Autotrader Seeks To Be Brand Experience, Not Just A URL With New Look

Digital automotive shopping, trading, searching, and researching channel Autotrader has launched new logo, brand identity and reworked advertising. The effort involved New York-based brand consulting and design firm Lippincott, which worked with the company and its agencies to replace the familiar AutoTrader.com logo with a new look featuring a sleeker name, a dropped “t” and an "AT" visual evoking auto badges, within a circular field evoking an ignition button. 

Pointedly, the new look is also intended to translate much more effectively to different screens. Even the signature orange palette has been altered to give it what Lippincott designer and partner Michelle Matthews says is a more salubrious tone. "The idea is a bright and optimistic journey. We wanted to clean it up and add precision." 

Matthews tells Marketing Daily that the neology with the lower-case “t” is intended to free the name from association solely with a Web site, and make it more of a brand. “[The old name] was more functional — where you would go to buy or trade. We wanted to create an entity, not just a functional place. A brand name.” 

“We are going through some big transformations right now as it relates to how we want the brand to be experienced through different devices and platforms around car shopping,” says John Kovac, SVP of marketing at Autotrader parent Cox Automotive. “[Vehicle shoppers] are shuttling online and offline. So we are moving from what was traditionally a desktop presence to more of an experience, whether desktop, laptop tablet or phone.” 

He says part of it is addressing a profound migration to mobile, requiring a simpler, more visually stimulating logo. “Like most sites out there, we have seen a huge adoption and increase from tablets and smartphones. We don't see that slowing down. So part of it is definitely looking at real estate and screen size, and having something more condensed.” 

At its core, says Matthews, the new brand look evokes a road or a path. “It gives you the look and feel of a journey to the horizon.”

The brand revision broke Monday night with Autotrader's sponsorship of  ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” with a rebranding of the company's "Dukes of Hazzard"-themed ad campaign, via Southfield, Mich.-based Doner. Kovac says a full digital campaign starts this week, tapping into social leveraging, targeting mobile, and outreach to consumers in the shopping process. New York-based global digital firm 360i is handling online components. 

Kovac says the effort includes grassroots takeovers in cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago with street art and building wraps playing off the interconnectivity of online versus off. 

The company also redesigned its Web site to make it more emotionally engaging, per Kovac. It sports a new landing page with a simplified visual field and alluring vista of the open road. The automaker added dealership reviews, streamlined the search experience, and made a number of updates to its mobile tools.

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