Unless you count a handful of model rockets in middle school, I’ve never launched anything in my life. Earlier this month I helped my company launch our product at the largest car dealership in the state… So that was a new experience, but before I get to launches, let me introduce myself.
My name is Taylor Grimes. I graduated from Portland State University in 2016 with a double major in advertising and marketing. I spent 2016 working at FIR NW, a student-run non-profit ad agency as a copywriter where I produced outdoor, print, radio, and social campaigns for three different clients.
After my year at the agency, I took some time to work on personal projects while I did some freelance work and looked for a more permanent job. I was brought onto the Halo team in December as a copywriter to fill out some of the company’s writerly needs on a part-time basis. Within a month I joined the team full-time, was named Brand Director, and began working with two designers to piece together presentations, websites, and brochures for the company.
As the designers and I worked through these scattered deliverables, we simultaneously began to lay out some rough brand guidelines. When I started Halo wasn’t much more than a logo with a few disparate taglines scattered across various mediums. We took a holistic approach and removed ourselves from the company to view the entire effort abstractly. From these exercises, the designers found a visual language that worked, and I found a written style that matched.
We also built the foundation for several of the “big picture” elements of the company. Things like Halo’s brand promise, vision statement, positioning, value proposition, etc. As we put some of these bigger structural pieces into place, the creative team also continued to work on miscellaneous creative pieces intermittently as Halo rolled out in beta at our first dealership.
After a month or two of selling at the dealership and seeing where Halo fit in, we concocted the idea of doing a formal “relaunch” at Beaverton Toyota using all the information and feedback we’d collected since our initial rollout.
We’d been talking internally about a few big (and I mean big) things we could do at the dealership to raise visibility. This was the time to synthesize all of our team’s ideas and actually figure out the logistics behind bringing them to life.
With the goal of making a big splash, our team set out to figure out how we could get customers to ask their sales representative “what is Halo?”
First up was the “Halo Wall”: a massive installation meant to replace a wall of shelving in the dealership’s in the Parts & Accessories department. Originally conceived as a Genius Bar-esque hub for all things Halo, this wall was created to be the centerpiece of our representation within the dealership.
To build this wall, we reached out to local PDX Makerspace ADX. The shop had previously fabricated the official Halo sign for our office, so we knew they had the ability to make something big, beautiful, and on-brand. The pictures won’t do it justice, but image below shows the progression of the wall before and after our Halo Wall was installed.
The wall turned out beautifully, and its effervescent glow can be seen all the way from the service bay at the other end of the massive dealership. The LED-lit logo turned out perfectly and acted as a siren song, calling customers over to our space. The mounted TV runs a demo of Halo-branded B-roll interspersed with “Sesame Street-level” equations that showed off the concrete benefits of Halo in a visual way.
While it’s great to have a central “Halo Point” in the dealership, we also wanted to blanket the environment that we were given. Luckily Beaverton Toyota had a wealth of untapped visual space in the form of tables. So we took that opportunity and ran with it by covering all of the dealerships tables with logos and somewhat mysterious headlines that allude to what the product did, but only enough to get a customer to ask a salesperson “so what is Halo?”
After settling on the headlines and design we reached out to Aztech Signs, a local sign company to produce and install these 24” table covers. Seeing the installer apply these, cut the edges down, and blow torch the bubbles out of the top was a sight to behold, and definitely cemented our presence in the dealership’s environment.
Halo Floor Car
Another big deliverable on-par with the Halo Wall was our very own Halo floor car in the showroom. Beaverton Toyota was nice enough to not only give us the valuable floor space, but they gave us a car too! Designed as something that curious customers could interact with, we covered a car in our branded messaging and encouraged people to get hands-on with something unique.
We tapped a local company called Fast Signs to create a wide array of easily-applicable (and more importantly easily-removable) vinyl for the front and sides of the car. The colors looked great, they were easy to apply (at the hand of one of our ex-IKEA designers), and they took less than a minute to remove (when the dealership eventually sells the car).
Fast signs also created a 3-foot foam board modeled after our in-app representation of your car’s location. We hung the pin from a ceiling panel with some fishing wire to give it the illusion of “floating.” We found that this suspended pin provided excellent visibility from nearly every point on the sales floor and served as a “lighthouse” of sorts beckoning customers over.
Similarly, we also applied some mid-2000’s-chic LED lighting underneath the car to create a literal Halo of light emitting from the vehicle. Here’s a photo of yours truly crawling under the car sticking some beautiful multi-colored LEDs on the bottom of this thing.
Most importantly, we mounted an iPhone into the car that was locked down and running a looping demo of the app and its features. The demo was designed to stand alone, showing the app in use interspersed with big, bold interstitials that described exactly what the app could do.
These elements all combined to create a massive presence right when customers walked in the door, and it encouraged them to get hands-on with a beautiful, new, shiny Halo car.
Service Bay Vinyl
A huge component of Halo is service. The thing that we do better than anyone else (and what makes us more than just an app) is our partnership with car dealers. We make it easy to know what’s wrong with your car and schedule service directly from your phone with the click of a button. Because of this focus, we also made sure to have representation in the dealership’s service department, so we covered their windows with messaging about how Halo makes the process easier.
