Like a college freshman leaving home to strike out on one's own, recently emancipated Gabriel North America is re-establishing itself as an independent company and promoting its independent spirit in a new advertising campaign.
The Gabriel brand, which has been around for 103 years, is trying to recapture its original independent brand image before it was acquired by ArvinMeritor Inc. in 1986. Last year the conglomerate sold the Gabriel unit, a distributor of shock absorbers and strut assemblies, to a private equity firm, OpenGate Capital LLC.
We spent a lot of last year improving the business, said Jeffrey Gammons, who served as Gabriel's marketing and communications manager until leaving the company after the AAPEX show. We did a lot of investments in the companysome in-sourcing and doing more manufacturing in-house to control the quality and improve delivery.
The company, incorporated as Ride Control L.L.C., has introduced new part numbers, especially for late model vehicles.
Since we separated from ArvinMeritor, we've added almost 500 part numbers in the last year-and-a-half or so, he said. That's a large investment for us to develop thosethe tooling associated with it, all the testing and validation that we do on every component we release and sell. The customer is seeing better delivery, improved quality and quicker turn around time and a broader selection.
During AAPEX, the firm debuted brand imagery developed from surveys of its customers, distributors and retailers, and aftermarket customers who don't use Gabriel products.
What they came back with was, we have a very strong brand, a very good image and when they think of Gabriel, they think of the original Gabriel, how we were before we got rolled into a large corporation, Mr. Gammons told Tire Business. We were independent. We were responsive to the market . A little smaller than some of the other players out there but very well-respected.
So one of the things we've tried to do is the people that remember the original Gabriel are tending to get a little older and starting to retire, so we have a newer generation coming through and we want to make sure we introduce them to the original Gabrielthe Gabriel that we are known for.
The Ride the Independent Spirit print ads show eclectic images of vehicles and their drivers promoting the original Gabriel brand and the tag line, There's one for every one.
So no matter how you use your vehicle or what vehicle you have, we have one for every onewhich refers to our (parts) coverage, Mr. Gammons said. Gabriel offers several parts for a vehicle to adapt to how a consumer uses the vehicle.
Just for fun, Mr. Gammons added, the print ads show a part number and challenges viewers to figure out to which part it refers.
We've gotten a lot of feedback. We're reinvigorated, he said.
The ad campaign works well for all of Gabriel's markets, he said, which include light vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles.
In addition to the print ads and point-of-sale materials, Gabriel will start running radio spots in January. The ad campaign is expected to last two or three years while rotating in new ad images, including possibly adding images of actual Gabriel parts users, according to Mr. Gammons.
Sales have been strong this year, especially on the commercial side, he said. The company is expecting to see a large group of vehicles still on the road that are aging to the point where they will need maintenance and replacement parts.
We're seeing a volume increase on 2005, 2006, 2007 vehicles, and we've added a lot of those applications last year. Now we're rolling out 2008 and 2009 applications because in the next year or two we will be needing this, he said.