brand will be active on this blog on July 9th. However, this post will serve as a “Backgrounder” on the town, which we have used in our research and deliberations. You may also find it useful, to provide context for our branding ideas!

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Backgrounder for Estes Park, Colorado

Description

Estes Park has been a tourist attraction for over 100-years, even before the founding of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes borders the RMNP and has used the slogan, “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park” for some fifty years at least.

It is nestled in a high-mountain valley with spectacular mountain vistas. The area teems with wildlife (deer and elk saunter through the town’s side streets summer and winter). As a tourist town, Estes has acquired a cadre of attractions other than the outdoor hiking, fishing, horseback riding and sightseeing. There are go-carts, an aerial tramway, hayrides and other family-oriented activities.

The town itself is small with two streets running its length. In summer they can be extremely congested. This can’t be fixed because of the cliffs arising on either side. The streets are lined with merchants selling anything from cotton candy and salt-water taffy to fine leather goods and original paintings. This merchant group, approximately 250 of them, and the restaurants and accommodations provide the vast majority of the town’s tax base. The remainder comes from grocery stores, lumber yards, and other typical support businesses. There is very little industry.

Unlike many Colorado resorts, Estes Park is and always has been a summer destination. Trail Ridge Road through RMNP closes in October and doesn’t open again until May. Thus without a downhill ski facility close at hand, winter activities are confined to snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Many of the shops close or only open on weekends.

However, Estes has tried to extend their season, both fall and spring, with a variety of attractions and events. These are mostly pointed to day visitors from the “Front Range” (Front range is a term meaning cities from Ft. Collins to the north to Colorado Springs to the south. This is where the bulk of Colorado’s residents live – about three-million).

Population

The town and environs have been attracting new residents, mostly retired people for several decades. Over 54% of the area population is over 50. Most of these folks wish to limit growth and commerce now that they’ve established residences there. A vibrant economy is not their top concern. There are also professionals, consultants and “creatives” opting to live here – and it should be noted that without the sales tax from tourism, their property taxes would skyrocket.

Almost 55% of the permanent adult population are college graduates. Because of transportation costs mostly, everyday consumables are relatively high priced. Thus, permanent residents will travel to the front range towns to shop at WalMart and Target and Home Depot, etc. They also buy groceries and gasoline on these frequent (average once a week) trips. The cost of homes and land prices have accelerated greatly over the past ten years. Used homes and newly constructed condos will begin about $350,000.

Brand Owner

The town itself operates the Convention and Visitors Center and funds a promotional budget of around $1,000,000 a year. The town is solely responsible for its brand and its marketing.

A Convention & Visitors Bureau is responsible for overseeing tourism development programs including Special Events, Communications, Group Sales, Visitors Services, Film Commission, and facilities including Conference Center, Stanley Park Fairgrounds, Visitors Center.

Differentiators

Estes Park is unique in that it is closer to the front range – just 73 miles from Denver – than the resorts that were built for ski business. It must be passed through to enter RMNP from the east. It is very convenient to some of Colorado’s fastest growing areas – Ft. Collins, Loveland, Longmont. It does not have an airfield, however.

Estes Park prides itself on being a family vacation center. It is a friendly place, and generally less expensive than the ski-oriented resorts.

Estes Park has a horse-show tradition. Their Stanley Grounds is the site of almost-weekly summer horse shows as well as the “Rooftop Rodeo” in July. There are also Irish and Scottish weekends with traditional games, costumes and cuisine. Most recently a musical venue has been established where free concepts are performed three or four nights a week. A calendar of 2007 summer events can be found at http://estesparkcvb.com/calendar.cfm

Market Segments

Estes Park attracts four types of visitors: Day trippers, touring vacationers, conventioneers and destination vacationers.

Day trippers come from the Front Range. They are not usually “big spenders”, but may have favorite niche shops they frequent when they come. Many come for the outdoor activities, hiking, fishing, etc. If these Colorado residents host relatives and friends from out-of-state, hosting a trip to Estes may be mandatory for them. They may not contribute a lot to the tax base but they are a great source of referrals.

Touring vacationers travel as nomads by driving from one spot to another. They may or may not tote trailers or live in recreational vehicles. Usually they will spend a day, perhaps two, in Estes Park and then head for the next destination on their itinerary. They use camp sites and convenience stores and may fill up with gas. They may buy postcards and a tee-shirt but don’t contribute significantly to other segments of the economy.

Conventioneers account for the smallest segment today, but this may change. Conventioneers do spend money in the restaurants and accommodations, and they tend to purchase higher quality gifts. The town, through an active convention sales and promotional campaign is attracting more conventions and association meetings. A sub-section of this segment are horse owners participating in summer horse shows as well as those attracted to certain ethnic gatherings (Scottish games and the like), special musical performances and festivals (fall color tours).

Destination vacationers are usually families that come to Estes for several days, averaging six. They will take in the many attractions – concerts, horse shows, etc., stay at one accommodation during their time there, eat out, buy gifts and souvenirs, and generally contribute more per capita to the tax base than the other segments.

Major goal

The town wants to increase the tax base to enhance the lives of all residents. Tourism is the major vehicle for this endeavor. However, it must balance tourism with the desires and needs of its residents.

The posse of pundits works together to suggest enhanced branding for a…destination town!

Be ready on July 9th for our second collaborative posting!

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