PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (Feb. 11, 2000) — Tire brands are growing in importance and will carry increasingly greater influence with consumers in the future, Scott Clark, vice president of marketing for Michelin Americas Small Tires, told about 400 dealers and guests at the company´s annual customers meeting, Jan. 10 in the Bahamas.
"The impact of a brand is much greater (now) than it was at the beginning of this decade," he said.
"A brand´s role as a strong influence on purchase decisions has grown dramatically from 35 percent in 1990 to 58 percent in 1999."
Over the past several years, there also has been a slight but steady shift toward flag brands in the North American market, he said.
From an estimated 48 percent in 1991, flag brands have increased their share of the replacement tire market to more than 53 percent in 1999.
One big reason for the rise in flag brands, Mr. Clark concluded, is the increased investment in them that has accompanied the multibrand sales programs of North America´s Big Three tire manufacturers—Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Michelin North America Inc.
Still another factor, he said, may be today´s strong economy, resulting in an increased tendency on the part of affluent consumers to rely on brand names to simplify their purchasing decisions.
Michelin officials said the increasing influence of tire brands is one reason MAST is increasing its overall advertising and promotional budget by an undisclosed "double-digit" percentage this year.
The company closely monitors the performance and progress of its Michelin, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal flag brands, and its associate brands—such as Riken, Cavalier and Medalist—as well as various private labels.
Mr. Clark said the Michelin brand in 1999 expanded its equity lead over that of Goodyear, while BFGoodrich and rival Firestone remained locked in a "tight battle for the No. 3 equity position."
The principal advantage of BFGoodrich, he added, is its "perceived quality," while Firestone has greater "consumer familiarity" with its name.
Uniroyal, meanwhile, is "fighting hard to keep pace with Bridgestone, which is growing (its) equity through both increasing quality perceptions and consumer familiarity," Mr. Clark said.
As years go, 1999 was especially kind to MAST´s flag, associate and private brands—nearly all of which recorded increased sales compared with the previous year.
And there was plenty of other good news for company officials to report as well.
Michelin-brand tires received their 22nd customer satisfaction award from J.D. Power and Associates, while the BFGoodrich brand received its very first such award in the annual survey´s light truck tire category.
Michelin also celebrated sports car racing wins at LeMans, Sebring and nearly all American LeMans series races, company officials reported.
Meanwhile, a number of the tire maker´s products received kudos in various publications.
Good Housekeeping magazine named the Uniroyal NailGard one of the seven "most innovative products of 1999," making it eligible to carry the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
MAST officials said it was the first time the publication has bestowed that honor on a tire.
Field & Stream magazine also named the NailGard one of its "Best of the Best" products for 1999.
The BFGoodrich g-ForceKD was rated the "No. 1 ultra-high-performance tire" by Automobile magazine, while the BFGoodrich Radial Long-Trail T/A was ranked the No. 1 tire for sport-utility vehicles by Consumer Reports magazine.