How Customers Find Freedom in a Purpose-Driven Brand Story

By clarifying their purpose-driven brand story, Montreal car dealership Prêt, Auto, Partez has:

  • Tripled its growth in three years
  • Doubled their personnel
  • Become the leading used-car dealership among thousands of competitors in the Provence of Quebec, Canada
  • Reduced their customer’s average loan default rate by half that of the industry average, which is 6.7%. Repairing their credit benefits everyone!

(The following is an excerpt from my new book, Brand Bewitchery: How to Wield
the Story Cycle System™ to Craft Spellbinding Stories for Your Brand.)

André Martin Hobbs tracked me down in the crowded corridor of the San Diego Convention Center. I had just finished my first appearance at Social Media Marketing World, producing a 90-minute Business of Story workshop that kicked off the 2016 conference.

“Park, I am interested in working with you to help us devise our brand story,” André said to me in his Québécois accent.

“Cool. Where are you from and what is your business?” I asked.

“I am from Montreal, and we sell used cars to financially challenged Canadians.”

Great, I thought. Clunkers sold to desperate people usually add up to someone getting run over—namely the buyer. I handed André my card.

“Thanks, I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks,” he said. I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t.

André came off as a solid guy. But I was skeptical about what I considered his potentially smarmy business model. Did I really want to get involved in an enterprise that didn’t support my raison d’être of helping purpose-driven brands clarify their stories to amplify their impact and simplify their lives?

But it turned out I was ignorant (which, by the way, is spelled the same way in French). I had no clue what he was up to. My ego nearly detoured an amazing brand story because I had made up a fictitious story in my head about André and his company by jumping to an erroneous conclusion.

…hate it when that happens.

While I don’t know French, what I do know is that using the Story Cycle System™ is a universally effective way to connect with humankind on a primal and persuasive level no matter where you live, work and play.


Finding their purpose

I began to understand and appreciate the incredible impact he and his company were having on their customers. They were selling used cars in great condition to subprime car buyers for a bigger mission: to help their customers repair their credit.

He explained that his customers were good people who had experienced bad times. They had gotten T-boned by the global recession. Or by a job loss. Costly medical treatments. Some had experienced a devastating divorce. Many of the buyers lacked the fiscal sophistication and wherewithal to weather their financial blows. Others simply collided with bad luck.

“We want to help them get back on their feet by finding a vehicle they can afford and use to restore their credit,” André explained.

That’s a compelling purpose I hadn’t anticipated coming from an unlikely source like a used-car dealer. At the heart of their brand story was an amazing market differentiator in the traffic-snarled car sales business. André walked me through the customer journey and the successes they experience along the way.

“People show up because they’ve been taking the bus for a few years. They’ve saved a little money and they want the freedom of having their own car again,” he said. “They aren’t even thinking about their long-term finances when they walk in. They just want the self-respect an auto represents now.”


What’s at stake for the car buyer is that they wish to feel the freedom of driving. They want a car to provide that freedom. And many are willing to risk default again for the luxury of owning their own car. Unbeknownst to André’s car buyers, they come in for a ride but leave with a personal financial plan.

Unlike predatory used-car salesmen who burden credit-risk buyers with high-interest loans, Prêt, Auto, Partez (which translates to Ready, Auto, Go) educates their customers in a three-hour financial planning session. They won’t sell a car to a customer until that person has a clear understanding of their budget and determines which car they can actually afford. The goal is to make their monthly payments for two years, which is the benchmark to repair your credit in Canada. Their interest payments are still high—the unavoidable reality of being a subprime buyer—but the overall price is determined by what they can afford. No predatory bullshit.

After being guided by the Story Cycle System™, the brand’s unique value proposition materialized before their very eyes:

Prêt, Auto, Partez is your vehicle to financial freedom.

The mark of an authentic value proposition is not just how it amplifies your differentiation in the market, but how it clarifies and simplifies your life with your operations.  André doesn’t hire car salesmen. Prêt, Auto, Partez attracts employees who are interested in helping people fix their credit. The cars they sell are simply the vehicle for their greater purpose.

Remember, your brand story is not about what you make or offer (in André’s case, the purchase of a used car), but what you make happen in the lives of the people you serve (for André’s customers, that’s financial freedom). Prêt, Auto, Partez operates at the intersection of freedom and peace of mind: the freedom created by the convenience of owning your own car and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you can not only afford it, but that it will help you repair your credit.

Prêt, Auto, Partez Brand Story Elements

Brand Position: Prêt, Auto, Partez is the #1 resource for subprime car buyers to purchase a vehicle and begin repairing their credit.

Unique Value Proposition: Prêt, Auto, Partez is your vehicle to financial freedom.

Brand Promise: Peace of mind

Brand Gift: Transportation

Brand Personality: The Caregiver (secondary archetype: The Hero)

Brand Descriptors:

  • Trustworthy
  • Insightful
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Educational
  • Honesty
  • Authentic
  • Friendliness
  • Humor

Brand Purpose: Prêt, Auto, Partez exists to get people back on the road to financial freedom.

Brand Statement: For subprime car buyers who want the independence and pride of owning a like-new car, Prêt, Auto, Partez provides the vehicle to repair their credit through honest rates and a fiscal education program that increases the health of their purchase, transporting the buyer to greater peace of mind and self-esteem on their road to financial freedom.

Hear What a Clear Brand Story Means to André and his Team

What’s your story?