RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — A new character has been lurking around all things Point S.
He's not particularly tall, nor does he have many distinguishing physical features, other perhaps than his straight blonde hair and blue blazer.
But customers of Point S Tire & Automotive Service USA dealers will recognize him not only by his wry smile, but also the phrase he repeats often "There's no stress with Point S."
The cooperative, led by Devin Barr, vice president of client services of Portland, Ore.-based MBT Marketing, has launched an aggressive national marketing campaign driven by the fictional Les Stressman — think Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials — who will appear in just about every medium, selling the Point S slogan, "No Stress with Point S."
The campaign, launched in the days following the group's 2023 Dealer Conference and Trade Show — held Jan. 26-29 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico — culminates a six-month project designed to bring attention to Point S dealers, now with 275 locations in 29 states.Point S Chief Operating Officer Clint Young said the group challenged MBT to design a marketing program that aligned with the Point S growth initiatives, one that didn't "abandon the local independent dealer" but had "shoulders broad enough to be national that we can use from the East Coast to the West coast to the South."
Barr's team initially devised 18 creative ideas that were pared down to a handful. The group then took the ideas to members for feedback, looking to ensure to ensure they were sparking the right type of interest, were telling the Point S story, and had an idea that served both the group's national and local sales promotional activities.
"We to support and provide some tools that are very noticeable with our friend Les Stressman to help supplement and complement what's going on in the local level," Barr said.
Barr stressed the campaign is a national undertaking, as opposed to locally driven regional production.
"We've all seen shots of wrenching on a tire, and shaking of hands," Barr said. "There is going to be a space for that in our campaigns, but we wanted to take it to a different level to bring more life to Point S."
"We are a marketing underdog," Point S CEO Walter Lybeck said. "We have to punch hard."
Point S hired an actor to play the role of Les Stressman, who is featured in several Point S commercials, urging customers to relax .
"Tires are grudge purchase," Young said. "Getting work down on your vehicle is not what you choose to do on any given day. Why not bring some fun to it, something that stands out and makes you laugh, smile a little bit?"
"It's a slap in the face in an industry that is fairly static in the messaging that they tell," Barr said.
The national campaign coincides with another, and in some ways, more aggressive launch of a Point S initiative: 555.
The group intends to grow to 500 locations, in all 50 states, within five years. Lybeck delivered that message during the general session at the dealer conference, as the group celebrated its 40th anniversary.
"I felt the membership needed to have a very clear vision of what we're trying to accomplish and why," Lybeck said. "You can't say, 'Here's all the great things we did this year. Trust us in the future.'
"We might not make that target. But it creates a vision for our members to understand where we are going, and (for them) to be on track with us."
Lybeck said its members — Point S currently has 160 owners, including 150 voting members — are the group's best recruiters.
"We had never asked our members to become multipliers before," he said. "Without a vision statement like that, they don't know that they need that. We can ask for help. It's a call to action for our members."
Point S jump-started the process late last year by implementing four initiatives that have resulted in a record 28 new points of sale in 2022, including stores in Alabama and South Carolina for the first time.
The initiatives, as reported earlier by Tire Business, include:
- An associated dealer program, whereby dealers may join Point S without having to brand themselves with Point S signage. The program comes with two stipulations: The owner has no voting rights; and they receive no patronage from Point S, such as signage, website support or marketing.
- A referral program, in which current owners can earn up to $10,000 if a dealer decides to join and is approved for Point S membership.
- No trouble to double, incentivizing current Point S members with resources to expand their dealerships and add more locations; and
- A retention program, in which Point S offers a bonus to owners who sell their shop to another Point S member, retaining the shop for the group.
Those initiatives came as a result of a Point S strategic session last September and laid the groundwork for the 5-5-5 strategy.
Chris Cornelius, board chair and co-owner of Clair & Dee's Point S in Rexburg, Idaho, has no doubts the group will succeed, particularly because of the Point S management team.
"The players we have in place right now, I would put them up against anybody in the industry," Cornelius said. "We're ready. It's locked and loaded."
Cornelius also noted the financial reward dealers receive for referrals.
When a member convinces a fellow dealer to join the group, Cornelius said the newcomer "has an instant mentor, an instant cheerleader."
Last year, Point S said the group'scollective sales and net income grew 10% year-over-year, and owners will get back a share of the $7.7 million pot, a record amount.
Point S also told members the minimum contribution is increasing to $1,200 from $800, the first increase since 2005. More than $200 of that increase is earmarked for local marketing through Google ads, social media, streaming TV and digital displays.
In addition, Point S is relaunching its website, adding options and making it easier for consumers and dealers alike. It also will introduce a new performance dashboard for members.
The plan, Lybeck said, is to keep growing units, stores and vendor partnerships through technology development, buying power and rebuilding marketing.
The group has come a long way since five Northwest independent tire dealers met in 1983, with the intention of banding together to order containers of tires directly from a distributor. They originally were called Tire Factory; in fact, a handful of chains still retain that branding.
"This co-op allows you to maintain your independence but allows you a brotherhood you never had," Cornelius said. "Until you experience it, it's like the first time on the Ferris Wheel ... once you get on it, you never look back."