Advertising, past and future

May 14, 2010

There are consumers out there who are “in market” for a set of tires today, and there are consumers out there who are “out of market” with no interest in what you have to offer. I remember reading a report from one of the “Big Three” tire manufacturers a few years back that stated the following:
“For every 100 consumers you advertise to concerning the purchase of tires, two to five consumers will be ‘in market’ consumers, depending on the time of year.”
So, which group do you want to target and talk to? Would it be an extreme thought just to display your products to consumers who are looking to purchase today?

There was a time when the Thursday and Sunday newspaper ads in the sports pages were king. It was relatively inexpensive, and you could afford to display your advertising to a very large segment regardless of whether consumers were “in market” or not.

The Yellow Pages was advertising royalty back in those days as well. That form of advertising was somewhat affordable, and the book just sat there every day, in the consumer’s home or office, waiting patiently until they became an “in market” consumer.

Those days are gone. Newspapers have lost readership. The world changed, and the Internet came along and gave consumers almost unlimited selection on where to get their news.
That audience, easily reached in the past, has fragmented. I live in Phoenix, but read the “New York Times” online. One of my favorite radio stations broadcasts from London, England. I watched three TV shows the other night in the time it takes to watch two by eliminating all those commercials with my DVR.

Yellow Pages books grew in number, which drove up costs and reduced return on investment.

Last summer, in my neighborhood of 100 homes, someone got lazy and stacked the Yellow Pages books down by the mail box area rather than deliver to each household. After a week, more than half were still there and ended up in the dumpster. It is just too easy and more complete to do these things online.

Online is on target

It’s fun to digress, but where can we find the largest pool of “in market” consumers today for tires? You will find them online.

More than 16 million consumers searched for tires (broad match) in February on Google alone. So that is 16 million times a consumer raised his or her hand and stated, “I am ‘in market’  for your product.” Google is the largest search engine, and it is probably the most important place to be online. You want to show up when every “in market” consumer in your sales area looks for tires.

Limited funds you say? I don’t care. If all of your online budget is spent on search engines, so be it. It is your highest ROI play, period.

The Yellow Pages business plan has moved online as well. It is one of many online directories — and there are too many to count. This is another high ROI area, but you need to look at online traffic patterns and find the best ones for you in your area.

Coupon Web sites have exploded since the economy went into recession mode. “Media Post” reported that the online coupon business was up 174% in 2009 over 2008. So, do consumers wait for  a coupon to come in the mail hoping there is one in there for the purchase they are looking to make? Or do they take their purchase ideas and go online looking for the coupon that fits their needs today? This is probably the fastest growing behavior on the Web.

Mobile advertising is on a very fast track as well. From a consumer behavior standpoint, two mind sets come into play for our industry when you use mobile advertising.

1. Bringing together your store location information and the consumer looking for a deal/promotion/coupon. First step? Have your business listed in as many places in the mobile space as possible. It is a lot of work to execute properly, but well worth the effort.

Looking at the big picture, the online industry experts are predicting that in just a few years, more of your consumers will interact with your company through the mobile space than any other medium. Time to start learning.

2. Using social media to sell. There is lots of buzz about social media these days. Tweet this and Facebook that. The number of people engaged in social media is truly staggering. But what does that mean to us in the tire business? I mean, social is social and shopping is shopping. But it may eventually be advantageous for you to be on Facebook and/or Twitter. The jury is still out on this.

What I do know, and it’s the same as it has always been, is that your company’s reputation is on the line online. Every customer has the potential to go home and post good or bad things about your company, broadcasting their thoughts to possibly hundreds of people.

The importance of good customer service has never been more important. If you want good social buzz online about your company, then make sure your customer service is the best in town. Your consumers will advertise for you.

So, in the end, advertising has just changed mediums. The print programs that worked well in the past are alive online. You just need to know where to look and how to play the new advertising game, whether you do it yourself or outsource.    ■

Mike Bruce, president of VTS solutions LLC (, enjoyed a long career with Discount Tire Co. going back to 1967. He was a store manager in the 1970s, and started and managed Discount Tire’s Dallas/Fort Worth region in the 1980s. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1990 and moved to the Scottsdale, Ariz., corporate office to work in purchasing. Bruce started the Discount Tire Direct program in 1994, and created the Web site for the company in 1996. He was responsible for e-commerce and online advertising for Discount Tire through 2007. He can be reached at (866) 798-3523.