Telling Stories and Buying Cars

Branding is all about telling a story. A brand is not only the products that a company sells, it includes the customer’s entire experience with the brand, from the website to the television commercials to the store where the products are sold.

People make judgements about brands and companies in a matter of seconds (a great read on this: Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink). We make a decision on brands, products and organizations almost instantaneously and then stick to that decision no matter what information may try to prove them wrong.

And the thing is: you never know what part of your story will strike a note with someone and get their attention.

A couple weeks ago, we got into a pretty bad car accident and one of our cars was totaled. So, whether we liked it or not, it was time to go car shopping.

First place we stopped at was a Nissan dealership, a bit on a whim because I had been (not so) secretly eying the Nissan Xterra for a little while now. Plus, I had some great experiences when driving Nissan vehicles in the past.

As soon as we parked and got out of our car, we were greeted by a car salesman who immediately struck us as overbearing and pushy. At that split moment, we decided that there was no way we would buy a car here.

We had our mind made up before we even started looking at cars. Our instincts were further confirmed when the salesman continued to try and push us to look at cars and even talk to his manager when there were clearly no used cars on the lot we were interested in.

So we left. Without even opening a single car door. And now, with a tainted impression of the Nissan brand.

Next up was a KIA dealership. But when we drove onto the lot, we practically got stuck in a corner because of a packed and difficult to drive through parking lot, being made worse because of a woman who had her car sitting in reverse and would not move for about 10 minutes.

So before we even got out of our car, we already had a bad experience. That, paired with my impressions the quality of KIA cars, had me thinking that I didn’t want one of these cars.

But after looking at a few of their crossovers (the interior was nice!), we even went for a test drive. However, one of their salesmen rode in the car with us. Because of that, I never felt comfortable driving the car. So away we went, sans car, again.

Plus, when I think “KIA” visions of dancing hamsters come to mind.

Finally, we made our way to the Hyundai dealership. Before even stepping foot on the dealer’s lot, we already had good impressions of the Hyundai brand:

– Our totaled car was a Hyundai
– Our current rental car is a Hyundai
– Our past rental cars that were Hyundai drove well, and we enjoyed them.

When we got out of our car to look around we weren’t immediately pounced on by a salesman. We were greeted, but then allowed to look around on our own before asking someone to open the cars so that we could look around.

Our salesman had some sort of Caribbean accent, which was perfect for me and my love of the islands. He was also honest, laid-back and didn’t push us at all on a sale.

When we went to test drive the Hyundai, we were just given the keys and told to bring back the car in about a half hour or so. Since Paul and I were in the car by ourselves, we were relaxed and free to chat about the car without someone breathing down our necks.

In the end, which car do you think we purchased?

Hello, Beautiful.

Shopping for and buying this car was a perfect example of how branding (and by that, I mean the entire customer experience) can affect what a consumer will purchase.

How can you implement some of these points into your own company’s branding?

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