Rebranding AutoNation, Richard III And Muzak

The 180 non-luxury-car dealerships in 15 states that sell a broad swath of automobile nameplates from “coast to coast” under the direction of AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson will all be operating under the AutoNation banner come June, the company announced last week as it released an earnings report that beat expectations. 

“The aim: to make AutoNation the go-to stop for cars, like McDonald’s for burgers,” writes Doreen Hemlockin the [South Florida] Sun-Sentinel.

“Until last week, AutoNation was mainly a name used only at the corporate level,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph B. White. “Most of the stores that sold mass-market brands such as Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota or Nissan operated under 15 different regional names, such as AppleWay in Spokane, Wash., or Treadwell in Mobile, Ala.”



White offers a fascinating look at the decision behind the rebranding, which has been 14 years in the making, by taking us inside a rally of 1,000 or so “cheering” employees bearing “clacking noisemakers emblazoned with the AutoNation logo” in a theater near the company headquarters in Fort Lauderdale on Friday. The true believers were assembled to observe the retirement of the name “Maroone,” which has been used by many of the company’s South Florida stores for 58 years. 

The revamp will include a new website, a new financing package called “SmartChoice Pricing” and other innovations. AutoNation plans to spend $18 million in advertising the effort. “We will drill it into people’s heads,” says AutoNation president Mike Maroone, whose dad, Al, started the dealership. 

“Imagine if Amazon or Google had a different name in every state,” CEO Jackson tells Hemlock. “You have to unite under one name to take the brand to the next level.”

Apparently, though, it’s never to late to set a branding course correction.

Your lasting image of Richard III may be the one impressed upon you by Willy Shakespeare in high school English: a limping, hunchbacked, conniving power monger who murdered two young nephews in the Tower of London to protect his throne. 

As you may have heard yesterday, historians are convinced they’ve found the III’s bones beneath a parking lot of a cathedral in the East Midlands not far from where he died more than half a millennia ago in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last major tussle of the War of the Roses (which was almost as protracted as the Cola Wars).

“Among those who found his remains, there is a passionate belief that new attention drawn to Richard by the discovery will inspire a reappraisal that could rehabilitate the medieval king and show him to be a man with a strong sympathy for the rights of the common man, who was deeply wronged by his vengeful Tudor successors,” John F. Burns writes in the New York Times.

A facial reconstruction based on the newly discovered skull has led historian John Ashdown-Hill to proclaim, “that the model was so lifelike” that it was ‘almost like being face to face with a real person,’” Andy Rudd writes in the [London] Mirror

And in a British TV documentary last night, Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, who originated the search for the hastily dug grave, said: “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant. I’m sorry but it doesn’t. He’s very handsome. It’s like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now.” 

If you were filming this scene, you’d want some sappy background music playing in the background, of course. And what better source than Muzak … er, Mood Media. 

As the New York Times’ Ben Sisario reports this morning, the company will announce today “that it is consolidating its services under a single brand, Mood, thus eliminating the Muzak name.” 

The Concord, Ont.-based enterprise, which bought the Muzak brand a couple of years ago, is indeed much more than elevator music. It’s “a leader in so-called sensory marketing, providing stores and other businesses the sights, sounds and even smells to envelop their customers,” Sisario writes, with “divisions for signs, interactive displays and scents, which it says reach 150 million people each day at more than 500,000 locations around the world….” 

Over at the website early this morning, the home page trumpeted: “We have a new brand and a new vision. Visit Mood Today to learn more and explore the world of Experience Design.” Alas, repeated clicks on the “learn more” button rendered the visual equivalent of silence: “!Problem loading page.”

As the red-hot Coursera learned the hard way this weekend -- when it was forced to suspend an online course about how to run an online course because of technical glitches, as Ki Mae Heussner’s story on GigaOm puts it – you’ve got make sure you’ve got your IT lined up before you generate all that buzz.

Or, to borrow from Richard III, “A web page, a web page, my kingdom for a working web page!”

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