As I write this, the world is locked in a tight battle with the COVID-19 virus, and most of us have been asked to stay home to stop the spread of the insipid illness. Many in the auto community have been asked to either work from home, work for free, or not come to work at all. For those who are still open for business, there is a clamoring to let anyone who is paying attention know that the lights are still on. We see it. Then we groan.
On the very best of days, language is important. Professionals will choose words to trigger certain behaviors, reach certain personas, or cling to the top of our minds. “Just Do It” is still immediately associated with Nike 30 years later. “Finger Lickin’ Good,” will forever be linked to KFC. Both lay in very different places on the brand spectrum, but each of them immediately will bring visions to our head. Lacing up and running, driving through the lane for a dunk, enjoying Americana, or savoring the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices all come straight to mind. It is language done right.
In everyone’s defense, there isn’t a manual to deal with the situation that we’re in. The right words may not come immediately to mind. We are having a wartime response to an enemy we can’t see. Many are forced to idly watch as the news gets worse, while simultaneously trying to learn how to homeschool their kids. I’m not sure there are many individuals who have the skillset to properly reach individuals in this state of discombobulation. It’s hard to say if something feels right, but it’s easy to recognize when something feels wrong.
Taking my own advice, I’ll do my best to choose my words carefully.
The reactive advertising of dealerships during the COVID-19 crisis can benefit from additional thought. When it comes to our health, words like “new,” which implies that it’s never been tried and tested before, do not add much in the way of confidence. On the other hand words like, enhanced, intensified, increased, and improved suggests that what’s being highlighted has already been proven to work. Processes and procedures are not “exclusive” if they are not proprietary, or can easily be recombinated from readily available products and services. Now, if you want to explain a collaboration with local health experts and material scientists, we’re all ears. Making a hasty fresh promise to sell a clean car over the Internet isn’t enough. You’re capable of better, and it certainly deserves more scrutiny in these uncertain times.
Car dealerships have been deemed essential in many states, and that’s for good reason. Someone has to be there to ensure other essential workers like first responders, those in the medical community, or those who manufacture personal protective equipment can reliably get to where they need to be. Our focus should be on those who protect us, those who feed us, and those who keep the lights turned on. Those in retail automotive have a role to play, but IT IS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL.
In just a short period of time, we went from a life of perpetual plenty to one where scarcity and hoarding are the norm. Our security blanket, freshly tattered from 9/11 and the Great Recession has once again been torn off. But, we know how to rebuild, and we know how to make it better. Like those still recent events, we’ll remember who was there to help, and those who were there to get in the way. If you have to say something, make sure it’s worth listening to. Choose the right language. Your future business may depend on it.