Service Bay Televisions
We also commandeered the service bay department’s hanging TVs to speak directly to the people who need consolation the most: those actually waiting for service. These are short three sequence graphics that addressed how service is a pretty miserable experience. We then highlighted a feature of Halo to show how it alleviated that frustration.
As great as all the “fun stuff” is, Halo still needed to remain practical. To arm the salespeople with supportive documentation we created brochures that they could hand out to customers. These brochures acted as comprehensive looks at the service (almost like a manual) that explained what Halo is and the many features and benefits that come with ownership.
We also created single-page infographics specifically for the salespeople to help them grasp Halo. One of the things we learned within our month or two of recon was that Halo did too much. Selling Halo came with too steep of a learning curve, so these documents were designed to highlight key features of the service with clear-as-day visuals that were branded in our style.
Most importantly, if Zombieland has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t forget the little things. It was important for us to make waves with all these massive high-investment installations, but it was also important to make sure our representation was more well-rounded than a few big things. We fleshed out our dealership presence with Halo shirts for the whole team (and some Beaverton Toyota employees), Halo name tags, membership cards for new customers, and “Halo Certified” Pins for all the salespeople who went through our training.
As a technology company, where would we be without some digital representation? Beaverton Toyota was gracious enough to give us one of the spaces on their homepage carousel and a page within their domain. These pieces serve as the best example of our self-imposed minimalism. We built both that image and landing page to be intentionally bare, in direct contrast to the hyper-dense norms of the automotive industry. When everything comes with small print, asterisks, and percentage API financing… it becomes draining. We have the luxury of a beautifully-designed, beautifully-branded, and beautifully simple product, so why not use that to our advantage?
Finally, we launched a Facebook campaign geo-targeted at our audience profile within the immediate Beaverton Area. These Facebook ads focused on a negative impediment that would typically keep you from driving. The concern would be whisked away (in a variety of different styles to reveal a new message: Just Drive. Halo.
These multi-stage gifs were simple, colorful, and elusive enough to get our social-media-minded audience to stop their timeline scrolling just long enough to be served a meaningful message. People don’t want to see ads on social. They definitely don’t want to read. So we kept these placements visual, simple, and benefit-focused.
We already outlined the results of this marketing push in a different medium article, so I won’t get into detail about the “response” to all these pieces here. What I will say is that this project was different than anything I’ve ever worked on before. I’m used to working with clients who have pre-existing guidelines, products, and industries. Halo had none of those. To have the ability to craft the brand, voice, creative… everything from the ground up with a dedicated and creative team was a beautiful experience.
Creatively, my takeaway from all of this was simplification. We started with a rough product and zero visibility. As we began to rollout supportive documentation in the form of brochures and websites, we quickly realized there were too many things for salespeople to grasp onto, so some chose to avoid Halo entirely. We created these pieces to help them out, but also to intrigue customers into sparking the conversation.
A lot of these executions were exercises in minimalism. How few words could I use to get the point across? Our Facebook ads were five to six words long (including the logo), and we had no more than three words on-screen at the time.
People don’t want to read.
They don’t want to be sold things.
In fact, the automotive industry is home to one of the least-trusted professions in the world.
People don’t go into car dealerships for fun. They go in because they have a need. But between pop culture, past anecdotes, and maybe even first-hand experience, people don’t trust anyone in this industry. They come into a dealership with their guard up. So we got around all that through simplification. Through simplification, we also circumvented the “dealership perception” by being our own well-formed identity that was partnered with the dealership, but still a separate entity. Halo is on the customer’s side.
And it worked.
The entire creative team had a 14-hour shift the day before we launched. Everyone worked overtime to make sure these months worth of efforts came together as we intended. We arrived at 9 am, shortly after they opened so we could oversee various vendor installations and install some things ourselves.
“Always remember, Domino’s delivers to Starbucks.”
We stayed until 11 pm, hours past closing troubleshooting the video wall, finalizing digital deliverables, and tweaking the car’s demo video in After Effects. Most us worked for another hour or two from home after that. It was a long day. We got a little punch-drunk by the end of it. We ordered pizza to the dealership (thank you, Sally Hogshead). But by the time we left the dealership that night, everything was ready for Halo’s big day.
The weekend that we installed all these pieces was one of the best in the dealership’s year. They sold more Halo devices that weekend than they ever had before. The salespeople were swarming, abuzz with the newness of everything. Our marketing and the presence of our team helped to create an energy that was palpable and moved the stagnant air of the dealership.
This was an incredible experience, and the entire creative team came together beautifully to make sure that everything worked. It couldn’t have gone much better, and I’m amazed at how months of sourcing vendors, choosing color swatches, tweaking copy, and last-minute shakeups came together so nicely. Seeing all these pieces all the way through from conception to personally installing them was an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience that is genuinely unlike anything else I’ve ever been a part of. I look forward to doing it at a thousand other dealerships in the future.