At Fairleigh Dickinson’s innovation lecture, featuring Avon CEO Andrea Jung, I sat next to an Avon rep on one side, and a retail automobile executive on the other. Roy Bavaro, director of corporate marketing and brand development of DCH Auto Group, wanted to hear how the advice of a CEO of one historic company (Avon is 125 years old) might apply to his company.
Founded 60 years ago by Shau-wai Lam, whose first auto dealership was Paramus Honda, it has more than two dozen dealerships in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and California. It sells nearly a dozen kinds of new and used cars, with sales of more than $1.83 billion. And like Avon, the company has a female CEO, Susan Scarola.
So before the lecture I pumped Bavaro on what was his firm’s secret sauce. “Grass roots marketing,” he said. “We slashed our traditional media budget.”
Coming from the newspaper world, I don’t like to hear that. But then I heard, “We took the funds and gave back to the community.” In other words, cause marketing.
Each dealership, including DCH Brunswick Toyota on Route 1 in North Brunswick, pairs with a high school and partners with “S.A.D.D.” or “Students against Destructive Decisions.” (Yes it used to be against Drunk Driving but the new term is more inclusive.) The DCH program is called “Keep It Out of Cars,” as in “mindless” driving, don’t do it.
“Cause marketing is good.” Bavaro said, “when it’s an important cause, when you believe in it, and when you have transparency.” You can’t be seen as profiting from it. DCH is very transparent. It’s hard to find the S.A.D.D. program on the website. “When we are at the high schools,” he said, “we are talking about the program. We are not selling cars.”