Branding is important to any business that wants to make its mark, stand out from the crowd and enjoy long-term success. In the car industry, manufacturers have some of the most well-known, easily identifiable brands anywhere in the world. Because of this, it can be tempting for car dealerships to employ an automotive brand strategy that focuses entirely on the name and reputation of the vehicles they sell. Unfortunately, this comes with the cost of not establishing themselves as being a distinctive brand in their own right.

However, it’s essential for the long-term prospects of your dealership to develop your own brand identity. Forging your own image can help to build a reputation, attract new business and do a better job of retaining existing clients. Ultimately, it could make the difference between standing proud for decades-to-come and sinking without trace within a year.

Let’s take a look at how automotive dealerships can establish themselves as exclusive brands — and become a force to be reckoned with along the way.

Why Automotive Brand Building is Important for Dealerships

It’s a common misconception among the general public that car dealerships and manufacturers are one and the same. While the biggest brand names in the automotive industry are so instantly recognisable that they have developed enough customer loyalty to sell themselves, the same can’t be said of many dealerships. Therefore, dealers who don’t take steps to establish their own identity are in the precarious position of being entirely beholden to the manufacturer.

smiling salespeople in automotive dealer brands

Brand loyalty directly impacts upon business performance and footfall (both on and offline). Dealerships that have a more powerful brand identity tend to create stronger, longer-lasting relationships with their clients, which leads to greater longevity. Further to this, developing your own identity is the best way to differentiate your business from other local dealers who stock the same marques within their own automotive brand strategy.

It’s worth considering a hypothetical when summing up the reasons for building your own brand. Imagine if your relationship with your manufacturer had broken down to the point of being irretrievable. Effectively, you have no other option than to switch over to a different franchise. Would you be sure that your customers would all sacrifice their car manufacturer loyalty to stick with a dealership that had started selling a completely different make of car? If the answer is no, that’s the clearest possible indication that you need to do more to future-proof your business by establishing your own identity.

3 Examples of Effective Automotive Dealer Brands

It might be easy to assume that globally-recognised vehicle manufacturers hold all the cards when it comes to franchise agreements. However, there are plenty of examples of dealerships having gained enough personal clout to be able to break away from the mega brands and forge their own path. Let’s take a look at three of them:

  • Arnold Clark: Europe’s largest privately-owned car dealer announced in early 2022 that it would be ending its franchise agreement with big-hitters Ford and Toyota. The reasons given were that the dealership and manufacturer were, “…headed in different directions.”
  • Hunts Motorcycles: The Manchester-based motorcycle dealer recently made waves by switching from a long-term relationship with Honda to Japanese rivals Yamaha.
  • Marshall Motor Holdings: The dealership, founded over 100 years ago in Cambridge, is the 7th largest motor group in the UK. In 2022 the company announced that it would no longer stock big-selling Kia cars.

The truth is that establishing your dealership as its own unique entity will put you in a position of strength. If your name resonates with the public, there are no limits to what you can achieve. And it all starts by rejecting the usual automotive brand strategy and aiming to establish your dealership as its own unique identity.

Creating an Identity Through Automotive Work Uniforms 

One of the easiest ways to establish your own identity comes with your choice of employee clothing. Workwear is more than just a basic automotive work uniform, it’s an extension of your brand and an opportunity to make a great first impression. Choosing the right workwear for each team within your dealership not only makes them feel special — and more likely to go the extra mile — but also acts as a visual cue to the public. After all, a shirt and tie could be worn by anyone, whereas a dealership-branded polo shirt is practically an open invitation to ask your sales team about your vehicles.

The workwear you choose sends a powerful signal to both existing and potential clients. Sticking with the example of the traditional shirt and tie, this style of workwear gives off an air of formality that has been proven  not to appeal to younger demographics. However, a simple polo shirt and lightweight jacket look much more relaxed and informal. It all plays a part in establishing the right atmosphere – and that atmosphere can become a key element of your brand.   

car interior with branded vw keyring


Finally, choosing the right workwear also gives you the chance to get your brand name out there. Just think about all the people on your team who travel to and from work on public transport — everyone of those people is an opportunity to get your name noticed. If they’re looking and (assuming they’re in the right workwear) feeling good, this will shine through in their attitude. As they travel to work, they’ll be the ultimate brand ambassadors, all without having to spend a pretty penny coming up with a comprehensive marketing campaign.

If you’d like to read more about the many incredible benefits of customised workwear, you can read our comprehensive blog here.

Using Customised Merchandise to Build Automotive Brand Loyalty

Perhaps the best way to keep your customers happy — and keep them coming back — is to make them feel valued. Successful automotive brand strategies commonly include things like incentive, or loyalty, schemes and premium after-sale services. However, building brand loyalty doesn’t need to come from expansive gestures. It can also be forged with smaller details that, in combination, make a lasting impression.

One of the best ways to promote your dealership and make the customer feel special is by using customised merchandise. Let’s take a look at some of the quality merchandise you could promote and how these little details can quickly amount to big wins:

  • Keyrings: The humble keyring is the perfect giveaway. It’s only a small thing but it imprints an enduring memory of the salesperson who supplied the customer’s soon-to-be-cherished new vehicle. It will act as a constant reminder for the new owner (and maybe even the next owner!) of the giddy high they felt when they bought their lovely new car. 
  • Umbrellas: A good, durable umbrella is invaluable. On a practical level, having one to hand in the sales department is a nice touch, as it can help keep the customer dry while viewing cars in the rain. And everyone loves viewing a car in the rain, as it irons out all the paint imperfections and makes the car look its absolute best. That aside, there’s no better advertising space than a big brolly.
  • Team Drinkware: From travel mugs to water bottles, team drinkware look good on your teams’ desks, and double up as handy service giveaways. Everyone loves a long-lasting cup for their morning coffee, so why not give them one that has your name on it?

mechanic in branded automotive work uniform

How Leighmans Helps You Develop Your Automotive Brand Strategy

If you’re determined to get out from beneath the shadow of your manufacturer’s overpowering automotive brand strategy, clothing and merchandise are ideal places to start. 

Firstly, you’ll need a supplier of customised automotive uniforms who can help your teams feel at-ease and ready to represent your dealership in the best way, every day. Leighman’s have poured all of our hard-earned experience in the automotive industry into a range of work uniforms that are both versatile and premium quality. We’ve twinned these stylish branded clothes with our one-of-a-kind Workwear Wizard — the app that makes it easy for your team to choose their preferred style and size and dramatically reduces the sizing and ordering process. 

Finally, you’ll want to think about ordering merchandise. A lot of dealerships think they have to buy direct from the manufacturer but this isn’t the case. In fact, you could save 33% on anything from water bottles and keyrings through to umbrellas by choosing Leighmans. This is your chance to put yourself front and centre in the eyes of your customers and to show them they’re valued with memorable merchandise. 

Ultimately, dealerships who don’t have their own identity shouldn’t expect to have the same success as the ones who do. If you’re ready to make your mark, we’re here to help. Contact us today.

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