Car Dealerships Are Driving Away With Free Advertising – How You Can, Too

Car dealerships have the market on low cost-per-impressions--learn how you can do the same. Have you ever driven up behind someone and noticed a car dealership decal on the back window (see image on right—the sticker is located below the back brake light)? If you live in Northern Colorado, your answer should most definitely be “yes.” Every dealership in the area must have gotten a great deal on back window decals. Or, rather, one dealership started doing it and all the others followed suit.

My husband has always been baffled by this and has even gone as far as to ask our friends who have recently purchased cars, “Did you get a discount for letting them put that sticker on your back window?” The answer is always, “No.” This response gets my husband riled up, mainly because he thinks the stickers are obnoxious. And, it always gets me thinking: how could other businesses capitalize on such an easy, and basically free, way to market?

If you did a cost-per-impression analysis of those window decals, I am sure it would be one of the lowest in the marketing world. Think about it—a one-time, super-low upfront cost for the dealership in exchange for years of free advertising. Where else can you get that?

While I’m certainly not advocating for every business to start handing out bumper stickers or window decals, what I am suggesting is that we all think about easy ways to get repeat impressions for a super-low upfront cost. I’ve never been a huge fan of useless promotional material, like pens and pads of paper no one else other than the user is really going to see. However, what could you give people or put on your product that wouldn’t be too obnoxious but would catch attention?

For instance, my husband and I recently purchased new trail running shoes and gear at a local running store. We ran by approximately 150 people last weekend on our trail run. Imagine if the running store would have given us free hats or shirts. Odds are good that we would have worn them, giving the running store 150 impressions. We wear our gear until it literally has no life left in it, so take that 150 impressions over several runs a month during a five-year span and you have thousands of impressions for a minimal upfront cost (the shirt or hat).

I often think about businesses that have a lot of competition in the area, like financial advisors and chiropractors. Imagine if someone in either business started differentiating themselves by targeting new clients through low-cost repeat impressions. If I’m in a spin class next to someone who is kicking my butt, I’ll take note. Should that person have a water bottle with his chiropractor’s information on it, I might associate that person’s athletic skills with good care and consider making an appointment.

Or, what if I’m out to coffee with a friend who pulls out her nifty wallet/smartphone case that has her financial advisor’s information on the outside. I might first think about how convenient the case is and then make a connection between her financial advisor and the service my friend receives (with convenience and foresight at the base of their relationship). The case can look super fashionable and merely have a small logo on it, generating just enough attention to open up dialog.

Sure, I’m stretching a bit, but the point is that if car dealerships can do it, so can you. Of course, who knows how many cars those dealerships actually sell based on the window decals. Repetition certainly can’t hurt though. Even my husband now has a dealership in mind when it comes time to purchase our next vehicle—but he’ll be asking for a discount before driving off the lot with a decal on our back window.

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