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A worrying disinterest in tire brands

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A worrying disinterest in tire brands

It is generally considered that when someone buys something they have chosen as their preferred brand, it would be reasonable to assume they know what they have purchased.

Well, apparently not when it comes to drivers in Europe. A recent report by a leading international specialist in business case studies — Innocean Worldwide Europe (IWE) — incorporates data that amazingly states around 40% of motorists do not know what brand of tires are fitted to their vehicle. In anybody’s language, this amounts to a surprisingly low brand recognition level and is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at how informed consumers are about tires.

The report also states that a massive 46% of tire buyers spend under five minutes deciding which new tires to purchase. It also states that although in Europe a significant 41% of tire buyers are women, in general the ladies continue to be ignored when it comes to most tire marketing campaigns.

Quite honestly, this statistic is shocking when you realize more than 70% of those women admit to being completely uncertain concerning type and brand of tire they should buy.

IWE even has a go at tire producers, stating that they fail to appreciate and recognize the opportunity to promote leading selling points in their advertising/promotional campaigns. The current campaigns are considered to be boring, insignificant and failing to catch the consumers’ attention.

I would agree the “big guns” have become increasingly complacent, but looking at the market in Europe I also feel their unjustified confidence that they will capture the majority of tire sales is slowly being edged away by other increasingly popular mid-range brands. The general momentum is this: The European tire industry remains in the rut of traditional marketing techniques that totally ignore the fast moving trends of modern times.

Before I give my honest opinion on why the tire sales market in Europe has become so negative, here are some more startling findings from a recent personal study across five European countries.

  • Forty-three percent of people would rather spend money on quality cuisine in a restaurant than upgrade to more expensive tires. Sixty-eight percent revealed that they had never really thought about their tires and the questionnaire put to them has made them think about their tires for the first time.
  • Thirty-five percent admitted they didn’t know enough about tires to be able to differentiate in quality between brands, plus only 32% said they knew what brand they would choose when they next had to buy tires.

So what do these findings tell us about the European tire industry? Well, it seems obvious the majority of drivers are just not interested in tires and view them in that time-held opinion of being black, round and boring. Because the majority of consumers are not provided with more comprehensive features and benefits by manufacturers, they cannot be expected to really care what name they carry on their sidewalls.

Having visited a great deal of tire retail outlets over the years, I am well aware of the general lethargic and in some cases stressful attitude shown by European drivers when having to buy a replacement tire.

The age-old theory that tires are a “stress purchase” is very much alive and kicking across all of Europe, the UK and Ireland.

In my opinion, even if tire manufacturers were to “up their game” in terms of increasing the effectiveness of their promotional campaigns, I am not convinced it would make any significant difference — at least in the short term. At the end of the day, “price is king” where buying tires is concerned, as I’m sure most customers would freely admit. They are not interested in what tire brand is fitted to their vehicle as long as it is costs as little as possible.

This is why inexpensive imported tires from around the world continue to capture a reasonable sales return in Europe.

I firmly believe that until tires are somehow elevated to their rightful position of being a crucially important part of any vehicle in terms of safety and performance, the current ignorance to brand recognition will remain.   ■

John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own company, Sapphire Media Services, as a business media consultant with clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.

Recent surveys completed in Europe indicate that the majority of consumers are not interested in tires and still consider buying them a “stress purchase.”

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