PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas—Managers for each of Michelin Americas Small Tires flag brands—Michelin, Uniroyal and BFGoodrich—outlined sales goals, marketing plans, promotions and new product offerings in presentations Jan. 10 to dealers attending the company's annual customer meeting in the Bahamas. Michelin
The Michelin brand in 2000 will receive national advertising during all 52 weeks of the year—and the accent definitely will be on what the company calls the "young and sporty" consumer, Michelin Brand Manager Alison Heiser told dealers.
"We've worked diligently to find the most efficient television schedule that gives us continual exposure, so we are never off air when a consumer makes a buying decision," she said.
Ms. Heiser said the brand also will have an expanded magazine advertising program reaching beyond the traditional car enthusiast publications, into titles such as Fast Company and Gear, in an effort to "take the Michelin message to a new generation."
Included in the company's plans this year, she said, will be a new spring promotion for Michelin, structured after last year's highly successful "Buy 4 and Score" event that offered tire buyers a free roadside emergency kit valued at $100 and a chance to win one of 1,000 prizes, including a Dodge Viper.
More than 15,000 retail locations took part in that event, which Ms. Heiser described as "the biggest promotion ever in the tire industry," generating over a billion advertising impressions in total.
This year's promotion, titled "The Road to Adventure," will run in April and May and offer buyers a free car-cleaning kit, also valued at about $100. In an effort to maximize the promotion's appeal to "young and sporty" consumers, Michelin also will conduct a "Road to Adventure Sweepstakes," offering exciting trips to exotic locations.
In terms of sheer numbers, youthful consumers constitute a large segment of the tire-buying public and account for a sizable portion of Michelin purchases, Ms. Heiser said. Therefore, it only makes sense to regenerate the Michelin franchise by increasing the brand's popularity among the younger set.
"Any brand that sits on (its) franchise without finding ways to regenerate and appeal to an emerging set of consumers is going to find itself in a situation it doesn't want to be in," Ms. Heiser said. "So we're pre-empting that (possibility) before it can become a problem."
MAST plans five major initiatives for the BFGoodrich brand this year, BFG Brand Manager Mathew Aaron said. The first will be a 25-percent increase in the amount budgeted for BFGoodrich advertising. "We'll reach a broader target while increasing exposure against the brand's traditional enthusiast audience," Mr. Aaron said.
The plan is aimed at reaching 90 percent of what MAST calls "extrinsic" male consumers aged 18 to 49. Extrinsic consumers, by the company's definition, are those highly motivated by status and product reputation and who purchase tires primarily on that basis.
The year-long ad campaign, expected to generate more than 2 billion impressions among adult consumers, will include an expanded magazine schedule in publications such as Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, Men's Health and Outdoor Life.
The television portion of the campaign, he said, will deliver more continuous on-air presence than last year and be seen on telecasts of NFL Monday Night Football, the NCAA basketball tournament and National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball games, as well as on ESPN and TNN cable network programs.
MAST's second major initiative for the BFG brand was the surprise launching of a new internet-based program in which consumers can design and order their own customized versions of the colored-tread Scorcher T/A tire direct from the company's highly automated C3M tire plant in Greenville, S.C.
The customized tires will sell at a premium of $50 to $80 each and be available in more color combinations than the present red, blue and yellow stock versions.
Delivery will be guaranteed within five to eight weeks, and local dealers will be compensated for installing and servicing the tires.
Mr. Aaron told the gathering that the use of color in tires is bound to grow. "Scorcher T/A is great," he said, "but mark my words, Scorcher T/A is just the beginning."
Also during 2000, Mr. Aaron said MAST will attempt to further expand the BFG brand's strength in the performance-tire market with the April introduction of the g-Force T/AKDWS, the latest addition to the company's g-Force T/A family.
The g-Force T/AKDWS, he said, will be an ultra-high-performance tire designed for increased all-weather traction. "Compared to the Comp T/A ZR4 it replaces, the g-Force T/AKDWS will deliver much better wet and dry traction and way better wet handling," Mr. Aaron said. "It also will boast the highest treadwear grade for its class—a whopping 400, compared to 340 for its closest competitor." The new tire will be available in a range of 16- and 17-inch sizes.
The BFG brand's fourth initiative during coming months will be its new involvement in short-track stock car racing in partnership with the American Speed Association.
TNN, the Nashville Network, will carry telecasts of the ASA events into more than 75 million American homes this year, he said.
Mr. Aaron said the series will serve as the showcase for BFG's next family of mid-range performance tires, the Traction T/A line, which is scheduled to debut next year. Also, beginning in 2003, BFG tires will be fitted as original equipment on the Pontiac Grand Prix, the official car of the ASA, he said.
The brand's fifth initiative will be the introduction in March of the BFGoodrich Commercial T/A All-Season tire for class 1-5 light trucks.
Mileage expectancy is the primary driver of sales in that business segment, Mr. Aaron said, and the Commercial T/A promises to deliver at least 15-percent more mileage than the segment leading Goodyear Workhorse.
"We'll be backing the Commercial T/A with the highest mileage warranty we've ever offered on a commercial light truck tire—50,000 miles, even in commercial duty.
