Though I dislike the campaign
overall, I give this dealership
high marks for a classy response
Garff’s current campaign features the slogan “We hear you.” The idea is that Garff salespeople, unlike salespeople who work for the other guys, actually listen to you.
A problem arose with Garff’s most recent billboard. Next to a photo of a not terribly sympathetic looking police officer was the headline, “He doesn’t hear you. We do.” Almost immediately, a no longer little-known group calling itself Police Wives of Utah took loud, public exception.
Garff’s official response belongs in every PR textbook under “How to do it right.” Rather than dodge with a non-apology like “We’re sorry our billboard was misinterpreted,” they owned up to the Garff-gaffe with candor and class via posts like these:
The offending billboard. To see the image full-size in The Salt Lake Tribune, click here.
“At Ken Garff we are grateful for all of the hard work of our law enforcement. We seriously regret our messaging and apologize for making light of their service. We blew it.”
“While the picture of the officer was used with his permission, it doesn't excuse the mistake we made.”
current advertising campaign. But only almost.
If you prefer to end on a positive note, stop reading now.
OK. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The “We hear you” campaign seeks to differentiate Garff as the dealer whose salespeople listen. I dislike it for two reasons.
One is that I doubt it’s relevant. When was the last time you heard a prospective car buyer bemoan, “If only there were a dealer who listened?” Sure, we dislike pushy salespeople who don’t shut up or won’t unwrap their arms from around our ankles, but that is a far cry from yearning for a dealer who is a good listener.
The other is that I don’t believe the claim. If Garff screens job applicants for listening skills and provides staff with regular listening and validation training, the ads should say so. They don’t, and neither does Garff’s website. In fact, all it does is find a longer way to say “We hear you”:
“The message we're trying to convey is that our customers should expect a very different car-buying experience when visiting a Ken Garff dealership,” says Brett Hopkins, CEO of Ken Garff Automotive Group. “We've learned, through extensive research with customers, that in most car-buying experiences, sales people do too much talking and not enough listening to customers. We’re committed to providing an experience for our customers where they will not only want to come back to Garff to buy their next car, but to tell their family and friends how we listened and really helped them find just the right car for them.”
“We hear you” is no less vacuous than Garff’s prior campaign, “We back up every car we sell.” Perhaps the wordplay was fun, but the lack of substance wasn’t. They offered the same warranty service all other dealers offered.