There was huge investment in product development and above and below the line communication messages, but not at the point where customers actually interacted with the brand.
Roger Adams, practice principal at design house Bisset Adams, cites Volkswagen as being the manufacturer, which really embraced the need to create stand-out dealerships. He says: “One of the first to seize on the importance of distinct brand-identity was Volkswagen.
When the company separated itself from the VAG partnership around a decade ago, it was quick to stamp an individual look on its new dealerships.
“The company has now leapfrogged the competition and scores extremely highly on consumer tests in terms of brand awareness and perception of retail quality.”
Recently, Vauxhall Motors has taken the concept to the next level with the construction of its Brand Centres.
The Luton site was the first to be completed out of a total of 20 that will eventually exist. Bisset Adams is the architect and lead design consultant for the £60m project, which has been developed to raise brand awareness by creating a positive customer experience, improving the company’s profile as a result. The quality of the Centres is designed to reflect Vauxhall Motor’s current marketing strategy and core brand values.
So the importance of intelligent design and branding within dealerships has never been stronger. All major manufacturers, from niche and prestige through to volume, now have stringent key performance indicators in place for franchises in making sure they are sporting the latest corporate look.
Inherent within this is the increasing demand on automotive retailers to make ever-larger investments to comply with the manufacturer’s corporate identity requirements.
Many franchise dealers voice irritation at having to use designated suppliers for the components that make up the manufacturer’s site branding, feeling they are paying over the odds for things they could source more cheaply themselves. But, says Adams, in his experience they would be false economies.
He says: “I know from my experience with Vauxhall that a lot of time is put into sourcing products at the most competitive prices. I often hear dealers say ‘I can get those floor tiles cheaper down the road’, but what they may not realise is those tiles aren’t vitrified and if any oil spills on them, it will leave a permanent stain.
“Even furniture has to be up to code. You might be able to find cheaper seats, but they will have the wrong foam and won’t give enough back support to satisfy health and safety legislation.”