Posing a question distributors could ask end buyers, Gary Haley, senior vice president of sales for Beacon Promotions, New Ulm, Minn., asked, “‘Where are your customers when they make a buying decision?’ The answer is going to be one of three places—either the office, the home or the car. That’s where consumers make buying decisions most of the time.” A good point, especially for those considering automotive promotions, since it calls attention to how much time some of us spend in the car, placing the items in view as often as the more popular home and office products. Like the aforementioned items, automotive promotions can cover a diverse range of end-user activity, so perhaps a useful second question a distributor could ask a client would be, “If they’re in the car, what exactly are they doing?”
The most obvious answer to the above question would be “commuting to work.” The length of time spent traveling to and from the office will of course vary among end-users, but in general there are a great number of products useful when a consumer is going to be spending time staring at the back of someone else’s car.
As an example, Haley cited Beacon Promotions’ trailer hitch cover. He related an instance where Beacon Promotions had been talking with a local radio station about the best way to reach listeners. Going back to his question of “Where are your customers when they make a buying decision?” Haley recommended the company’s trailer hitch cover, which would be branded with the station’s logo and serve as an effective promotion in high-traffic or commuting situations.
Michael Stoeck, director of sales and marketing for New Century, Kansas-based Stouse, pointed out that some of Stouse’s most popular products are well-suited for road visibility. He mentioned the ubiquitous white vinyl window decals, which commonly adorn back windshields everywhere, depicting everything from soccer balls to high schools to favorite vacation locals. Popular as they are, Stoeck devoted a great deal of attention to another of Stouse’s best sellers: the custom license plate.
The familiar application for such plates would be for use in auto dealerships, which Stoeck agreed was important. “The branding of the dealership on the cars is important,” he said. “People see a Cadillac being driven and they know that it’s Midfield Cadillac or whatever the dealership happens to be.”
He added, however, that custom plates are by no means restricted to dealerships. “There are 19 states in the union where you don’t have to have a front license plate on your car,” he pointed out. “States like Indiana, Kansas, Florida; there are 19 of them where the same license plates being purchased by car dealers are being purchased by the local country club.” Stoeck gave additional examples of cable companies using them on all their vehicles or real estate offices putting one on each of their representatives’ cars.
In addition, Stoeck mentioned the plates are also very popular with educational institutions. “A lot of schools [and] universities will put booster club logos, their university logo, whatever it happens to be, on the front license plate of the car,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard in states like Illinois, where you have to have two plates, to comprehend just how big of a product that is, but ask the folks in Florida or Georgia … just about anybody who would have vehicles or vehicle customers or some type of support or cause will have a plate on the front of their car designating that.”
Cruising down the road with a “BESTSLR” vanity plate may be the first thing to come to mind, but anyone with a learner’s permit knows there’s more to the automotive industry than just cars and driving. Products that aren’t handled so much during the drive, instead occupying end-users either before or after their trip. Obvious examples would be things like travel drinkware or keychains, but there are plenty of other strong promotions that are more specific to the automotive world.
Safety products, like jumper cables or other emergency or convenience items, would be one example. Haley mentioned Beacon Promotions’ ice scrapers, which he said are one of the company’s more popular items. “They could be given to employees for a safety program,” he said. Giving an example of how such a program might work, he added, “For internal distribution, hotels will use them and give them to their customers as they come in.”
For such item like ice scrapers or drinkware, Haley had an interesting bit of advice. “What buyers see in the marketplace, what they see their competitors are using and what they enjoy personally, they extend to their business buying,” he explained, giving examples of end-buyers choosing ice scrapers because they operate in a northern region or selecting drinkware because they understand its promotional strength.
Car dealerships are perhaps not the best time to ask “If they’re in the car, what exactly are they doing?” However, not only are auto dealerships huge buyers of promotional products, but due to the nature of what they sell, they present opportunities specific to their industry. Because of the frequency that auto-maintenance can sometimes be required, Stoeck pointed out items that keep important phone numbers front-of-mind, like magnetic business cards for sales reps or mechanics, can be effective. He also highlighted how the inside of a car can provide space for promotions.
“There’s a local dealer where we live that offers free tires for the life of your car,” said Stoeck. “They could buy doorknob hangers and put it on all the gear-shift levers or rearview mirrors, so when you’re looking at that dealership, versus a competing dealer in the area, you’re going to remember, ‘Gee, they have free tires for life on all their cars, it was on every one of the cars in the lot.’”