It was March 11, 2020. Details were still somewhat sketchy, but there were murmurs of change bubbling under the surface as our nation barrelled toward springtime rejuvenation.
Hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes were slowly becoming necessities and commodities. Facemasks were slipping into everyone's consciousness. The conversations were shifting from passing to prevalent.
Initially, a few lesser-profile events were postponed. Businesses began closing and letting workers head home.
Then, a significant domino fell.
The NBA postponed the evening contest between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz citing public health concerns, and postponed the remaining 2019-2020 regular season games. It was the first major professional sport — and major event and gathering of any kind — to shutter operations. The next day, the national shutdown and COVID-19 protocols were officially a thing.
Sports arenas and stadiums. Concert venues. Breweries. Public libraries. Schools. Office buildings. All swallowed up by the surge of uncertainty.
iFrog followed suit on March 16, hoping it would only be a few weeks before we could reconvene in our beautiful facilities in downtown Easton, Maryland. Two weeks turned into July 4. That turned into Labor Day. The holidays were out of the question as the world plunged into coronavirus chaos.
It wasn’t until Spring 2021 that we began trickling back into the office. By then, we had reshaped ourselves to serve our automotive partners with the same enthusiasm of the pre-COVID landscape while adjusting to the remote working environment.
We helped get the initial word out about shopping online, contactless shopping, and the health and safety protocols should you choose to visit the showroom.
We helped our partners navigate the inventory crunch caused by the unforeseen semiconductor shortage.
We were at the forefront with our partners as custom ordering began dominating the headlines.
We were Born in a Dealership®, and even as the world changed, our roots were firmly planted in the showrooms, the lots, the websites, and the social media channels. We weathered the change and are better and stronger for it. Here’s an in-depth look at some of the challenges iFrog faced and overcame across these last 2½ years.
Physical to Digital
The immediate aftermath of the national shutdowns and health and safety protocols was the need to create social distancing and stem the spread of the virus. Since consumers still needed access to everyday goods, predominantly online shopping was more than just the new frontier. It was simply the wiser decision. That meant our partners’ websites had to be beyond presentable — it was now their digital lot more than ever. We fortified our partners’ websites end to end, focusing on paid and organic search efforts to drive qualified traffic, user interface, visitor experience, and a shiny new coat of creative paint to build brand recognition. The work during this time still resonates and serves as a solid foundation to this day.
Let’s Meet, Online!
An extension of the digital lot, social media presence also took a front-row seat during this time. Gone were the days when simply being on a social media platform would suffice. Social media now had to be beyond mere presence. The crucial balancing between the promotion of fixed and variable operations at the dealerships and the need to use social media to engage the community, sell cars, and amplify the brand became standard practices. Social selling dominated the platforms, where dealerships found a healthy mix of entertaining the masses and still running a business. Dealership sponsors were put in front of the mic, in front of the camera, from athletes to musicians and local celebrities, and their gravity on social media meant everyone could catch the orbit and go for a ride. Virtual test drives and walk-arounds conducted by salespeople, direct messaging, and on-the-lot hijinx all engaged rabid audiences clamoring for good content and greater access, and social media made it happen. iFrog surfed this wave, and we now offer social selling training, paid and organic TikTok optimizations and campaigns, and small-scale video production and motion imagery in our full suite of services.
Build Your Own
The semiconductor shortage meant fewer cars on the lot, bringing about a rediscovered method of purchasing the vehicles customers desired: custom orders. It began with getting the word out about the benefits of custom orders, and iFrog launched everything from paid media campaigns and organic social content to SEO-rich landing pages, with many of the latter organically ranking among the top local and regional searches for custom-ordering keywords. Our partners — including one in a small town of Maryland with a population just north of 7,000 but already heavy into the custom-ordering game — not only emboldened us to shift the messaging from buying off the lot to building your own vehicle, but we were already veering into this route before it became chic. One thing is for sure, custom orders — whether laced with OEM and dealership incentives or simply carrying the motivation of getting what you want — are here to stay, even as the lots begin repopulating with new vehicles.
If You Ain’t First…
You’re last. Well, maybe not last, but Ricky Bobby would not endorse the maneuver. First to market is not some novel method of reaching consumers, but the execution of campaigns remains the difference between success and mediocrity. Since national, regional, and dealership incentives were often sparse due to inventory shortages during the pandemic, going first to market with focused messaging on paid and organic channels became paramount. We had already launched thousands of paid advertising campaigns, going virtually day and date from when incentives were disclosed, but now the messaging was going multichannel. Meta Automotive Inventory Ads (AIA), TikTok, Google Performance Max, and even judiciously boosting and promoting organic social media are all now firmly in our wheelhouse, and we have honed and refined the processes to get your offerings first to market and generate solid leads.
Be it your website, social media channels, and sometimes even that well-placed billboard in town, we want your dealership to look the part! A significant branding project completed in Summer 2020 reshaped the look and feel of all our existing partners’ online channels, and it gave us a chance to either establish or strengthen the “Why?” Why buy from your dealership? Why service with your dealership? Why partner with your dealership? These are all questions many prospective buyers consider before spending their hard-earned money. Why choose iFrog? Our creative work is world-class, and the strength lies in our ability to help you build a brand or enhance what’s already there. Oh, and did we mention we were also Born in a Dealership®?
Effective marketing is about recollection, where you want to carve out a place in the audience’s subconscious, and successful multichannel marketing begins with consistency in creative and messaging. We think of the different channels as mini-campaigns, combining them for bigger marketing pushes. Sometimes it requires an all-out blitz — hit all the channels, hit them hard, hit them simultaneously, hit them often. Other times it’s balletic, a delicate dance of delicate cadences based on timing, rhythm, opportunity, and the audience's pulse. Automotive marketing requires a particular touch, and the balance between strategic exposure and oversaturation to avoid audience fatigue. Through paid media, organic social media, website content, email marketing, paid search, and even physical media such as billboards, flyers, mailers, and pamphlets, iFrog is eminently equipped and prepared for multichannel marketing. Once the campaign is complete, we can also provide the data to measure the success, and then we can begin discussing the next campaign.
The Proof is in the Conversions
Of course, the best campaigns produce the best outcomes, and conversions are essential in automotive marketing. Traffic alone doesn’t move the metal, making focused, targeted audiences necessary. So, whether on the physical lot or the digital lot, face to face or on the web, buying from in-stock inventory or custom ordering, going first to market or timing the entry, branding, value propositions, multichannel, single channel, all the big and fancy words that both excite and behoove, it needs to end with good leads and good results. While an awareness campaign is often the best execution method, helping our partners keep their dealership’s lights on, keep their families fed, aid their communities, and be beacons of goodwill and prosperity all come down to conversions following advertising and marketing efforts. Born in a Dealership® is not just a ringing catchphrase or trademarked hullabaloo. Many of us were once on the other side of the table, and when the world threw us a curveball, we were already dug in, ready to swing.