You've got this super product you believe is nothing short of a technological marvel. Problem is, it just so happens to be a tire.
So how do you differentiate your pride and joy from the millions of other round, black ones on the market? Can it be done? The short answer: Yes, but.... Yes, but it's a lot different than, say, hawking a shiny new car or a refrigerator.
In the first part of this article, a brand management consulting firm outlined the four consumer dimensions that make a brand stand out from the crowd. They are differentiation-the perceived distinctiveness of the brand; relevance-the perceived usefulness of the brand to consumers and its ability to meet consumers' needs; esteem-the respect a brand has among consumers; and knowledge-the depth of consumer understanding about the brand.
This installment will consider the factors that go into positioning a tire brand in the marketplace, the tie-in between tires and motorsports and how some tire dealerships position the brands they sell to get a bigger bang for their buck.
Putting tires in their proper place
There are any number of factors that go into positioning a tire brand in the market, according to the marketing executives of various tire companies.
``From a product perspective, we consider the various segments we'll participate in,'' said Phil Caris, vice president, sales and marketing for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. ``Our positioning strategies range all the way from entry level to ultra-high performance and luxury tires.''
Part of Cooper's positioning strategy is the company's decision ``to lead the market in certain segments and become known as an innovator in the market,'' said Pat Brown, Cooper vice president, global branding and communications. Cooper's Zeon family of tires, she said, is a perfect example: ``We had a lot of ground to make up when we entered the ultra-high performance market, but in sports truck sizes we will be first or second in the market with the Zeon family.''
In an earlier Tire Business article, Ms. Brown discussed the advertising campaign Cooper began in April to raise the Cooper brand's profile among consumers.
``We're going to treat that brand like a precious jewel,'' she said. ``We're going to be religious about where we allow it to be used, how it's going to be used (and) what it's going to be used in affiliation with. We are going to make this a premium brand that it truly is today.''
In the typical ``good-better-best'' marketing strategy, most tire makers push for their various lines. At Bridgestone/Firestone, Bridgestone is the ``premium'' brand, Firestone the ``better'' brand and associate brands such as Dayton the ``good'' brands, according to Michael Fluck, BFS advertising and Internet manager.
``In brand positioning, we consider the competitive environment-what other products are out there,'' Mr. Fluck said. ``We ask, `What's the need?' and, `What can be positioned to fill that demand?' We also ask whether we need a `best' tire positioned in that market.''
Vehicle fitment, demographics, market research, consumer demand, mileage warranties and Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) ratings are only some of the factors that go into making those determinations, he said.
``We're very happy with the segmentation we've achieved,'' added Phil Pacsi, BFS executive director-North American consumer tire brand marketing. He and Mr. Fluck identified the segmentation for the Bridgestone Potenza and Firestone Firehawk lines, as well as the Bridgestone Dueler and Firestone Destination lines in the light truck field, as particular successes for the company. The original equipment fitment of the Bridgestone Potenza RE050 on the new Ferrari was a major coup, they said.
To reach the youth market, BFS made the decision last year to launch an entirely new brand, Fuzion, and introduced it with a flourish at last fall's Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo in Las Vegas. ``We're the first company to do an entirely new brand,'' Mr. Fluck said.
At Michelin Americas Small Tires (MAST), according to Sheryl Henderson, director, Michelin brand, ``The Four P's'' are paramount in brand positioning: product, price, placement (or distribution) and promotion.
``We consider what the consumer profile looks like,'' she said. ``We do segmentation on a multi-brand basis, so we figure out how consumers align with different brands. That sets the framework.''
MAST positions the Michelin brand as its premium brand, she noted. ``Michelin is a value-based product, based on the notion that you get what you pay for. If you're price-sensitive, we're probably not the brand for you. But our Uniroyal brand-also a very good tire-would fit right in with the brands price-conscious folks might consider.''