LANGLEY, British Columbia-Don't get the impression that the 43-year-old O.K. Tire Stores Inc. cooperative is old and stodgy. With a current store count of 153, the Langley-based organization is growing faster than ever. And it's doing so by staying in touch with today's consumer, according to Gord Bevington, O.K. Tire manager of dealer marketing support.
From its store-front color scheme to its radio advertisements, the co-op has tweaked nearly every part of its marketing plan to present an image that's upbeat and as universally accepted as possible, he said.
``We were trying to change that old gas-station approach with filthy bathrooms that the men could put up with-not because they wanted to-but because they had to,'' Mr. Bevington said.
Chief among the goals of the new marketing approach is providing a more acceptable shopping experience for parents who are increasingly finding themselves toting their children around.
The company created Optie, a mascot lion that will promote the company's products and services. Costumes are available to O.K. Tire dealers for grand openings, in-store promotions and community events.
The image of a ``human-looking'' lion was chosen for its friendly appeal to all age groups, he added. ``A few years ago in the major cities they started seeing women coming in. But even in the smaller cities now, the husbands are working more hours and so the women are making more of automotive decisions,'' Mr. Bevington explained.
To help create an upbeat image, the company also has gone to a new logo color scheme.
Within the next few years, O.K. Tire dealerships across Canada will be painting over their brown-and-yellow store fronts with a more ``dramatic'' red, white, black and yellow color scheme, Mr. Bevington said. The company's yellow ``O.K.,'' familiar to many Canadian consumers, remains in the logo.
The new colors will be incorporated into the company's advertisements, point-of-sale materials, cold-air inflatable balloons and tire displays as well. The common color scheme, which Mr. Bevington said has been ``overwhelmingly accepted'' by the cooperative's dealers, will continue to provide the nationwide identity O.K. Tire relies upon for repeat business.
``People move around a lot today-for jobs, for family,'' he said. ``In a new town, they're more likely to go somewhere where they've had a good experience.''
Among the more cutting-edge programs, O.K. Tire has introduced its Internet site (http://www.oktire.com/main.html).
The company's homepage, which includes a store locator and franchise and consumer tire information should also help foster the company's new image in the minds of consumers, Mr. Bevington said.
``Hopefully some of our enthusiasm will come across,'' he added.