There's nothing new about companies using sex to help sell their products.
That's true even in the tire industry. Think of the Pirelli Calendar and all the women models featured at tire and wheel booths during the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo in Las Vegas. To many people, sex, fast cars and high performance go hand in hand.
What is unusual, however, is finding a company objecting to the use of sex in advertising and then dropping a product line because of it. But that's what happened recently when Sears, Roebuck and Co. decided to stop selling a Falken Tire Corp. tire line after the import tire maker ran some racy ads in two truck magazines.
Even though Falken said it targeted the ads at street tuners and sport light truck enthusiasts-two groups that likely are more accepting of such advertising-Sears ``still felt it was an insensitive ad,'' a Falken executive said.
Certainly sex-in Falken's case a model in a revealing jumpsuit and some spicy taglines-helps draw attention to products. But it also has the potential of turning off customers, particularly the majority of tire consumers who are women.
This concern applies to the automotive service side of the business, as well. According to the Bethesda, Md.-based Car Care Council, when it comes to buying automotive service, women make up as much as 50 to 80 percent of service providers' customers.
``They're the folks making the decision, so doesn't it make sense to attract those people or at least not exclude them?'' the council's Susan Jones said.
Which is why the council is highlighting marketing efforts aimed at attracting women motorists as it gears up for National Car Care Month. That annual event is moving to April this year after previously being held in October.
Service shops should be aware of how they are perceived by women, Ms. Jones said, and they need to tailor their marketing efforts to be non-gender specific.
Clearly not everyone is of-fended by the use of racy advertising to sell products and services. Such ads, calendars and ``pin-up'' material have been an industry staple for years in magazines, shops and on mechanics' toolboxes. If it didn't work, such advertising approaches wouldn't exist.
But companies-and that includes independent tire dealerships-should carefully weigh the pros and cons of using sex in their tire marketing campaigns.
The goal of tire advertising should be to build brand and product awareness, generate demand and drive sales higher, not to potentially offend customers. It should tout the products' technology and assets-not a model's.
As Falken has found out, there are consequences in trying to be cutting-edge clever.