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Business Operations

Branding basics

October 11, 2010
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Every business has a brand. The strength of each brand, however, can vary. Branding your business, specifically your carwash, starts with establishing and improving upon the public’s awareness and perception of your business name and logo. Businesses like McDonald’s, Apple, The Gap and Coca-Cola, to name a few, have all established and maintained strong brands in our consumer culture. Their brand names are what make them stand apart from the rest.

Promises kept
Branding involves a promise of value to your current and potential customers. Consider not only what the public thinks of your business, but also what you deliver to your customers. Your carwash image, when communicated properly, will establish your reputation among your community, increasing customer loyalty while bringing in new customers.

Branding is not just for newly constructed washes, but existing locations should also examine their wash image, whether it is completely revamping your entire wash brand or updating it every few years to keep up with the current trends.

How do I start?
Branding your carwash involves dedication from not only the owners and managers, but from every single employee and person connected with the wash. Make sure everyone involved understands the message you want to portray to your customers.

In order to start branding your wash, the entire company must agree upon what sets you apart from your competition.

First, decide how you want your community to perceive your wash. Are you in a convenient location? Do you offer multiple payment methods? Are your prices the lowest in town? Does your wash offer friendly customer service and quality services? Writing a short mission statement is a great way to clarify your values and what your wash represents.

Keep in mind that your carwash brand must be customer-focused. What does your wash achieve for its customers? In order to build a solid brand you must pay attention to what your customers need and then meet and exceed what your brand promises to the customer. Consistency and simplicity in your brand will help your customers remember your carwash.

The fundamentals of communicating your brand
Focus on a few branding fundamentals that will help give your wash a consistent look, reminding customers of your wash identity:

Customer service: The heart of your carwash image must be customer-focused because without customers, there would be no wash. Establish a core set of values and make sure every employee at your wash understands and demonstrates these values when dealing with every customer.

By building a strong company atmosphere that promotes customer loyalty and satisfaction, your wash brand will create a solid reputation that draws in more potential customers.

Signage: An easy way to communicate your brand is to place your wash name and logo on every decal, instruction sign, banner, and poster around your wash. Customized graphics throughout your wash provide a consistent look and feel.

Replace old bay decals with new, colorful custom decals that show your wash colors, logo and slogan. Some manufacturers will even customize your new equipment decals at the factory. Customized large banners, yard signage, wall posters and decals not only provide instruction to your customers, but offer an easy way to promote and brand your wash image.

Promotions: Wash promotions offer customers an incentive to use your wash over a competitor, convincing them of convenience, affordability or quality. Ranging from using wash coupons, giveaways (free washes or vacuums), birthday washes, referral rewards, VIP discounts and more, promotions are a great, easy and affordable way to set your brand apart and create customer value.

The next step
Successfully branded washes have more than just a logo and great customer service. Here are a few examples of how you can take brand communication to the next level:

Gift cards: Customized gift cards create customer loyalty while communicating your wash brand with your colors and logo. Find a card acceptance solution that accepts gift cards at every wash service — from self-serve to vacs and your pet wash — and that allows cards to be recharged. It is important that you incorporate your wash logo and colors on your cards as they are ‘mobile advertisements’ for your wash. Prepaid cards should include your wash address, website, phone number and key marketing messages or value statements that all help communicate your brand.

Advertising: When most people think of branding, they immediately think of advertising. Advertising is the quintessential method of communicating your brand. While advertising can be costly, it can also increase your customer base. Many washes will run advertisements in local newspapers or weekly shoppers including a promotional coupon to draw in more business. Ads, whether print or multimedia, should focus on your wash name and logo. Once your brand is well-established in your community, your ads can become more creative and unique in order to keep drawing attention to your business.

