The Marketing 10; Carmax Laura Donohue

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Carmax is sitting in the pole position selling used cars.

Without the plaid jackets or loud attitudes, the subsidiary of Circuit City Stores opened in 1993 with one location and the ad line, "The new way to buy a used car."

The company has since opened four more stores in North Carolina and Georgia, and also has defied industry followers by tallying more than $300 million in 1995 sales of cars between one and five years of age and with less than 70,000 miles.

The company's advertising approach, which is overseen by Laura Donohue, the company's director of marketing, has focused on a humorous branding campaign from DeVito/Verdi, New York, supplemented with internally produced print.

The 11 TV spots created humorously drive home messages from value to quality to selection. One spot shows a series of people posing for photographs; voice-over announces the only way most people would look more ridiculous than in their driver's license photos is if they spent too much on a used car.

The company's retail atmosphere differs from the typical used car lot. Not only is there no haggling over price, but interactive kiosks set within 55,000-square-foot showroom/service centers can locate any of the 500 cars at one location, or 3,000 cars at the five locations throughout the Southeast.

Childcare center staffers watch over youngsters while parents shop in a no-haggle atmosphere.

"This is a concept-driven marketing program. It's almost a science" for CarMax executives, says agency president Ellis Verdi.

"It's nothing like a used-car lot."

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