Are you losing your own brand?

Your own business identity is as, if not more, important than the powersports brands you carry.

By Paige Wittman

YOU REPRESENT some of the most well-known brands in powersports and, indeed, general retail. But how do you define and find space for your own retail brand? Today, we see more brands than ever in Dealer locations, and more demands from brands that don’t take your entire store into consideration. Balancing all of these brands is a Herculean task.

Mies Outland personifies “up north” Minnesota cabin culture. (Image: Miller Wittman)

‘Who am I?’ Your own identity is as important, if not more, than the brands you carry. As the physical and local embodiment of these products, you are the seller, adviser and servicer. Each interaction is an opportunity to convey your point of view and what you stand for as a business and in the community. Each interaction is an opportunity to define your relationship with the customers.

Some background: While I was writing this column, I took a break and checked the mail. There was direct mail piece promoting a “customer appreciation sale” from a local appliance retailer that carries 30 national brands in its nine locations. The mailer was addressed to “Paige Wittman Or Current Resident.” I have purchased eight appliances and countertops from this retailer in recent history, yet I am anonymous to them as a customer.

Full Throttle Motorsports in Michigan pays homage to its family history, owning and operating a gas station, with this display.

The retailer’s mailer screamed “Maximize co-op!” with each of their brands and, as a result, ineffectively communicated the local retailer’s own brand. The mailer contained a robust demonstration schedule, but it didn’t address what a customer might gain by joining them. And based on my eight past purchases, which demo should I go to?

So I went to their website: There wasn’t one photo of a demo or even one customer interacting with staff. This retailer missed a huge opportunity to customize the experience to capitalize on its local brand and define its specific reason for being.

After I looked at the mailer, I was vacillating between devising offers that could appeal to me from them, wondering why I have had unrequited loyalty to them, and wondering why I expect more from them. Because they are a local business, my expectation of interaction increases. If this was Home Depot or Best Buy, would it evoke this emotion? Probably not.

There are a lot of similarities between this retailer and your business if you look past the product. Are you hiding your own brand behind those other brands you represent?

Take a look around: Is your space cavernous or cramped, haphazard, handlebar-to-handlebar with no more personality than a cardboard box? Or is it carefully crafted and cultivated to convey YOUR message to consumers? You are more than the sum of your inventory. Each decision you make tells your story… or it doesn’t.

Defined, aligned and integrated

Anyone who has been to one of the Van Wall stores in Iowa or Mies Outland in Minnesota knows that these marquee powersports Dealers mean business. The stores are destinations that pay off in selection and shopping environment. Both of these businesses do a great job delineating their agriculture businesses from their powersports/motorcycle businesses, and are great examples of creating retail environments that are respectful of the markets they serve.

I recently visited Shannon Tracy of UVC Powersports in Alvin, TX, and I was impressed by her ability to create and clearly communicate the UVC brand in the midst of the big brands represented at this dealership. Vertical integration is a term commonly used as a company works to control many steps in its process to increase power in its marketplace, and that’s what UVC Powersports does.

UVC’s focus on first responders and United States military customers is clear and genuine, and connected to Shannon’s own military service. There are custom videos airing in her showroom showcasing Texas-based celebrity customers like Mickey Gilley and Stone-Cold Steve Austin. The detail involved in providing parking lot signs for the individual employees is unreal; it shouts, “We care about the employees” and smartly suggests permanence to the customers.

Shannon’s big personality and thoughtful integration strategy shine through every marketing element. All of it is designed to say, “There is a lot going on, and I want to see more.”

Find your brand again. Ask yourself these questions:

Why do customers choose to come to my location(s) and do business with me? Are those reasons aligned with the brand I have defined for my business? Are those reasons clearly defined and carried out throughout my store, and my marketing, social media and sales processes?

Take a look at your signage. Is YOUR name and logo on the building and other exterior signage?

Do you have your branding or brand messaging at your parts counter?

Do you have brand messaging at your service counter? Perhaps customer satisfaction scores or other substantiated claims that you can make to reinforce your brand?

Do you have a portion of your website dedicated to your brand and company? These areas make your business unique and interactive.

Local brands are not just for bearded hipsters selecting artisanal meats and limited run coffees. Local brands are YOU. The room for YOU is literal and figurative, virtual and in-person, defined and refined.

INDEPENDENT DEALERS – LET US HEAR FROM YOU When we were at AIMExpo last month in Columbus, Dealernews’ Stan Simpson got my partner, Scott Miller, and me thinking about the independent retailer brand. In our showroom designs, we typically make room for a retailer’s brand among the OEM brands it represents; but for independents, the brand you represent…is you. Your styles and focus vary, but the principles of retail remain constant. We are going to focus some future retail advice for you.

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