Retail

Brand awareness

Bob Ulrich
Posted on June 7, 2012

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been eliminated to protect the innocent — and the guilty.

A tire dealer friend of mine was visited by a representative from one of his tire suppliers a few years back. It was prior to the recession.

“Here’s what I need you to do for me,” said the rep.

“Don’t you mean what you need to do for me?” said the dealer. “I buy thousands of tires from you. I am your customer.”

Believe it or not, the rep wouldn’t budge, and outlined what he and his company needed. My friend ended what was once a mutually beneficial relationship with the supplier.

Did his dealership suffer? After all, his stores were known for selling the brand. Nope. He replaced it and moved on to bigger and better things. And he never looked back.

Sound familiar? I hope not. Strong relationships with your tire suppliers will help your business run more efficiently and successfully, and less stressfully.

But the brand is only part of what defines you in the public’s eyes.

Look at Les Schwab Tire Centers. The third largest independent tire dealership in the country sells the Toyo, Dean, Federal, Hankook and Multi-Mile consumer tires, but you would never know it by looking at its advertising. Or outdoor signage. Or website.

Oh, the tires all have names. They are almost always the line names, however, not the brand names. Take, for example, the Toyo Open Country A/T. The SUV tire is listed on the company’s website as the Open Country A/T.

(I had never heard of one of the passenger car tires, Thunderer, and had to look it up. It is made by Deestone Ltd. out of Thailand.)

Does it matter? When potential customers see an ad, or drive by an outlet, or search the website, they see Les Schwab tires, not brand name tires. Branding your business doesn’t get any better than that.

The 434 Les Schwab Tire Centers do have their own tire, by the way. They sell the Tourevo, a private brand tire manufactured by Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. Les Schwab lists the brand, but not the manufacturer.

Mountain View Tire & Service Inc. has grown from one store to 30 in 25 years. Along the way, the company has varied its logo, sometimes from store to store. Founder, CEO and President Nick Mitsos, Modern Tire Dealer’s 2011 Tire Dealer of the Year, even agreed to a drastic change once; it didn’t work.

“When we were a one, two or three store operator, Mountain View Tire didn’t mean much to anybody,” says Vice President Chris Mitsos, one of Nick’s three sons in the business. “Goodyear did. That’s the reason we always chose to go to market as Goodyear.”

One store featured the bright Goodyear logo with small, dark, understated “Mt. View Tire” under it (see photo).

A new logo has been created to better promote and unify the brand. It will appear not only on each store, but also everywhere else, including the company’s Web page (www.mountainviewtire.com), says Chris. With 30 stores, “we now have the flexibility to change. Our density and penetration is such that we need to make Mountain View Tire the number one name.

“Goodyear will continue to be a wonderful partner and supplier to us,” he adds.

And that’s the way it should be. Don’t get me wrong. Brands have value. Goodyear, Michelin, Firestone and Pirelli usually score very well in top-of-mind awareness surveys. To take advantage of that makes sound business sense.

However, they should never overshadow your own identity.

And they don’t have to. There are more than 150 consumer tire brands from which to choose. That gives you a lot of sales, marketing and branding options. ■

If you have questions or comments, please e-mail me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

Related Topics: Bob Ulrich, brand awareness, Editorial

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