As a viewer of Connecticut local television, you may have come across a very powerful commercial discussing the perils of texting and driving. What makes this “public service announcement” seeming commerical all the more impressive is that it was created by North Haven Auto Body (a collision repair shop). The commercial does not show the mechanics at work, provide a “peek” into the shop, equipment used, or tie the shop at all to the message until the very end. As a marketing approach, it captures attention, however, I wanted to learn more about the decisions that went into the making of the commercial. I reached out to Bob McSherry, the Owner of North Haven Auto Body to inquire about their marketing strategy.
The following is the interview I conducted with Bob.
- How is North Haven Auto Body differentiated from other repair shops (what is your unique skill or reason for customers to come to your shop versus others)?
Tough question to answer. I will not say quality repairs and great service. We do both but everyone says that! We are working hard on the total customer experience with our facility. Remember, no one wants to be here and our profession has not earned a lot of trust from the public due to the activities of some in the business. We are proactive in dealing with our clients. We do this every day, most only deal with this kind of thing a couple times of year. We stress empathy towards our customers. We work hard to earn their trust from the second they walk through the door. We also are very aware that first impressions are important. Our front office does not look like an auto body shop office. We hold classes for first responders on hybrid vehicle extrication which are hands on every 18 months or so and the insurers donate late model wrecks for the firefighters to train on.
2. How do you measure the “impact” of your advertising spending?
We ask our customers when they come in how they heard of us. We also get a ton of feedback on our commercials. Whether it is one of the comedic ones or the serious ones. I can tell you our texting commercial is the most talked about one. I get many emails and phone calls stating that it is a great thing that we are promoting this. Also, when I am out anywhere I get people asking “aren’t you the guy on the wait to text commercials?” (Of course they remember due to I am with Theresa from Channel 8!)
3. Given that you also appear on mid-day television segments occasionally, how do you evaluate the value of “PR” (being interviewed as an expert) vs. advertising (paid commercials)?
The daytime appearances supplement the advertising. The mid-day show on Channel 8 has a pretty loyal and large following. Every time I appear on the show it generates a lot of calls and comments. I have found it to be pretty valuable. It is viewed more by women than men and over 60% of the customers on original contact here are women.
4. You devote the time in your current commercial advertisement running on television to addressing the dangerous issue of “texting and driving” – why did you choose NOT to feature your shop, your employees, your skills, etc. and use a social issue?
Texting and driving is a serious problem. Next time you are driving ,look at the cars around you. It is terrifying to see how little attention people are paying to driving. The results of distracted driving could be life changing or ending for those involved. Face it, WE ALL DO IT. It needs to stop. I am a father of three and as a parent and a motorist this is very concerning. Nobody else in my profession does this. It makes me different in a very positive light.
5. Given that you focus on “young drivers” in the commercial advertisement, do you also collaborate with schools to deliver safety messaging? Are young drivers a “target audience” of the market you wish to feature or specialize in?
I really do not focus on young drivers. We all think that texting and driving is a young person problem. It is everyone in this stay connected 24/7 life we have gotten used to. It is everyone. I see people of all ages doing it. The commercial I use has younger people due to that is who the company I buy my commercials from cast in the spots. It is also viewed as a greater tragedy when young lives are lost. No matter what age, lives lost to something like this are equally tragic and preventable.
6. Are there plans for additional commercials that may address similar/related issues (perils of speeding, proper tire maintenance, driving in treacherous conditions, etc.)? If not, how do you “follow up” on the commercial (that is, IF you have plans to follow up on it)? Is there a long-term strategy you are engaging in around advertising and messaging?
I always look to add to my marketing. I am unsure at the present how to follow up or what my plan of attack will be. I have been starting to think of what would best fit. I will let you know as soon as I do! (My best ideas are when I see something and get that ah-ha moment!)
7. What feedback (if any) have you received from customers?
I get a ton of feedback from my customers. The texting commercial has had an unbelievable impact on the people that have emailed, called or bought up in conversation here. The most common response is they are impressed with the message and that they think it gets my business name out there more that anything else I could do. I agree wholeheartedly.