Thoughtful planning. Solid execution. Constant reinforcement. That’s how a culture is born.


If you asked everyone in the company to describe your dealership’s brand promise and explain how you deliver it, would you get a consistent response? How often do you talk about your brand promise? Does it come up in conversation throughout the day? If you answer, “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to make a promise you can believe in. It not only makes a difference you can measure; you can see it inspiring your employees.

Don Valley North Toyota in Ontario, Canada, bases their brand promise on the Grandma Rule, in essence, treat everyone as we would our Grandma. It’s a promise that provides a moral compass for the team. It defines how they explain the need for new brakes, the options on a new car and the considerations of a pre-owned vehicle purchase. More than that, it shapes how employees interact with each other right down to the language they use on the floor. It is the standard for dissecting an issue to figure out where things went wrong. As Charles Grant, GM, points out, “I know it’s impacting our people when I overhear a staff member saying to his colleague, “no, no, no…that’s not what we would do for Grandma”.”

Thoughtful planning. Solid execution. Constant reinforcement. That’s how a culture is born. Dealerships have to move away from the idea that employees learn about the brand by osmosis. It doesn’t work. The brand promise needs to be articulated, made real and become part of the daily dialogue. It starts at the top and weaves its way right through the dealership, all the way down to the hiring stage. Try this during your next interviews. Share your brand promise with recruits and ask them to explain how they would deliver that promise in the context of their job. If they can’t figure that out, their qualifications won’t matter.



When comparing dealerships, we hear many common expressions being used to describe their brand promise. “Customer focus. Family Run. Community Involvement. It’s all about the people.” Sound familiar? It’s not surprising that dealerships tend to build their brand promise around the same points. We’re in the same business, after all. To differentiate your dealership, your actions have to speak louder than your words.

“You’re part of our family at Hanover Honda.” According to president, Larry Lantz, that translates into a playroom for kids, a comfortable place for mothers to feed babies, and an “everyone chips in to help” attitude. Even Larry runs out to change license plates if needed because “that’s what family does for each other”.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between what we all know as best practices and delivering your brand promise. Many dealers wash customers’ cars following a service appointment. Always a nice touch. Looking at that best practice from your brand’s perspective may change how that benefit is delivered.

Comparing Different Brand Promises and How They Change Delivery of a Best Practice – Washing Customer’s Car After Service Appointment
Be well-taken care of Offer the best price Provide a luxury experience
Properly washed and dried, providing the option to pass on the wash if the customer doesn’t have time to wait, and making good on the offer by giving customers a coupon for a car wash at their convenience. Quick outside wash only with the option to decline in favor of a $5 savings certificate for a future service visit. Option for a fully washed car, including an inside wipe down, if time allows. Includes a small gift box with treat that is appreciated by that individual customer or typically favored by that demographic segment (gender/age/ethnicity).


As you see, the same best practice can be delivered in ways that support your individual brand and help differentiate your dealership. Even if your competitors say the same things and make similar promises, how you deliver your promise is what makes you stand out in the marketplace.



The more you infuse the delivery of your brand promise throughout your dealership, the easier it is for people to know who you are, what you stand for, and feel that they want to do business with you. It’s not just about customers. The people who deliver your brand promise have to feel that the promise applies to them.

Note the word “feel”. When your people “feel” that they are also being served by your brand promise, they believe it. They commit themselves to carrying that feeling forward when interacting with customers and working with each other on a daily basis. Your employees, from management to part-timers, are the most important group to convince that you are what you promise. They are the ones who fulfill the promise. Everything from hiring practices, training, issue resolution and overall culture must embody your brand. Similarly, when suppliers do business with your dealership, make sure your brand promise extends to them as well.

How people are treated at every touch point has a positive impact to your bottom line. More new and used vehicle sales. More ancillary product and service sales. More referrals. Greater retention; customer and employees. Better hires. Not because of your “branding”; because of what your brand inspires you to do to differentiate your dealership and connect in meaningful ways with shoppers and customers.


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