By Timothy Mutsikwi
BRANDED vehicles, “Billboards on wheels”as I call them are a cost effective marketing tool that creates awareness of your business and gets your brand noticed.
It helps building a following amongst local consumers who become acquainted with your brand by seeing your company vehicle driving through their neighbourhood.
Driving a branded vehicle creates a huge opportunity to reach out to your audience and means that every day you drive past people;theythen have the potential to become your customers.
But, what if the employee driving a branded vehicle drives recklessly, does not follow rules of the road and showcases some behaviours that are not consistent with the organisation’s beliefs and values, what impact does this have towards a brand?
I am sure at some point you may have come across corporate branded vehicles being driven recklessly. All you went on remembering was the brand, not the driver, and if asked about it one is quick to say negative things about the brand.
Recently, a colleague of mine witnessed a top of the range branded vehicle that pulled off the road and the driver got off to relieve himself on the roadside. Not only is this behaviour not acceptable as it does not reflect good morals upon the perpetrator, it also puts the company whose vehicle is being driven by such an individual into disrepute.
Imagine the negative perception and reviews that the company would have gotten if one had taken a picture of this incident and posted it on social media. This could have possibly made the company lose thousands of customers. Branded vehicles represent the organisation and your brand 24/7, whether they are parked or not.
There are several ways that an organisation’s branded vehicles can affect how a brand is perceived, both in terms of their overall appearance and how the drivers behave on the road.
Behaviours such as using mobile phones whilst one is behind the wheel may cause other road users to associate this kind of irresponsible behaviour with the brand name.
Additionally, it is also important to consider the vehicle’s appearance when they are not in use. Having branded vehicles that look damaged or out of shape, may unconsciously be a pointer to prospective customers that the organisation does not consider safety as a priority and leaving the drivers of your fleet, especially branded ones displaying this behaviour exposes your brand to costly brand disrepute.
Employees, who drive branded vehicles, are brand ambassadors for organisations and as such their behaviour on the road should be in sync with the company’s values and more so its vision.
This means no speeding, running of red traffic lights, beeping horns unnecessarily and cutting other drivers off.
Bad driving and indecent behaviour can produce completely the opposite marketing objectives that an organisation would have hoped for by branding its vehicles as a way of creating awareness and exposing its brand to existing and potential customers.
Branding company vehicles allows organisations to reach a wider audience than its targeted market. In some cases, branding organisation’s vehicles has better results than spending money on billboards because you not only make the advertising targeted, but you have a higher reach when driving around.
Branded vehicles act as outdoor advertising, which falls under support media. It allows for continued coverage and thorough, repetitive messaging and is an attention grabber.
As such employees that are trusted with branded vehicles should remember that they should maintain the brand’s good will wherever they go.
With social media use having grown exponentially in recent times, brand custodians should always be careful in their conduct and put measures in place to safeguard their brands from bad behaviours and protect them from social media backlashes that may cost them a fortune to rebuild their brands.
Organisations should put in place additional measures and policies that guide the behaviours of employees who drive branded vehicles and adhere to them with the strictness of adherence they deserve and should also equip these employees with understanding that their behaviour on the road has a major impact on the brand.
The following five tips deal with driving behaviour and communication with drivers of organisation’s branded vehicles which if implemented can be helpful in protecting an organisation’s brand reputation:
Make sure drivers of your branded vehicles are proud of their job and the brand they work for;
Make it known to your branded vehicle drivers that they are ambassadors for the organisation when they drive its vehicles;
Introduce rules and the organisation driving policy: We do not park at undesignated areas, we wash the car at least once a week, we do not use the phone when driving, we are polite, we are responsible on and off working hours, we respect official laws and regulations and so on;
Give drivers examples of poor traffic behaviour that gives the organisation a bad reputation; and.
Inform drivers about possible financial consequences of poor traffic behaviour.
More so, bad driving affects the business in several ways which include lowering the vehicle resale value, increasing the organisation’s fleet maintenance costs, and keeping them off the road for longer, which resultantly affects the way the organisation serves its customers.
Bad driving puts an organisation’s drivers, other employees, customers, and members of the public at risk of losing their lives and certainly one would not want their organisation to be known as that organisation whose driver was responsible for road carnage as such reviews can affect the business.
- Mutsikwi is a marketing professional, and is currently the public relations and marketing officer at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe. — @TimMutsikwi.