CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Continental General Tire Inc.'s Passenger/Light Truck Division has launched the most comprehensive—and costly—marketing and advertising program in its history. CGT's objective is to achieve top-of-mind awareness of the company and its flag brands among customers: dealers, vehicle makers and consumers.
The program includes: an extensive advertising campaign in national print media and trade publications, which began in late January; major spring, summer and fall sales promotions for each flag brand—Continental and General; an awards (a.k.a. spiff) program for retail salespeople and store managers; new signage and point-of-purchase materials; new training programs; redesigning the company's various Internet sites, as well as the launch of a new site geared specifically to the news media.
CGT also will offer an associate dealer program it has christened the GOLD Program, which stands for "Great Opportunities for Leading Dealers." The company will administer the GOLD program through a network of distributors, each responsible for an exclusive territory in which they will ensure the delivery of full service to the smaller independent dealer members of the program.
Participating dealers will receive improved access to CGT products and competitive and consistent prices, as well as advertising opportunities and allowances, CGT said.
In return, GOLD program dealers agree to purchase a minimum of 1,000 Continental and/or General brand tires annually per retail location, identify those locations with Continental and/or General identification and prominently display the products and point-of-sale material of those brands.
CGT has been recruiting distributors for the program and plans to begin signing retail dealers March 1. The company said it expects to sign 2,000 associate dealers, which will increase its distribution and, in turn, broaden its customer base.
Continental General's advertising program for 2000 is focused on repositioning the Continental and General brands, as well as the company as a whole, with a distinct campaign for each.
The company declined to reveal what it will spend on these programs, but Al Johnson, advertising services manager, said, "Our financial investment is substantially more than we've done in any other year." CGT's spending in 2000 on national print media will rank third among tire makers, Mr. Johnson said.
CGT has adopted the theme "What Ever It Takes" for its corporate image campaign. "We are committed to doing whatever it takes to help customers be successful," a spokeswoman explained.
Aimed at tire dealers and auto manufacturers via trade publications, the corporate campaign seeks to convey an image of CGT as a technologically advanced, global company—part of Continental A.G., the world's fourth-largest tire maker—that produces high-quality tires for all segments of the market, "with margins that are perfect for dealers," the spokeswoman said.
The company wants customers, both dealers and original equipment manufacturers, to see it as the strongest alternative to the "big three" tire makers (Goodyear, Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.), she added.
In making its case, CGT is pointing to management commitment to growing its brands and its overall business, investing in new technology and product development, spending on marketing and increasing production capacity.
The ability to supply the right product at the right time and in the right amount is a key concern for both tire dealers and auto makers, the spokeswoman said, and CGT has set a goal of achieving fill rates of 95 percent across the board.
The company has gotten a major boost in this regard from its purchase in late 1998 of two former Euzkadi tire plants in Mexico from Grupo Carso. That acquisition has boosted CGT's North American production capacity by 27 percent, Mr. Johnson said.
Advertising for the General brand in 2000 also primarily targets dealers and OEMs via trade publications. Organized around the theme "General Knowledge," the ads emphasize the brand's value—good quality at an affordable price—complete coverage, including the light truck market, and its profitability for dealers.
With the General brand, CGT is stressing its commitment to making the tires easy to sell, the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, CGT is making a significant effort in 2000 to increase public awareness of the Continental brand, and most of the company's consumer advertising this year will promote Conti-brand tires.
The company seeks to position Continental as an exclusive/prestigious brand with a high-quality, high-performance image backed by German engineering. Employing the theme "What Drives You," the Conti-brand ads target upscale consumers and spotlight the brand's OE positions on luxury/performance cars.
A full-page Conti ad is scheduled to appear nearly every week in the sports section of USA Today, the spokeswoman said. Conti ads also will run in Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, Road & Track and Car & Driver, she said.
An ad slated for Sports Illustrated's famous swimsuit issue will feature the headline, "What the super models are wearing this year," referring to the Conti brand's OE fitments.
To further enhance brand recognition, build excitement and drive sales, CGT has partnered with other major brands for substantial promotions each season—spring, fall, winter—for both the Continental and General brands.
The spring promotions, which will run from March 15 though April 30, will apply to the entire Conti/General passenger and light truck line, whereas subsequent promotions will be tied to purchases of specific products.
In the Continental promotion, customers who purchase four Conti-brand tires at a participating dealership will receive a dozen Taylor Made golf balls. A concurrent sweepstakes will award a grand prize of an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the 2000 U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, Calif., plus one winner at each participating store will receive a choice of a Taylor Made golf bag or club.
The sweepstakes is open to anyone, and entries can be made at participating stores, by mail or on the Continental Tire Web site.
In the General-brand promotion, purchasers of four tires will receive a $20 gift card to spend at Blockbuster Video, while the concurrent sweepstakes will award five all-inclusive grand-prize trips for two to Hollywood, Calif., as well as one Panasonic combination 9-inch TV/VCR per participating store.
For the Conti brand, the summer promotion will feature the H-rated ContiTouring Contact CH95 and prizes/premiums from Amazon. com and Sony, while the fall promotion will spotlight the new ContiTrac SUV light truck radial, with premiums/prizes from Eddie Bauer and Trek bicycles.
On the General side, the summer promotion will feature the XP 2000 II and H4 performance lines and prizes/premiums from Six Flags theme parks, while the fall promotion will revolve around the new AmeriTrac SUV radial with prizes/premiums from Ryobi power tools.
Separate from the consumer promotions, CGT is debuting a new "spiff" program—called On Track—for retail store personnel, rewarding salespeople and store managers for sales of designated tires during three different promotion periods throughout the year.
For the first promotion period, March 15 through May 15, CGT will offer spiffs for sales of General XP 2000 II and Ameri.GS4 tires. Retail salespeople can earn up to $4.50 for each eligible tire sold, which is applied to an American Express debit card that is issued once a salesperson accumulates $50 in awards.
At the end of the year, the 50 enrolled salespeople with the greatest number of eligible tire sales will receive a trip for two to Las Vegas, including a session at the Richard Petty Driving School. Trips also will be awarded to the 25 retail store managers whose stores accumulated the greatest number of eligible tire sales.