Black Hat Marketing Tactics to Avoid in the Auto Industry

Published: March 29, 2018  by 

A car sits behind a velvet rope with the text: Black Hat Marketing Tactics to Avoid in the Auto Industry

Ah, the auto industry. When most people think of auto dealerships, the ‘70s sleazy car salesman comes to mind. I personally think of Harry Wormwood, dressed up in his polyester suit, intentionally selling cars with bad parts.

Despite the caricatures we dream up in our heads, many of us still require a car. So, how can the automotive industry remove the negative connotations and assuage fears when purchasing a vehicle?

Harry Wormwood, while wearing a black hat, says "Nobody ever got rich being honest" as he puts dust in a car engine

Black Hat Marketing to Avoid

For starters, auto dealerships can remove black hat marketing techniques from their repertoire. Tactics like spam comments, paid links, paid reviews on Yelp, and keyword stuffing are all digital black hat marketing techniques that cannot only create a negative online reputation but also cause you to lose rankings in search engines. Google is known to suspend advertising accounts if they find malicious code.

By far the most significant black hat marketing technique used in the auto industry is the bait-and-switch. This selling technique is where you offer a sale or product to draw a consumer in, only to switch the product out or leave out essential details on the deal.

BigWing created spoof ad showcasing blackhat marketing.

The most common type of bait-and-switch in the auto industry is consolidating offers to make the sale seem better than it is. The problem is that many of those offers have lengthy conditions and often can’t be combined with other offers. The $15,000 off a truck offer turns out to only be $1,000 for most people.

Some auto dealers go even darker with this type of marketing tactic. They make consumers jump through hoops to get a car that may not be worth the gas it took to drive to the dealership in the first place.

“They will offer giveaways that no one ever wins,” an auto marketing insider, who prefers to remain anonymous, said. “There was once a time that I saw a TV offered as a giveaway to people who bought a new car. A month later, it was given to a secretary.”

BMWs waiting to be sold on a car lot.

Another familiar gambit, called Spot Delivery, is to advertise a low APR rate to get the consumer. The consumer will then sign and drive the car off the lot, only to find out that the financing wasn’t approved and they have to pay a much higher interest rate.

This ploy is also utilized for other methods of contract stuffing–where the consumer is pressured to sign before they read that the salesperson has tacked on hundreds, if not thousands, in “dealer fees.” Thus, the truck advertised for $15,000 suddenly costs $20,000.

Wear the White Hat

Olivia Pope from the TV Show Scandal saying "My white hat's bigger than your white hat."

You may be wondering why dealers should change their ways if the tried and true bait-and-switch technique brings in revenue. Well, for one thing, false advertising is illegal in most states. Here in Oklahoma, dealerships are subject to fines by the Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission (OMVC) if they intentionally mislead consumers.

“Three years ago, we fined a dealer $350,000,” Roy Dockum, executive director of the OMVC, said. “This dealer was in TV and radio advertising and was blatantly and falsely advertising. They were told to stop and continued doing the false advertising anyway for two to three weeks. They have been pretty clean ever since.”

Additionally, your ratings on Google, Yelp, and other local SEO listings sites could plummet. Consumers could also complain to the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.

Digital Marketing Analytics are shown on a screen.

So, what should you do instead? “There are several dealerships in Central Oklahoma that are creative,” Roy said. “They do it the right way. They present the consumers with good information. They back it up with great customer service when the customers enter the door.”

You can go far in your marketing by employing some of these white hat strategies:

  • Post both Everyone’s Price and the Conditional Price. For example: “$1,500 off for everyone! Take an extra $500 off if you are a current owner!”
  • Get involved in the community. This not only helps your neighbors but also builds your reputation as a dealer that is trustworthy.
  • Build trust through informative content. This can be anything from traffic reports to walking through new tech features in your fleet.
  • Boost service reviews. If someone came in, received terrific service, and wrote about it– share it on social media! Tools like Canva can help you make the quotes eye-catching for sharing on social media.

Ready to put on the white hat for your auto marketing? BigWing can help! Contact us to learn how we can help you put your best digital foot forward.