Are tires a commodity purchase? Of course they are! To the typical buyer, tires-like wheat or eggs-merely are something to be purchased wherever they're offered for the lowest price. Tire dealers and other retailers like to blame this consumer misperception for their own inability to command a fair price and earn a reasonable profit selling and servicing tires.
Unfortunately, wishing it away won't alter the reality of this situation. Nor will things change for the better until the tire industry as a whole stops blaming consumers for its own shortcomings in marketing.
The truth is that retailers and manufacturers-not consumers-are responsible for creating the tire pricing problem. And they alone have the ability to fix it.
After all, where did consumers get the notion that all tires are created equal? Obviously from those advertising tires. Anyone who doubts this should examine the retail tire advertising in any newspaper.
Products as complex as pneumatic tires ought to lend themselves to advertising based on something other than price alone. Nevertheless, that's the way tires are presented to consumers in most retail advertising.
``Double the Difference Price Guarantee'' screams the headline of an ad in the Evansville (Indiana) Courier, accompanied, of course, by the laundry list of tire sizes and prices inevitably found in such retail advertising.
``Spectacular 1/2-Price Sale! '' proclaims a similar dealer-run ad in the Roanoke Times & World News. ``Buy 3 Get One Free! '' offers another ad in the Kansas City Star. ``4 For the Price of 2'' promises still another in a Charleston, S.C., newspaper.
No mention is made of product features or customer benefits; nor of the seller's expertise and friendly service. So is it any wonder buyers assume that price is the only difference between advertised products and retailers? What would you conclude under the circumstances?
Until retailers and manufacturers stop treating tires as a commodity in their advertising-they have no reason to expect consumers to regard them as anything else. It's time for a fresh approach to tire advertising.