Take the Tears out of Tier 2 Marketing

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It's widely agreed that all three automotive marketing tiers should be aligned and integrated from a messaging and timing perspective. While we in the business dissect the communications strategies into three tiers, consumers may only know the difference between a dealer ad and a "factory" ad. The distinction between Tiers 1 and 2 is of little importance to the consumer if the communications are properly aligned and the message is integrated throughout both tiers. Herein lies the problems of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 knowledge gap.

At its core, Tier 2 is the bridge between the manufacturer and the dealer that maintains brand integrity while driving local retail marketing. And, now more than ever, marketers are having a terrible time getting their arms around measuring and improving their efforts at this level. In fact, this is the single greatest concern on automotive marketers' minds right now, as noted at the recent Dearborn and Newport Beach iMedia Driving Interactive Summits. How odd, though, since Tier 2 has succeeded for decades without this challenge. So, why is this top of mind all of a sudden?

To start, Tier 2 spends more than Tier 1. So, imagine you lead the automotive marketing efforts at a major automotive manufacturer. Despite the massive budget available to you as a Tier 1 brand, you're outspent by dozens of fragmented dealer associations around the country. Furthermore, media proliferation and audience fragmentation are occurring faster than any time in history, making it difficult for even the most disciplined brand to communicate with one voice. Finally, because new media are more measurable, clients want more accountability. But who wants to be accountable for something that isn't yet completely understood? Dozens of distinct voices without unified direction more resembles the world's worst choir than a good marketing plan.

Despite Tier 2 being the perceived challenge, nearly all of the frustration occurs at Tier 1. One reason is that there is such a wealth of marketing intelligence available at Tier 1 that it's frustrating for manufacturers to see what isn't happening at Tier 2. For instance, how many Tier 1 interactive groups have used an online random sampling study to measure their interactive efforts? Probably most. Unfortunately, few Tier 2 marketers have even been exposed to such a tool, much less used it. The lack of frustration at Tier 2 may then be a case of "what you don't know can't hurt you."

So what can be done? Solving this problem requires investigating the cause. First, disseminating this reporting and intelligence to dozens of offices/agencies and getting them to read it and making it readable enough for staffers at all levels is immensely difficult. Additionally, all retailing is local. So, information which only contains national data is often disregarded because it's a "Tier 1 problem." This is then further compounded by territorialism that often occurs because dealers and folks in the field "are out here every day" and "know what it's like on the ground." 

However, we're not here to fix blame, we're here to fix the problem. To do so, let's examine a brief real world scenario and determine the best way to attack. Dallas-Fort Worth's 44.9 percent is the lowest cable penetration of any major market in the U.S., according to tvb.org. Additionally, D/FW has the highest DVR penetration of any major market: 26.5 percent according to a recent eMarketer statistic. Knowing just these two pieces of information would make me significantly rethink my TV strategy, including the likelihood of reducing the importance of TV in my D/FW media plan. How many D/FW associations made real changes as a result of this free, publicly available information? My guess is very few.

Next: So, if you're involved with Tier 2, what can you do?