By: Derik Beck, VP of Digital Marketing, Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care

A key to creative, successful communication and marketing lies in gaining a fresh perspective on the industry you’re working in and the brand you represent. We’re creatures of habit and can fall into comfortable routines. Periodic brainstorming sessions and adoption of a mindset that embraces being as inventive as possible can counteract a retreat into the same old, same old. Specific tactics might include giving your website a face lift, developing enticing, consumer-facing promotions or contests or evaluating what competitors in and outside your industry are doing. Return to the basics with a team story idea session— the more originality and variety you incorporate into campaigns, the more effective they can become. No matter the industry, pushing for creativity allows marketing and communications professionals to tell the most compelling stories possible. Some of the best marketing strategies revolve around finding untold stories. Here are three tactics that have proven to be invaluable in uncovering untold stories.

As alluded to above, it can be easy to fall into a creative silo, which runs the risk of turning your campaigns routine. Sometimes it’s merely a case of being so close to a project that it’s hard to see it needs a new element. For example, the Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care website utilizes a series of marketing videos featuring an animated character called the Cottman Man. As we began planning for a new animated character, we wanted something unique. It didn’t take us long to see that an effective way to differentiate the new character from our existing animation had been right in front of us for quite some time: There was no female representation in our digital characterizations. As a result, we decided to make our new animated Transmission Physician character a woman. Besides honoring women past, present and future in our industry, it celebrated and recognized our women-run franchises. It also served as a signal to customers and potential franchisees that the brand values an inclusive environment, acknowledging women’s contributions to car care. By taking a step back, we were able to be more creative and inclusive in our messaging.

Often the most compelling campaigns come from identifying primary and secondary goals, and using one to accomplish the other. This tactic requires a fair amount of creativity. Cottman wants to find new customers and franchisees, but we’ve realized we can accomplish those goals best by showcasing current franchisees. You could say we come at the situation sideways. A method we employ to highlight our services and draw in talented entrepreneurs is by highlighting our franchisees on local TV news segments, where they give tips on car care specific to the local weather and demonstrate their expert knowledge. Creative marketing efforts like this tell a story to multiple audiences at once, and can accomplish more than one marketing goal in the process. One way to do this is by publicizing smaller features of your business—your delivery people always are on time, customers often call to remark on the quality of your products, store operators regularly become involved with community fundraising—to subtly draw attention to broader narratives of your organization: placing a premium on customer time, following excellent quality control processes, community giveback as a core company value.

Thinking creatively often means keeping an eye on the larger picture, and for many organizations that have become fixtures in their communities, the bigger picture is the neighborhoods they serve. Sometimes a marketing opportunity may not seem to yield immediate financial benefit for shareholders, or franchisees, but they have a positive impact on your relationship with the greater community. During the 2016 holiday season, Cottman released a coloring book series featuring the Cottman Man and distributed it to children’s hospitals. Our goal was to spread holiday cheer to those in need. In fact, the effort had several residual effects. Focusing on creating a positive, meaningful product for local kids refreshed our corporate and franchise teams. It also further established the brand as a community partner. Maintaining a perspective on what’s really important, and the core values of your organization, can help kick-start creativity by aligning a campaign with a worthwhile cause. As communications pros, it is vital to remember how storytelling fits into the broader corporate mission. Communicators have the chance to tell stories that resonate with internal and external stakeholders. The key to that resonance lies with your ability to push the limits of creativity to produce something truly memorable.

As originally published in PR News Pro on May 1, 2017 


About Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care

With locations across the U.S., Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care is a transmission and auto repair brand that services almost any make or model vehicle, foreign or domestic.  Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care centers specialize in complete transmission service, brakes, suspension, air conditioning service and much more. Cottman’s headquarters is based in Horsham, Pennsylvania.