Business to business opportunities: Brett Pace, owner of Swipe N’ Shine Carwash in Murray, UT, declares that joining his local chamber of commerce is one of the best business decisions he has made. Not only did joining his chamber allow Pace to meet with other business owners and share ideas, but it increased his commercial and fleet business as well. Joining a local business group such as a chamber informs the community of your presence. It can help you make new business connections, hear new ideas, promote your brand, and generate new customers.

Fundraising: Charity donations and fundraising have a positive impact on your wash image. Not only do you help your community, you also build a positive public presence (and can write off the proceeds on your tax return).

Fundraising can include supporting local groups by offering use of your wash bays or selling gift cards at discounted prices. On-going fundraisers that offer residual percentages (example: 10 percent of revenue is donated to the charity each month) are great ways to support a local organization while bringing in new customers and strengthening your image.

Website: In today’s society, the Internet is one of the most referenced places for business information. Not only are websites effective in communicating your wash brand and logo, but they offer customers valuable information about your products and services. Websites should also provide customers with a way to purchase washes or gift cards online as well as access their account information and print coupons.

Once you have a website, make sure to include your web address on everything — this becomes a part of your brand, just like your logo.

Innovative branding strategies
Many carwashes today are going above and beyond to find inventive ways to communicate their brand. They are reaching more and more consumers by taking advantage of today’s technology and brand-obsessed society.

E-mail blasts/campaigns: If your wash has a database of customer e-mail addresses or a way to collect such information from customers, mass e-mail blasts are a great way to communicate to your loyal customers new promotions, specials or even send them electronic coupons or codes. Collect e-mail addresses from your fleet accounts and encourage customers to register their gift cards by letting them know they can receive special promotions via e-mail.

On-site radio: Manistee Auto Spa, in Manistee, MI, has their own on-site radio station that allows them to inform their customers via pre-recorded messages about upcoming promotions, discounts, specials, prizes, employment opportunities and more.

The radio station, available to listeners at the wash only, allows the wash to directly connect to its customers while they are washing or waiting to wash their cars. Manistee’s “Spa Radio” has received rave reviews throughout their community and the wash industry as an excellent way to go above and beyond the traditional methods of branding.

Wash mascot: Does your carwash have a character in your logo? Give your logo life by turning it into a mascot. For example, Manistee Carwash’s “Ms. Bug,” a green Volkswagen Beetle, is shown on their gift cards, signage, logo and website.

Taking it a step further, Manistee actually has a green VW Beetle, the real “Ms. Bug,” that has been decorated to drive in parades and around town to promote their wash. Carwashes with animals in their logos could purchase a mascot uniform to help promote their wash. Mascots are kid favorites and are very useful in community events such as parades, fairs, and fundraisers to help draw attention to your wash.

T-shirts, wash gear: Put your logo on a shirt. Your employees can wear them and you can sell them to your customers. Find a local print company that can create custom items like clothes, hats, key chains, can coolers, and more to generate a bit of revenue while getting your brand name out in the community. You could also offer to give your fundraiser participants or fleet account owners free T-shirts, key chains, or mugs for using your wash or sell the items online.

Sponsorship: Just like with fundraising, sponsoring a local group can enhance the public’s perception and spread positive feedback throughout your community. Sponsorship can come in several forms and usually requires donating funds or use of time. Check out your local community groups and schools to see where you can help. Community sports teams, charity drives, golf tournaments, and youth groups always need help and are more than willing to promote your business in return!

Branding in a nutshell
We all know branding is important. There are countless ways to communicate your brand to your current and potential customers. What’s imperative is that your message is being received and understood by your community. Stay focused on a few key factors to establish and maintain your brand:
  • Customer Service;
  • Consistency;
  • Simplicity;
  • Passion; and
  • Brand Management.
Branding is not always easy. It involves energy, money, and strategic thinking. But with the right resources and people behind your wash to communicate your brand properly and effectively, your business will generate happy, loyal customers resulting in higher profits and a growing business.

Megan Friedrich specializes in carwash marketing, specifically coordinating customized gift card design and equipment decals, website copy, and promotional strategies. She can be contacted at

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