Car dealer hopes everyone will get the (ball)point
Ken Dixon pens flood region in marketing blitz
Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
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Staff photo by EMILY BARNES
Alex Dixon, left, and Tyler Manuel hold the company's famous pens at Ken Dixon Automotive in Waldorf. Dixon is the assistant parts and service director, and Manuel is finance manager with the dealership. The cousins came up with the idea to market the company's name by flooding the county with bright green pens bearing the company's logo.
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Is one Waldorf business' latest marketing campaign a stroke of genius or maybe … er, just a stroke of the pen?
Within the last year the county has been seeing green with pens advertising Ken Dixon Automotive. Sign a credit card receipt at a local restaurant or video store or ask to borrow something to write with, and then take a look at the pen in one's hand. Chances are it's a green Ken Dixon pen.
"Anywhere you go in Waldorf, they are there," Scot Taylor, manager of Chili's Grill & Bar in Waldorf, said about the pens. All of the Chili's employees are using the bright green pens basically because Ken Dixon employees provided the pens for free, and they provided a lot, Taylor said.
Boxes of pens have been dropped off at businesses throughout the county.
Alex Dixon, grandson of Ken Dixon and an employee at the Waldorf car dealership, along with his cousin, Tyler Manuel, who also works at the dealership, were the two who came up with the marketing strategy and were responsible for ordering and passing out the pens.
Ken Dixon Automotive sells new and used Honda, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles.
It's been about a year since the first shipment of pens came in and, Manuel said, it took about six weeks before the pens started getting attention.
"It's the most positive response to an advertisement we have ever had," he said.
He and Dixon said they get compliments on the pens often, and some people come to the dealership on U.S. 301 just to grab a handful of them.
Dixon said the dealership wanted to advertise with pens and "if we were going to get 100, we might as well get thousands," he said of making the decision to saturate the area with the pens.
Part of the campaign includes a billboard on the southbound side of U.S. 301 in Brandywine with Ken Dixon Automotive written in bright green letters with, what else, a picture of one of the green pens displayed underneath.
Unlike with coupons, Dixon said it is hard to determine whether the pens are bringing in more business. Employees can count the number of sales brought in with the coupon, he said, but there is no way to determine how many sales relate back to the pen.
Alex Dixon said the point was to get people to think of the dealership whenever they need their car serviced or are in the market to buy one.
He said the number of pens purchased is in the tens of thousands, but he would not disclose how much money went into the pen campaign or say specifically how many pens they purchased and distributed.
Bobby Jones, president of BJ Promotions in La Plata, sells promotional items in the area and across the United States.
Many of the pens advertised on his company's website range from 30 cents to 50 cents apiece when ordered in bulk.
Prices could be higher or lower depending on the type of pen.
Jones said, while his business did not supply the Ken Dixon pens, he has seen them in several restaurants and said the pen campaign was good since it brings a lot of exposure to the business.
He said a good portion of pen sales with his company go to banks, which traditionally are known to hand out pens.
What is good about a campaign using promotional items, Jones said, is that over time a person might no longer have the item, but he remembers the name of the company after being exposed to the item. Promotional items give off a subliminal message in that way, he said.
Also, with many ads on television, print or radio, a person might not have means to write down a phone number. With a promotional item, the number is right there in a purse or magnetized on a refrigerator. Manuel said customers have come to the dealership saying they have spotted the pens in other places as far away as Florida and Texas. He attributed that to the many people who travel through Waldorf on business and happen to grab a pen and pass it along.
In Charles County, though, Chili's Taylor said the pens are working and do keep the company on people's minds.
When he thinks of a car dealership, "the first one that comes to mind is Ken Dixon," Taylor said.