"And we'll be offering two years of Take Control Roadwise Assistance with every tire sold, so you can sell the advantage of minimum down time," he told dealers.
Uniroyal marketers will seek to build on the success of its popular NailGard product and recently restored light truck tire lines in the months to come.
Meanwhile, the company will begin offering NailGard and other selected Uniroyal products to retail outlets other than independent dealerships in an effort to plug some geographical gaps in its distribution network, Brand Manager Joe Herget said.
While Uniroyal enjoys a substantial share of market in about two-thirds of the U.S., the brand has "very poor presence" in the remaining third of the country, he said.
"This situation makes our national marketing investments highly inefficient due to the big geographical gaps in product coverage," Mr. Herget told the gathering. "We're talking to a lot of people who simply can't find our products at retail."
Specifically, Uniroyal's distribution network is underdeveloped on the West Coast, from the Pacific Northwest down through Texas, as well as in several key states in the Northeast, he said.
"This year we will undertake an effort to maximize NailGard's distribution across the U.S.," he said. Not only will MAST seek to aggressively support dealers and others who carry all NailGard products, "we also will move to expand NailGard's presence into other channels where the expansion can fill major geographic distribution voids for the brand."
Acknowledging the potential significance of this move to independent dealers, who account for 85 percent of Uniroyal's sales, Mr. Herget added: "We recognize the importance of the Uniroyal brand to our Alliance Partners' overall profitability, and we will do nothing to disturb this equation."
The dealer channel, he said, will continue to receive the largest portion of MAST's marketing investment in Uniroyal, and the company will try to provide different products to competing channels whenever possible.
The result, he predicted, will be a stronger Uniroyal brand able to command "a higher premium than its weak, second-tier competitors."
Mr. Herget described Uniroyal as the "comeback kid" of the tire industry. "While many other brands are struggling to survive, Uniroyal is indeed thriving," he told the audience. But that's not to say there isn't room for improvement, he acknowledged.
"While our Laredo AWP lines are doing well, the remainder of our light truck tire portfolio is underutilized," Mr. Herget said. "Our historically poor fill rates on these light truck lines help explain how we got to such a low level of distribution. But we now have an ample supply of all LT product lines, and we need to re-establish the Uniroyal Laredo in the marketplace."
He said the company is adding 15 new sizes and styles to the existing Laredo line and will introduce two commercial light truck tire lines in March. Both will carry a 50,000-mile limited treadlife warranty.
The new Laredo HD/H, he said, will offer superior value compared with the competition, while its companion, the Laredo HD/H with NailGard, will provide the same performance along with added protection against flats. Fleet testing has shown a 70-percent reduction in customer downtime thanks to Uniroyal's sealant technology, he said.
Another key to Uniroyal's success in 2000, Mr. Herget told dealers, will be an expanded television and print advertising program.
Uniroyal's current "Test Track" TV spot, he said, has been quite effective in delivering NailGard's continued-mobility message to consumers and consistently has outperformed competitive commercials in regard to consumer awareness and recall.
However, the new Uniroyal TV commercial for 2000 shifts attention away from the sterile environment of the test track, he said, to demonstrate how NailGard fits into the consumer's everyday life.
One of Uniroyal's most successful promotional activities last year—and one the company plans to use extensively in 2000—is its support for local youth soccer programs.
"The safety benefits of NailGard are very relevant to this audience, particularly Mom," he said. Soccer is the fastest-growing youth sport in North America and invites involvement on the part of the entire family. It also is consistent with the Uniroyal brand's marketing position and target audience: mainstream America.
Sport-utility vehicles and minivans typically are the vehicles of choice for soccer families, Mr. Herget said. He added that the Uniroyal NailGard has been accepted for fitment on the new Ford Windstar and that widespread original equipment use of such sealant-protected tires is expected within the next two years.
"Soccer also provides independent tire dealers an excellent opportunity to get more involved in their community to build equity, loyalty and sales for the long term," Mr. Herget told the audience.
The company is producing a how-to handbook and merchandising materials for dealers to use in their own markets. MAST also will be conducting direct-mail advertising campaigns to attract soccer families to local Uniroyal outlets, he added.
MAST also plans to hire a celebrity soccer spokesperson to promote these Uniroyal activities on TV programs such as Good Morning America, Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah, he said.
Mr. Herget said Uniroyal's seasonal calendar also will be expanded to include three major national promotions in 2000.
A spring Tiger Paw promotion will offer a $40 rebate on several "high-margin" Tiger Paw products. More than 2,500 points of sale already have signed up to take part, Mr. Herget said.
A summer NailGard promotion will offer tire purchasers a $50-$75 Black & Decker Corp. product as a premium.
The final seasonal promotion of the year, he said, will be Uniroyal's traditional fall light truck event. It will feature an as-yet-undetermined consumer offering along with a sales contest for retail tire sales associates.
Officials said all three promotions will be supported with local media and run concurrently with Uniroyal's national advertising. When combined with local promotions, these efforts effectively will double Uniroyal's financial investment in local marketing during 2000, Mr. Herget said.