D.J. Haddad is not lacking in activity. As the CEO of the award-winning, Fairfield-based creative and direct marketing agency Haddad & Partners, he has spent the last 13 years creating campaigns for corporate giants including Microsoft, Capital One, Charter Communications, TD Bank, JPMorgan Chase, PwC and Ford Motors.
But when Lyamen Savy, a former client who worked with Haddad during her years at Capital One and Microsoft, got in touch with him to discuss a project, he found time in his busy schedule for a new venture.
“She is a super brilliant marketer, a genius on the analytics and media side,” he stated. “I always wanted to do a project together. We talked about it for a long time and the time just worked out.”
To his initial surprise, he discovered Savy was not working with a mega-company that impacts the global economy, but rather something a bit more modest.
“She was consulting for a car dealership in Seattle,” he continued. “She was going through their analytics and competitors and found that everything was very antiquated. And she said, ‘I’m looking at different companies that do this in the automotive dealership space.’”
What Savy shared with Haddad was that many auto dealerships were not as savvy as other businesses when it came to cutting-edge marketing strategies. This resulted in problems trying to connect with millennials.
“They had a hard time embracing change, especially media buying now,” he observed. “And they were just overpaying drastically for their media buying. Dealerships have always done well on the print side and the TV side, but now with the digital media side it was a little different.”
In June, Savy and Haddad announced the launch of 321 Ignition, which Haddad described as “kind of like a website template for car dealerships with a suite of marketing tools behind it.”
Dealerships that sign up for the service are provided with a customizable online platform that uses artificial intelligence technology to turn website visitors into qualifying leaders. For prospective car buyers, the platform is designed to create a user-friendly environment with the goal of encouraging dealership visits.
In a press release announcing 321 Ignition’s launch, Savy framed the platform as a radically different approach for dealership marketing.
“Our mobile-first platform brings together all of the latest digital technological advancements to make it a better overall experience for car buyers, while making it a more efficient and profitable business model for dealerships,” said the Seattle-based Savy, who carries the CEO title on this new company.
Haddad, who carries the chief marketing officer title with 321 Ignition, viewed the new company as a challenge to Carvana, the online retailer that gives consumers the choice of home delivery of their vehicles or a visit to one of its oversized vending machines that dispenses the automobile of choice.
“A lot of the smaller dealers are starting to get worried about it,” said Haddad regarding Carvana. “I don’t think they’re feeling it on a day-to-day basis. But younger buyers see it as a new option.”
Haddad said 321 Ignition has three dealerships using the platform and another six are expected to go live in early 2020. Ironically, they are spreading the word on this digital venture with old-school marketing: trade show appearances, some advertising and an emphasis on word-of-mouth praise.
Haddad is simultaneously running 321 Ignition with Haddad & Partners, giving the new endeavor about 25% of his weekly business schedule.
“If I am waiting for feedback on projects, during the downtime I can jump into 321 and work on that,” he said. “I treat it like another client.”