AKRON (May 22, 2006) — When it comes to selecting a tire, consumers in the U.S. and Canada have more than 320 brands from which to choose. Dealers also have to decide which of these—and how many—to carry.
But how does a consumer decide which brand to buy? And how does a dealer decide which brands to sell?
A big part of the decision is based on brand perception, marketing experts say, or brand equity.
According to Michael DeSorbo, director of market segments for Carquest Corp., a brand creates perception, feelings and beliefs that customers associate with a product or service.
“You need to do the ordinary things extraordinarily—every day, in every way, in every detail,” he said in a recent speech. “It's the only way you can build your brand.”
A number of tire makers have taken steps recently to boost or tweak their brands' equity.
Hankook Tire America Corp., Pirelli Tire North America Inc. and Maxxis International have gained original equipment (OE) fitments on vehicles sold in North America, while Kumho Tire USA Inc. is working on attaining fitments, perhaps as soon as this year.
Why would they put the time, effort and ex-pense into becoming OE-certified? An over-riding reason is image—which plays into brand equity.
If, for example, you're selling Hankook or Maxxis, and your counterperson is trying to close a sale, doesn't it make sense he or she should mention that particular tire is now OE on a particular Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Corp. or whatever vehicle?
Some tire makers are looking to revamp their brands' perception. Continental Tire North America Inc. is planning to relaunch its General brand in North America, focusing on the line's all-American heritage, while Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is striving to give its Cooper brand a more youthful image.
At the same time, Bridgestone/Firestone is taking steps to ensure its Bridgestone and Firestone truck tire brands have more distinct, differentiated identities.
The company embarked on this effort after management realized that the lines of buyer perception between the two brands had begun to blur in an environment of increasing brand names. It drove home this point to its commercial dealers at the recent Bizcon10 gathering.
Brand equity is not limited just to tires, however. It also applies to the image a tire dealership has in its local marketing area.
As a tire dealer, do you know what your brand is? Is your perception of your dealership the same as your employees' and customers'? Are your actions, style and advertising demonstrating that image?
Take a page from these companies' experiences and take a fresh look at your brand. Maybe it's time to freshen it up a bit.