Advertisers today continue to shoot straight…..at their own feet. This is nothing new, by any means — I’m just amazed it hasn’t changed. I believe people today are still hesitant to believe ad claims (especially price-related ones) for very good reason. They’re being tricked. Not lied to, exactly…mislead by little qualifiers that make the “big news” in the ad shrink in the face of reality, leading to disappointment.
I shouldn’t pick on car dealers. Heck, I recently lost a little magazine humor column I had written for years when the thin-skinned New Car Dealers Association in town couldn’t stand a little humor aimed at some ads (most not even from their dealers). I got lots of compliments on that column, boys; the public agrees with me. (I don’t blame the magazine for caving under ad revenue pressure; that’s where we – and journalism — are today.) Car dealers aren’t the only ones doing it, but they’re so visible.
Even with the success of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, dealers can’t help themselves, and have to turn it into business as usual. One local dealer offers to extend similar help if you’re buying a USED car, with language something like, “We’ll give you up to $4,500 cash for your clunker no matter what it’s worth.”
Let’s parse that disaster. Big clue, folks — watch out for “up to.” Don’t think you’re going to score big by trading in that rusty slug in your driveway. If it’s worth $1000, they’ll give you the customary $300. (And that’s okay – they need to make money, too.) . And they haven’t lied. Because you know what $300 is? It’s somewhere in that forty-five-hundred-dollar-wide oil slick called “up to $4,500.” You see, “up to” means “as much as” — but that range has a lower end that could leave you hungry at Taco Bell. Customers find that out, and surprise… they’re annoyed. You got ’em in, all right. But so what?
Another favorite: “at or below factory invoice.” Everyone KNOWS dealers are still making money in other ways on each of those vehicles. (Anyone who doesn’t shouldn’t be driving.) So why even SAY it? It just destroys credibility even more. (If what they want you to think was really true, they’d cry every time a customer came in!)
I like cars, and even car dealers, and want to see them rebound. But tough love here, guys – it will happen faster if you act like you understand that today’s buyer is better informed and justifiably skeptical. That doesn’t mean turn up the schmaltz or talk louder. It means be enthusiastic, be funny, be creative in your ads. But put away the weasel-words. It’s hunting season on those babies.
No hard feelings, but get real, GRNCDA. NO families were “insulted” in the writing of that column. But “if we can’t beat your best deal we’ll give you the car!!“??? Now that’s an insult.