WASHINGTON (March 14, 2005) — Tire makers offer a truly staggering array of advertising and marketing tools to their independent and company-owned dealers, even when cooperative manufacturer-dealer programs are excluded.
Point-of-sale materials, downloadable logos and brochures from company Web sites, direct mail and customized radio and TV advertising are only the most prominent tools tire makers offer to dealers, according to marketing executives from several major tire manufacturing firms. While dealers of course have to pay for some services, such as the printing of flyers, the basic marketing tools and materials are made available to them free of charge.
At least two companies—Yokohama Tire Corp. and Kumho Tire USA Inc.—don't even offer co-op programs but make all their advertising and marketing programs available free to dealers.
Yokohama has a dealers-only page on its Web site, accessible by password, according to Art Michalik, the company's director of marketing communications. There, all the advertising and marketing tools available to Yokohama dealers, from logos to radio scripts, can be downloaded free, he said.
Kumho has created a special market development partnership program with its dealers, according to Marketing Director Mike Leverington. The funds for this program—the exact amount of which Mr. Leverington would not reveal—are neither predicated on dealer purchases nor dedicated to any specific dealer but designed instead to build the brand in local markets.
“Our programs are customer-focused, but dealer-minded,” he said. “We're taking a different approach from in the past, trying to be dealer sensitive, giving him the ability to choose what's best and most relevant for his local market.”
Among the ready-made materials Kumho offers its dealers are ad slicks, TV and radio ads and billboards, Mr. Leverington said. It also makes available to dealers what it calls a “retail toolbox,” giving dealers their choice of four different promotional campaigns: a sweepstakes, a $20 cash rebate, free music downloads or a direct mail campaign.
On its Web site, Michelin America Small Tires (MAST) offers dealers three distinct advertising/marketing tools, said George Aufmuth, MAST marketing communications manager.
One of these tools—AdMaker—gives dealers their choice of customized artwork and print ad modules as well as complete radio scripts and TV ads—all customized for their individual needs, Mr. Aufmuth said. The company also offers MailMaker, which gives dealers the ability to order customized direct mailings, and SignMaker, which offers customizable point-of-sale materials.
“Independent of that, we offer kits in connection with product launches, in-store materials, counter cards and standees for customers to see,” he said.
Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) has its own Chicago-based organization, the Family Dealer Retail Support Group, that acts as “a mini-ad agency” for its independent dealers, according to Phil Pacsi, BFS executive director of North American consumer tire brand marketing.
The programs BFS offers its TireStarz and affiliated dealers are the same as those offered to independents through the support group, Mr. Pacsi said. “We have the strength of our company-owned network, so we can take these strengths and translate them to the needs of independents,” he said.
As with most of the other advertising/marketing programs in the industry, a good deal of the material from the Family Dealer Retail Support Group is available online, Mr. Pacsi said. The print, radio and TV ads for local dealers are designed to be absolutely consistent with BFS's national ads, he added.
“The print and TV ads for local dealers have exactly the same look and feel as the national ads in USA Today or on HGTV,” Mr. Pacsi said. “It's all the better to tell customers to come to Joe's Tire for their Firestone spring rebate.”
BFS's next spring promotion is set to run April 7-May 7, he added. The promotion will feature a “$100 Tire Sale” in which Firestone FR 380 tires will be offered at four for $100, as well as rebates of $25, $50, $75 or $100 on 22 different lines of Firestone tires, depending on the model.
Goodyear offers an enormous variety of marketing and promotional assistance for its dealers, according to a list sent by a company spokesman. Besides the usual ad kits, signage, print materials and TV and radio promotions, its program features such things as a Dealer Locator number (1-800-GOODYEAR) and dealer Web site locator; a nationwide tire warranty; a Goodyear credit card; a road hazard program; and such inimitable things as the Goodyear blimps.
To Goodyear dealers registered as Gemini auto service retailers, Goodyear also offers nationwide warranties, purchasing programs, training modules and credits, annual audits and customer satisfaction surveys, among other things.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. provides as complete a program as any tire maker, said Dave Craig, Cooper director of North American advertising.
“On our national spots, we allow local dealers to add their own tag, as well as giving them some product spots where they can advertise specific products through cable,” Mr. Craig said. The company has long supplied print and broadcast ads to its dealers, but only started offering them via the Web in the last few months.
Because of its sponsorship of sports events through the NCAA and other organizations, Cooper also offers its dealers tie-ins to auto racing, college basketball, baseball and other sports, Mr. Craig said.
Pirelli Tire North America Inc. has tooled along several different avenues aimed at boosting its brands'—and its dealers'—visibility in a crowded tire-retailing marketplace. On the one hand the Rome, Ga.-based tire maker has focused energy and capital at less-traditional efforts, such as its “urban marketing” campaign's link to hip-hop music and rappers. During a recent interview in Akron with Tire Business, Guy Mannino, Pirelli's president and CEO, and Peter Tyson, vice president of advertising, sketched out several other areas in which the company is making strides.
Pirelli is concentrating, in part, on the “huge” ages 18-35 market, Mr. Mannino said, where consumers are “very brand conscious—they don't buy private labels like we did—and they have a lot more cash than we did.” The challenge for the company and its dealers, Mr. Tyson said, is “to keep on top of that. We've picked up a lot of key people in that area, like Tyson Beckford,” a Ralph Lauren male model and car enthusiast, who is setting up a business, Beckford Wheels, for which Pirelli is providing signature tires for his custom wheels.
Pirelli also is dipping its tread in the drifting arena, which both executives said is “more central to urban marketing than traditional racing.”
And talk about product placement, an upcoming movie, “Triple X 2,” the follow-up to a 2002 flick, is centered on a garage that has Pirelli tires prominently on display.
The company also is doing some traditional avenues of advertising and promotion, Mr. Tyson said. One plus for its dealers is what he called “a new 360-degree e-business Web site.” There, dealers can order tires and keep apprised of the status of orders and warehouse stock in real time, view Pirelli ads and become acquainted with the firm's various marketing strategies, as well as stay abreast of news about the tire maker, among other features.
The site—accessible at www.tiredealer. pirelli.com—is in the process of being launched after a tryout by several dealerships. Access will be restricted to Pirelli dealers. Pirelli plans to promote the site via press releases, “pushing it through to our dealer network,” Mr. Mannino said.
Officials of Continental Tire North America Inc. could not be reached for comment.
Tire Business Managing Editor Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk contributed information on Pirelli to this report.