Car Oil

Lessons from an oil change sticker

By Sean Carton, ClickZ, Jan 27, 2003


“Probably one of the most effective and innovating marketing tools of recent times is also one of the most humble: the oil change sticker” ... “That little piece of plastic, emblazoned with” the Company name or Logo, date and mileage “probably does more to sell oil changes and drive customer loyalty than retention programs costing millions.”


“Why is it so effective? First, it’s always there. Unobtrusive yet noticeable, that little reminder sticker serves up a subliminal reminder to the driver every time he gets behind the wheel.”


“Secondly, it provides a valuable service the customer appreciates. Though it probably isn’t absolutely necessary to change your oil every 3000mi. most of us have a hard time remembering when the heck we got the oil changed at all.  Having the number there really helps us keep track of routine maintenance.”


“Finally, by bearing the brand of the company providing the oil change, the company stays top of mind for the customer. In short, the sticker works because it gives the customer the tools to sell herself on the product.”


“Some marketing messages just hope to catch the right person at the right moment, but this one is there all the time. Also, the sticker isn’t perceived as a sales tool aiming to sell something the customer doesn’t necessarily want or need. It’s seen, instead as a helpful touch: Those helpful folks are just trying to help you keep your expensive vehicle maintained! Aren’t they just the best?”


Although many of us craft finely honed strategies involving complicated targeting schemes, live salespeople, exotic rich media deliveries, and catchy creative, we may be neglecting the simple things that help our customers sell themselves and become loyal to our brands.


As a prospect, I’ve gotten the marketing message, I’ve checked out the Web site, and, after receiving the information packets, I’ve dutifully filed the info away for later perusal.  Sometimes the timing is perfect and it's exactly with a client need. Most of the time, it’s not. Then I forget all about it. What I, as a prospect, need is the equivalent of the oil change sticker. I’m interested in the product, but I may not have an immediate need for it, so the company pitching me has lost an opportunity. On top of that, the information it’s sent me, while often well crafted and beautiful, doesn’t keep selling after the initial contact. Worse than that, the information doesn’t keep on selling to my clients. Instead of continuing to work for the company pitching me, the collateral sits in a drawer.


As marketers and salespeople we need to remember the lessons of the oil change sticker. We need to stay in front of our prospects and give them the tools they need to sell themselves when the need arises. We need to build loyalty and drive repeat business. Unfortunately, many of us still market using the approach that emphasizes timing, targeting and messaging. Though all of these definitely are important, our efforts often go unnoticed. As online and offline marketers, we carefully place media, spend big bucks on lists, create stunning rich media and use just about every high tech trick in the book to reach our customers. But once we’ve cast the net we consider our job over. Sure, we’ll optimize and follow up, but still that element of timing is always there, elusively taunting us with its unfulfilled promise.”


“If you can help your customers solve a problem with your marketing materials, those materials will gain a coveted front-and-center position.  The oil change sticker solves the perennial consumer problem of remembering when the heck to get oil changed.”


Branded sales tools help keep your name in front of customers long after they've forgotten about that spiffy email or ad.


This is the secret to the success of well-done advergames: They’re in front of the customer for a long time, subtly reinforcing the brand message time and again.