When all a prospective customer has to judge a shop is the name, a name like J & L really says nothing about the nature or quality of the shop. And this shop name is typical of many shop names that just reflect the owner’s name or names. But even those shops that intend to convey some degree of quality in their name—like Elite Auto Body, Precision Auto Body, Superior Auto Body, Supreme Auto Body, Ace Auto Body, etc.—are so commonplace they are no longer noticed. The effect can be the exact opposite of what was intended. Ideally, you need to create a name with a trademark image that no one can ever mistake as someone else’s! And that image has to convey quality and uniqueness at a single glance—not an easy task.
First of all, recognize your own uniqueness. Every human is different. We have unique fingerprints and voice prints. Your shop also has at least one unique characteristic. There is at least one thing that your shop does a little different (and hopefully a little better) than most shops around you. Find a way to emphasize that. You don’t necessarily need to change the name of your business, but you do need a sub-title, a slogan that strongly announces some specialty that is uniquely yours. Some shops specialize in a particular make of vehicle. Identifying their specialty is easy. They can announce: “We are masters of Jaguar repair” or “Porsche repair” or “Volvo repair.” Others may focus on being “paint-matching specialists” or “excelling in perfect restoration.” Shops that are already successful may not need much more, but those with no recognizable image need to be doubly creative. While actually changing the name of your body shop may be a more radical move than is necessary, it could also be a very powerful marketing action if a name with exceptional drawing power is selected.
A few body shops in the Los Angeles, CA, area have names that suggest certain characteristics. One shop, for example, is named Car-tique, an obvious adaptation of boutique, which suggests a small but elite type of shop. Another body shop was named Picasso, obviously a reference to the famous painter and an implication that this shop specializes in fine paint work. One shop in the Marina area was called the Insurance Collision Center, a direct reference to their primary source of work. Country Club Auto Body in Mission Hills would seem to be catering to affluent customers (or “wanna be” affluent customers). A shop that emphasizes service might want to choose a name like Red Carpet Auto Body, that says to a prospect, “Come to our shop and we’ll roll out the red carpet for you.” A name of this kind also provides some immediate ideas for decor.
In his “The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook,” Jay Levinson has a number of good suggestions on name selection that might apply to body shops. For openers, he discourages seeking advice from friends, family, and other casual bystanders. He notes that names selected by committees are “usually losers.” He suggests instead making a list of the qualities your business emphasizes, with an eye to incorporating a key quality in the name of your shop. Some examples might include speedy, reliable, fearless, flawless, professional, or jiffy. Jay also cautions against the word international—a word so frequently used that it gets lost in the shuffle. It takes up six full columns in one Business White Pages alone!
Some marketing research done many years ago turned up the fact that people were unusually attracted to the word apple in a business name. After that survey, there was a rash of new businesses with the word apple in the name. These ranged from Apple One Employment Agency to The Apple Farm restaurant, Apple School, and, most famous of all, Apple Computers. In New York I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shop called Big Apple Auto Body, but elsewhere it may be wiser to come up with a different approach.
After all is said and done, if a shop’s name is Superior Auto Body and the work isn’t “superior,” or even competent, no amount of name-changing is going to compensate for that liability. And if a shop’s name is Mediocrity Plus but the work is excellent, the name will be only a small liability. A good name or slogan is an essential part of a good “first impressions marketing strategy,” but once a prospective customer is in your shop and has experienced your fine quality of work, it will no longer matter what you call your shop. When you’ve chosen well and communicated it well, your “trademark image” will be indelibly branded on the minds of both customers and prospective customers and will quietly contribute to your continuing prosperity.