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by Mike Esposito, President and CEO, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems



How did Kim Kardashian become so famous? Ten years ago, she was a regular Los Angeles socialite, just like hundreds of other socialites. She wasn’t the most beautiful socialite, and she wasn’t an actress or model. She didn’t invent anything. She didn’t have any noteworthy talents to speak of. Her only claim to fame was that she was friends with, and a personal assistant to, Paris Hilton; so in 2007, a leaked sex tape featuring Kim attracted some minor media attention.


Kim’s manager and mother Kris knows a thing or two about branding. The Kardashians leveraged the friendship with Paris and the leaked sex tape to build a social media following for Kim and get as much publicity as possible, which soon after led to a reality television show. The rest is history. Today Kris is still largely in control of the Kardashian brand and rules it with an iron fist. The Kardashians are brilliant brand marketers.


I realize that auto dealerships are nothing like celebrities. You sell cars, while the Kardashians sell themselves. But the fact is, it doesn’t matter what your product or service is. You are marketing a brand, so what can you learn from the best?


These three branding tips are taken straight from the Kardashian playbook, and if followed, can only benefit your dealership:


1) Be Authentic. In an interview earlier this year, Kim Kardashian was asked what she thought the one essential value was for building a successful brand. Kim replied promptly, “Authenticity.” Never underestimate the ability of your customers to sense fakeness. The Kardashians’ style is “slightly trashy” and they’re good with that. They don’t try to be sophisticated, and their fans love them for it.


What is authentic in the way your dealership does business? What do customers like about you? If you are the low-price leader, don’t try to gouge customers. If you are the family-owned business that cares, don’t expect your employees to work long hours. Your customers can see through a fake brand claim. Make sure your brand is authentic to the way you do business.


2) Do One Thing Well. In the bestselling book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, this is also called the Law of Singularity. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Not everyone “gets” the Kardashians. Do you think they care?


As an auto dealer, find your Unique Selling Proposition and promote the heck out of it. Either you have the widest selection, or you’re the low-price leader, or you’re the family-owned business that cares, or you offer the best service in town. Don’t try to be all of these. Pick one. Kim Kardashian recently said, “I used to take on too much and got involved with too many things because I wanted to be everywhere. I have whittled them down and now I just do what’s right for me.” That’s not being picky. That’s good branding.


3) Connect With Your Customers. Kim Kardashian has over 36 million Twitter followers and she constantly communicates with them. She re-tweets her fans’ tweets about her, posts numerous personal photos of herself and her family, and shares her thoughts on life. She never asks her fans to buy her stuff (although she does charge companies up to $1 million to endorse their products, but that’s a different story).


Social Media and email are very powerful communication tools, but too many auto dealers are still using them as a way to promote themselves. Effective communication is not about you; it’s about your customer. Connecting with your customers does not mean try to sell to them. Connecting with your customers means listening to them, helping them and interacting with them, which increases your ‘likability’ factor and helps to build a strong brand.


The Kardashian name remains a strong brand, and not by accident. The most important takeaway for dealers is that building a strong brand name requires commitment, time and planning. You should always be the one who is defining and controlling your brand. Otherwise, your customers will define and control it for you.


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