What’s in a Logo? Why Your Dealership Branding May Be Hurting Your Reputation

Feb 09, 2015

Design and branding are rarely the top priority for general managers and dealer principals, but the “look and feel” of a dealership’s logo and advertising have a massive effect on the consumers they reach. Branding builds recognition and trust but is often lost at the retail level.

Manufacturers like Volkswagen and Audi come off as cool, cultured, and elegant. Even more economic brands like Toyota and Hyundai do a great job of incorporating smart and topical humor to effectively connect with their audience.



While dealerships are the face of the automotive manufacturers, the quality gap between advertising created by manufacturers and dealerships erases much of this value. Dealership commercials are full of fireworks and aggressive 3D animated characters. Car dealership branding, ads and billboards often suffer from “NASCAR effect” – plastered with coupons, deals, and superlatives until there is no space left . When consumers see a dealership’s ads alongside those of Apple or NIKE , they don’t stand a chance to earn any attention.

dealership branding, bad advertising, nascar affect

How to Build Better Dealership Branding

Yes, Big Automotive spends millions on ad time and creative teams to wow the world, but most manufacturers do a good job of providing marketing and advertising assets through an ad planner. They know the dealerships represent them at the consumer level, and they rightly want to preserve the value created by their careful corporate branding.

First Funnel’s design staff is well-versed in keeping a balance between manufacturer branding guidelines and the need to for retailers to cultivate a unique identity. We’ve developed these key branding principles for building a unique image without tarnishing the manufacturer’s corporate design:

Comply with OEM branding guidelines

Every manufacturer provides a VSG, Visual Standards Guide, to each franchise, and though enforcement of these standards varies, you’ll be in a better position to capture the loyalty and excitement generated by the manufacturer if your dealership doesn’t look like it’s gone completely rogue.

Use the ad planner to grab hi-res photos and brand-approved design templates.

You may not have any idea what your ad planner is (or where to find it), but this online portal is a treasure chest of almost-ready-to-go advertising. Make sure the people in charge of your marketing have access to your ad planner and motivate them to use it often.

Follow all of your manufacturers social media channels

The days of tone-deaf OEM advertising are largely over, and modern ads targeted to specific demographics are driving consumers to your dealership with more refined expectations. Simply consuming the same content as your customers in mind is a great first step toward improving their experience.


Dealerships should capitalize on all the money the brands are spending rather than fight it. The manufacturers have already done extensive research on what people respond to, so follow their lead. Even with sales events, often times running a campaign at the dealership that echos the messaging or specials of the brand is more effective that coming up with a sale unique to the dealership or community.

Assess your brand

As with most things, the first step toward a better dealership brand is often the hardest. If you want to get started and aren’t sure how, feel free to reach out to us. One of our designers will do a free branding assessment and break down the necessary steps to improving your image.




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