AKRON-It's a touchy-feely message-with a bit of a bite. Echoing the omnipresent Nike shoe command to ``Just do it,'' Buffalo, N.Y.-based Dunlop Tire Corp. has adopted a new multi-million dollar advertising campaign based on the slogan: ``Handle It!''
Dunlop executives said they pondered the question, ``What's special and unique about Dunlop tires?,'' and found consumer research revealed buyers like the ``feel'' of the company's tires, and the way those products ``handle.''
The firm will spend $3 million this year in print and TV advertising-triple its 1995 ad budget-urging consumers to grab a Dunlop tire and ``handle it'' under any conditions the road, or ``Mother Nature,'' throw their way.
At an Akron press conference July 2, Dewitt ``Woody'' Arnold, Dunlop vice president of marketing, unveiled the new campaign, and some lofty goals, including:
Communicating the ``new Dunlop'' attitude;
Building the value of the Dunlop brand for consumers; and
Helping to sell 14.13 million tires-that's 13 percent more than the company did in 1995. It's an ``aggressive number for us,'' he admitted, but fits Dunlop's capacity.
The firm is trying to establish the message to employees, dealers and consumers that Dunlop is a ``new and different'' company today vs. January 1995, when new president and CEO, P. David Campbell, took over, vowing to boost Dunlop's value to its customers.
``We wanted an advertising campaign that captures that feeling,'' Mr. Arnold said. Something to ``galvanize our whole company.''
It is the highest advertising budget the company has had in the 10 years Mr. Arnold has been with the Dunlop brand, and 65-percent of that budget will go to TV.
Dunlop also needed something to compete, image wise, with other short, sweet and punchy slogans like Nike's, L.A. Gear's ``Get Real,'' and Chevy trucks' ``Like a Rock.''
He said ``Handle It!'' is distinctive and won't be confused by consumers trying to decipher the images of blimps for Goodyear, babies in Michelin North America ads, Firestone's Indy racing themes, and the pastel colors of BFGoodrich performance tire ads.
The bulk of the TV advertising will be on ESPN, the highly watched cable sports channel. It will be Dunlop's first TV exposure in ``many, many years,'' according to Mr. Arnold and Pete Waggoner, with Moore Stickney Associates Inc., an Amherst, N.Y. agency that handles Dunlop's account.
TV ads promote Dunlop tires' ``superior handling, confident cor-nering, responsive steering, grip-ping accelleration and controlled stopping.''
A print ad for passenger tires proclaims: ``Sometimes your day is filled with twists and turns. Handle it!'' while one for light truck tires declares: ``Sometimes the road isn't a road at all. Handle it!''
Two of the four print ads slated to run target the fast-growing light truck segment.
In early June tire dealers began receiving point-of-purchase (POP) merchandising such as banners and posters. Ironically, Mr. Waggoner said Dunlop's dealer council ``has been telling us, `Don't bother sending us POP materials anymore. We don't use them.'
``But since the new campaign began, we've had more POP orders than ever before.''
The company, a Sumitomo Rubber Industries unit, conducts ``Voice of the customer'' surveys monthly with about 30 different dealers, and Mr. Arnold said Dunlop's relationship with its dealers is ``at an all-time high.'' But many of those surveyed ``feel the company should be doing more advertising.''
So why the snappy ``Handle It!''?
``My philosophy is you have to be unbelievably simple and incredibly clear,'' he explained, because people can't handle more than three or four images in their minds. ``They're too busy-too quick to change the channel.''
Dealer point-of-purchase material includes the above poster.