It could be Kumho Tire USA Inc.'s own listing in the personals section of the classified ads:
Tire company seeking men 18 to 34, interested in racing and customizing cars. Long walks on the beach optional.
Kumho executives said this month during the annual dealer meeting in Cancun that the subsidiary of South Korea's Kumho Tire Co. Inc. is honing its specific marketing demographic of men ages 18-34. With that target in mind, the company is building its marketing plans for 2005 around racing or tuner-inspired events, with 100 percent of the effort relating back to these themes.
``This is a target for us to shoot at,'' Marketing Director Mike Leverington said of the demographic. ``We have X-amount of budget that we can really market with, so we can do it one of two ways: We can take a shotgun and point it in the sky and hope we hit something, or we can put a bull's eye out there and try to nail it. And that's what we're trying to do because we feel that target is very influential, passionate, emotional.''
Among some of Kumho's sponsorships like Championship Off-Road Racing and the NOPI Nationals, the company also is involved with Street Warriorz, a tuner event with Clear Channel, Hot Import Nights and the American Le Mans series.
The strategy goes beyond just an affinity for racing and hip-hop. Kumho executives said ``un-branding'' older consumers away from tire behemoths such as Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone would cost massive amounts of money. On the other hand, younger folks are not brand loyal for the most part, and if Kumho attracts them now, they could grow up to be staunchly brand loyal-to Kumho.
But the same challenge applies to independent dealers who generally are loyal to those same well-established brands. During the dealer meeting, Mr. Leverington urged dealers to participate in the company's ``Retail Dealer Promotions Toolbox,'' a group of four promotions. He acknowledged, though, Kumho faces some stiff competition from its larger counterparts for dealers' marketing energy and attention.
``We're not the primary brand in many cases, and every day they're out there promoting Michelin and the majors for obvious reasons,'' Mr. Leverington told Tire Business. ``So we have to do something a little different.''
The ``toolbox'' promotions include three funded by Kumho. Mr. Leverington said the programs will be evaluated at year-end, and if they're successful, Kumho could have twice as many promotions next year.
Executives pointed to 16-outlet Ken Towery's Auto Care Centers in Louisville, Ky., as an example of a successful dealer promotion for Kumho. Owner Ken Towery in December ran a newspaper ad pushing rebates of $20 to $60 per set on Kumho tires. ``This is the first time we really promoted the Kumho product,'' Mr. Towery told Tire Business, ``...and the sales for that period of time were up substantially.''
Mr. Towery said he participates in many racing events for his dealership. His company is represented at Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events in his area with tire displays and a customized truck with Ken Towery's and Kumho decals.
``It gives Kumho great exposure, and it also gives us great exposure,'' he said.
Chris Wood, president and purchaser at Tire Discounters in Cincinnati, said he's looking forward to a Street Warriorz event in Cincinnati that could bring some publicity for the dealership. But overall he said Tire Discounters markets its name instead of its tire brands.
``Your message just gets way too confusing with your average buyer if you try to mention every brand...so we always sell Tire Discounters,'' he said.
Kumho executives argue that their strategy of targeting young men and relating all efforts back to racing or its offshoots isn't limiting. Rick Brennan, Kumho's brand manager, said the tire company's efforts tie into an emotion more than the activities themselves.
``It doesn't alienate the older guys because we all want to be 25 years old again. So when we do that it's just the emotion that we want to keep,'' he said. ``By targeting that group it just makes it very visible.''
Mr. Towery agreed with this concept. ``It's surprising in our area, which is Kentucky, that we have a lot of these people 40 and 50 years old who want these larger tires and custom wheels, including myself,'' he said. ``I like that look, so certainly the meat of the people we're looking at is 18 to 34, but I think it goes beyond that.''
Richie Wade, general manager of DiPrima Wholesale Tire in Roseville, Ga., said the motorsports angle could be very positive for Kumho. ``It helped put Firestone on the map, and it's carried Goodyear all these years,'' he said. ``If (Kumho does) it right and they win, it will be very good for them.''
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Marketing in 2005
Kumho Tire USA officials said the company will participate in the following events this year:
* Summer and winter X Games
* NOPI Nationals
* Hot Import Nights
* Street Warriorz
* Youth AIDS
* Motorsports: F3, European Rally, Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR), American Le Mans (ALMS)
* Expanded TV and print advertising
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Kumho's 'Promotions Toolbox'
* Xtreme Sweepstakes: The contest offers a prize of a trip to the winter or summer X Games. Dealers can tap into the contest from March 15 through Sept. 30 at their discretion.
* $20 savings rebate: Dealers can offer a rebate on various Ecsta lines as well as Road Venture tires. Dealers are limited to one, three-week period during the year.
* Music download: With this promotion, customers can get a card for 15 downloaded songs, a roughly $20 value. Dealers again are limited to a one-time, three-week promotion.
* Direct mail: The only promotion not funded by Kumho, the direct mail plan allows dealers to develop a marketing mailing with direct mail firm Advo for 4.5 cents per piece. There is no limit on this promotion.