This dealership’s domain name caught my attention: BuyatMoes.com. More than just the name of a business, it encouraged action. I checked out the site and discovered “Moe,” an overall-clad icon with workbooks, gloves and a cap, which serves as part of the branding for Moe’s Outdoor Equipment & Supplies. The dealership has locations in West Chester and Springboro, Ohio. Moe’s owner Dale Magie shared the evolution of his business and why they undertook a rebranding effort.
The family business was a farming operation until 1982 when Dale’s father, John, and mother, Carole, decided times were changing for their operation and they needed a new revenue stream. They started a landscaping business called West Chester Lawn Care. In 1985, they acquired another landscaping firm and the operation grew to include 10 crews that mowed more than 400 acres weekly.
Ten crews meant a lot of equipment to be maintained and neighbors took notice, asking if Magie’s maintenance crew could help fix their equipment. Magie then worked out a consignment arrangement with his vendors Ariens and Jacobsen and they started offering equipment for sale. The first year, their new business West Chester Lawn & Garden sold about 60 push mowers, 30 riders and about 75 pieces of outdoor power equipment. By 1988, they began carrying John Deere and Toro as well and by 1990, 80% of their business was now coming from retail sales and parts and service.
In 2003, they built a new 32,000 square-foot facility out of which they operated West Chester Lawn & Garden and Westchester Lawn Care. More changes happened in January 2004 as Dale’s brother Gary took over the lawn care company and it was separated from the business. They gave up John Deere in 2008 and began carrying Mahindra in 2012. They also now carry Scag, Wright, Snapper Pro, Billy Goat, Stihl, RedMax, SnowEx and Vortexx. They expanded again in October 2010and opened a second location in Springboro and signed on as an Ace hardware franchisee.
At about that time, Magie and his wife, Terry, began working with a branding consultant. They knew they needed to rethink some of their business strategies with the latest expansions. “We began having brainstorming meetings and our consultant helped us lay out a 3- to 5-year plan. During one of those sessions, we were just about worn out trying to come up with a new name. My 12-year-old daughter, Morgan, was there. My wife, Terry, turned to her and said, ‘What do you think, Mo?’ My brain just started lighting up thinking about ‘Moe’s’ as short for Magie’s Outdoor Equipment & Supplies and all the possibilities of building a character,” he says. The domain name for Moe’s was taken, but they were able to secure registration for BuyAtMoes.com.
Energized by this new direction, Magie worked with a marketing firm to make the idea become reality, officially announcing the name change in April 2015. They worked with creative experts to finalize the Moe icon and ways to introduce it to their customers, even finding a real life person to act as Moe at events. They built a new website, changed signage, added graphics to their vehicles, created cardboard cut-outs for the store and created new advertising.
Magie recently undertook a very important step for any company creating a new identity — finding out what his customers think. He admits he was disappointed. “People would see me at church and say, ‘Do you still work there?’” Magie says, thinking the dealership had been sold. He says they probably should have made the change on Jan. 1 instead of April 1 to get the name out there ahead of the buying season. “It goes to show that no matter how hard you try, it may take 2 or 3 years to get through the new branding,” Magie says.
Despite the setback, Moe’s is a great example of how a dealership brand can take years to evolve as well as take big intermittent leaps along the way. It shows forward thinking in terms of planning for expansion and it’s creative, helping set the dealership apart from its competition. Best of all, it makes sense. The name and the icon are straightforward and illustrate what the dealership is all about. Branding should support your dealership, not create something that’s not real.