Clutch wants car buyers to ditch dealerships

Eyeing further expansion, the online used car retailer has fun with salesmen stereotypes in its first brand campaign.

Many consumers still buy into the cliche of used car salesmen as shady grifters, so Clutch is inviting buyers to ditch them and go online instead, using a staple of the lot – wacky inflatable tube men.

The online retailer of pre-owned vehicles is unveiling its first ever brand campaign, poking fun at the pitfalls of traditional used car buying, “to say goodbye to these hot air hucksters and all they represent,” according to Kristen Skelly, director of brand marketing at Clutch.

In the spot, it’s using the instantly recognizable, attention-grabbing inflatable symbol of the used car dealership and amplifying it, as the figures rock polyester and chest hair, embodying the worst stereotype of the overly slick salesman.

“For us to be able to continue to grow, we need more Canadians to know who we are and what we do,” Skelly says. She tells strategy that previously, the brand, which was founded in 2016, was focused on more performance-style marketing, but for this effort, it wanted to stay true to its founding story, born out of a frustrating experience on the used car lot.

The brand campaign comes as Clutch continues its path to being available across Canada. The platform is currently available in Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. A $100 million round of funding secured in the fall has been earmarked for expanding its presence into new markets – Clutch’s goal is to serve 90% of Canadians by the end of 2023 – as well as beef up operations where it already operates.

In terms of the competitive landscape, Skelly says most people feel most comfortable going into a dealership and seeing the car in person. “What we’re trying to build is an experience that’s entirely transparent online, where we have our detailed inspection reports, CARFAX reports, images and have the car delivered to the person’s door where they have ten days to test it out,” she says.

A car is the second biggest purchase that most people will make in their life, yet according to recent Clutch insights, 76% of Canadian car shoppers report they would prefer to spend less time visiting dealerships to find the right car.

Clutch is focused on building a car buying experience that is open to everyone and accessible, and according to Skelly, its customer base tend to be younger, early adopters. She likens buying a car online to the first time ridesharing or AirBnB launched, and people had not experienced anything similar. But during COVID a lot of people bought things online for the first time, and that has helped Clutch’s bottom line.

The brand campaign launch is timed to an announcement that Clutch was named the first-ever Official Online Pre-Owned Car Retailer of the NHL in Canada in a multi-year partnership.

Clutch began working with agency partner Performance Art in January. The new commercial spot will have its broadcast debut during this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The campaign is set to run across a mix of broadcast, digital and social platforms throughout the hockey season. Pomp & Circumstance assisted with the PR. 

“You can expect to see more of us throughout the year as the car buying season continues to ramp up,” Skelly says.