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Choose Marketing: ARA’s New “Choose Recycled Parts” Awareness Campaign

Influencing consumers to use genuine recycled auto parts was never easier! ARA’s new marketing campaign for auto recyclers “Choose Recycled Parts” is customizable and ready for print, billboards, TV, radio, website and social media. It all speaks millennial … and it’s free!

By Jim Davis

In 1959, Volkswagen introduced a product that would change the way Americans think about their cars. Carl Hahn, the president of Volkswagen, asked his ad agency to promote a car that was small, ugly and cheap. And to make it more challenging, it was a foreign car that Hitler had a hand in creating! How could they convince the American public to fall in love with this little car when most vehicles were built for oversized luxury in Detroit?

Small Thinking Pays Dividends
Thanks to an Ad Man named Bill Bernbach, the VW Beetle became as “American as Apple Pie.” The campaign was recognized by Advertising Age magazine – a publication dedicated to monitoring the successes and failures of advertising – as the greatest ad of all time. And it changed the car industry forever.

The most famous ad featured a small picture of the car with the headline “Think small.” The ad text highlighted the advantages of driving the small Beetle vs. a big car. As a result, the Beetle became the biggest selling foreign-made car in America throughout the ‘60s.

This simple story illustrates the power of advertising – not only to drive sales but to change perception.

The story of the VW Beetle could be compared to the automotive recycling industry. Very few people understand how automotive recycling works. Those that do may still think of salvage yards as unsophisticated, dirty garages filled with junked cars when in reality, as you know, salvage yards are highly sophisticated, inventoried warehouse(s) of carefully recycled auto parts organized with state-of-the-art technology.

We think it is time to change the mis-perception!

Perception Made Reality
The quandary is, and always has been, how do we get mainstream individuals to think differently in the car repair process to consider requesting recycled parts as a highly viable option for their car repair? Who is the advertising target market most likely to adapt?

That’s why the ARA introduced a new consumer-based advertising campaign this year at the ARA Convention in Dallas. The campaign is designed to attract millennials (ages 18 – 30). Why millennials?

According to JD Powers, millennials account for over 80 million in the U.S. population surpassing the Baby Boomers. They are now the nation’s largest living generation. So the obvious answer is: It’s a demographic you can’t afford to ignore.
Yet once our research began, we uncovered more about millennials that make them a profitable market.

The ARA formed an Awareness Task Force to tackle this project which included auto recyclers and others with industry marketing expertise and experience. The team consisted of auto recyclers Scott Robertson and Paul Kowalis, and marketers Amanda Zmolek, Mary Moberg and Jim Davis, among others.

To ensure that the messaging was on target, the team worked with Mind*Spark, a creative agency in Minneapolis, and conducted a series of focus groups with millennials to better understand their characteristics, their buying habits, their online behavior and much more.
There were five major topics of conversation:
1) How they feel about the vehicle, in general, and vehicle repairs;
2) How they view recycling and the environment;
3) How they prefer to get news and information;
4) What is means to them to be a millennial; and
5) Their review of the advertising campaign.
The focus groups proved to be a valuable exercise. Not only did we uncover some fundamental truths about their generation, we also learned what millennials would like to see and hear in an advertising campaign. Some of the most notable takeaways were that millennials care, first and foremost, about cost. The amount they spend on car repair and car parts is more important than the environment. And secondly, car repair is a dreadful experience to them.

Here are other important discoveries regarding the millennial generation:
1) The environment is important, but not as important as money.
2) Millennials don’t know much about recycled car parts.
3) They don’t trust recycled car parts.
4) When it comes to their car they will always ask for advice from a trusted source (usually their dad).
5) If it’s too complicated or expensive to use a recycled part, they won’t do it.
6) They were excited to learn about recycled auto parts and were eager to learn even more.
7) They want things to be simple, clean and easy. Too much information and they’ll lose interest.
8) Most advertising turns them off. Unless it relates specifically to them about an issue they are experiencing they’ll turn it off.

Clearing Up the Message to Millennials
The initial campaign we shared with them had images of happy, attractive, young people in their cars with print ad headlines that speak to their skepticism regarding the use of recycled auto parts.

One of the biggest critiques was, “Why are these people so happy and optimistic? Getting your car repaired is not an enjoyable experience. The people in the ads should reflect that feeling.”

But, the print headlines were a big hit, like, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Overspend on Auto Parts” and “Your Car Won’t Feel any Different with Recycled Parts. But You Will” were very popular. So, we switched out the images with pictures of young people interacting with a mechanic and their car. The people in the ads weren’t fake happy people anymore. Now they were concerned consumers dealing with car repair and learning about the option to choose recycled parts. Millennials related to the people in the ads with empathy and could imagine themselves in that scenario.

The television commercials are also an important part of the campaign. Each one shows a millennial against a white background, speaking honestly and openly about the advantage of choosing recycled parts for your car or truck. (You can air them on local TV and/or use them on your social media and website.)

The TV and radio ads hit an emotional touchpoint that resonates with a core belief – “I don’t want to spend a lot of money on car repair.” Even though insurance usually will cover most of the repair bill, cost is still an influencer. When given the choice to use an expensive new part vs. an affordable recycled part, everyone would choose recycled. The goal is that by exposing misconceptions with facts, people will develop an appreciation for recycled car parts and demand them for their vehicles.

We envision the campaign to change mis-perceptions, such as: Junkyards are intimidating and finding the part I need is a hassle; My mechanic knows what’s best for my car and I trust him; Insurance pays for the repair so it doesn’t matter how much it costs; The salvage yard nearest me is small and probably wouldn’t have the right part; and, a used part might break easily or be inferior to a new part.

Make the Most of the Message
Since millennials use social media and mobile devices more than any other generation, your strong online presence is mandatory to gain their trust. Auto recyclers must be present in this space. The millennial focus groups told us that they do a tremendous amount of research online to make sure their decisions are based on reliable information. This includes competitive analysis, ratings, forums, and friends that have had similar experiences, all of which can be found online.

New research by social-influence marketing platform Crowdtap indicates that individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. Those hours represent a total across multiple media sources, some of which are consumed simultaneously. For example, a twenty-something may report spending two hours a day on Facebook, an hour a day answering texts and three hours a day watching television, which would count as six hours total, but may only be three “real” hours of her day if she does some of those things at the same time. “Millennials are always on,” says Anna Kassoway, Crowdtap’s chief marketing officer. “Some of it is passive consumption; a lot is media hours that are overlapping.”

To keep the campaign consistent from the advertising to the online user experience, we also created a online landing page,, that contains basic information about recycled auto parts. There, they will find key benefits to using recycled parts, statistics about how much of a vehicle can be recycled, and a link to locate your yard in ARA’s online Membership Directory.

In closing, this entire campaign – from print ads, radio and TV spots to billboards – is customizable to your business and free to use. We encourage all ARA members to create a marketing plan, and use the materials regularly. Remember it takes repeated exposure to a message to change a mindset or influence others.

Contact the ARA to get the free campaign materials. It pays to be an ARA Member.

Jim Davis established Mind*Spark Creative, Inc. in 2002 as a design and advertising firm to provide exceptional creative solutions for clients large and small, and to assist with projects of any size from a simple logo design to fully-integrated marketing and advertising programs. Their mission is to fully understand their clients’ marketing goals and develop creative concepts and solutions that achieve superior results. Mind*Spark Creative collaborated on the new ARA Marketing Campaign.