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Guest Opinion: Graham Filmer, FIMI, Rocket Marketing Associates

'I read with interest the news (AM, February 27) that Black Horse has launched its own branded car retailing operation. At the same time it appears dealers have been actively allowing Black Horse the opportunity to promote itself as a credible motor retail brand in their own showrooms. Perhaps now is a good time for dealers to re-consider the importance of promoting their own brand to customers.

In sales any retailer provides one of three lead propositions:
1. Price led – such as Lidl
2. Service led – such as Marks & Spencer
3. Product led – such as BMW
In each case it is the brand that conveys the message to the customer and helps to drive new and repeat sales. Every retailer has a brand large, or small. A small car dealer will commonly trade on their local reputation – this is their brand. So why has an increasing number of dealers allowed their brand to be subsumed by another – in this case Black Horse – especially since that brand is now increasingly competing in the sale of financial services and now cars as well?

There is no such thing as a free lunch by allowing Black Horse valuable promotional exposure in the showroom. I would respectfully suggest it is the bank which has more to gain, establishing its name as a credible car retailer. Certainly the weighting of the advertising is heavily oriented towards the Black Horse brand.

Your correspondent rightly points out that the opening of this new competitor has stunned the trade, but will they act?

This is not just a threat to those in the Midlands; the bank appears to suggest that if successful the venture will be expanded. Notwithstanding Black Horse's plans, every dealer should re-consider their own brand – what it stands for and how it is communicated – and take greater control of their own promotion to ensure it is their brand the customer remembers. It is the brand that is so often the key differentiator.

Graham Filmer, FIMI, Rocket Marketing Associates

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