Five years after The Walt Disney Co. was founded in 1923, the Walt Disney Studios division created arguably the most popular character in the history of animation: Mickey Mouse.
Since Mickey Mouse’s cinematic birth, the company and brand has exploded. Today, Disney is a mass media empire that, among other things, owns and operates 14 theme parks around the world. Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando was the site of the 2015 Tire Pros National Dealer Business Conference, which brought together 1,300 people – Tire Pros members and their families – from Jan. 11-13.
Tire Pros president Dan Brown set the tone for a few major announcements by relating the reason why the organization chose Disney World as the destination for the national dealer conference.
“When your kids walked in and took their pictures with Mickey Mouse, they had a twinkle in their eyes,” said Brown. “I bet the kids were just as excited to see Mickey back in the ’30s. That long-lasting, consistent brand is what Tire Pros dealers should aspire to have.”
Aspirations aren’t enough for the group though. That’s why the Tire Pros unit announced the ways in which the organization will support its dealers in their quest to become a long-lasting, consistent brand at the local, regional and national level. That support in 2015 will come in two major ways.
Called a “one-two punch” by Tire Pros, the group will stake its claim to delivering excellence and professionalism through its first national marketing push. Secondly, the Tire Pros unit will back up that claim with business tools and training designed to develop members to be the best at what they do.
“When I first entered this industry as a shop owner, my dad offered me a word of advice,” said Wes Stephenson, Tire Pros vice president of operations. “It doesn’t matter how many tire stores or other competitors there are on your block. There’s always room in any market for the best. That’s what being a Tire Pros dealer is all about.”
Tire Pros announced that it is negotiating with five college athletic conferences on multi-channel sponsorships similar to Tire Pros’ sponsorship of the ACC last year. B. Quick Chadwick, director of marketing for Tire Pros, told those in attendance that Tire Pros is working with the Big 12, SEC, PAC 12, the ACC, and the Big 10 on sponsorship deals.
“With 635 dealers nationwide, the time for a national advertising program is now. It’s time to build awareness of the Tire Pros brand nationally,” said Chadwick. “We want to get in front of the customer and tell our story.”
Parent company ATD has contributed $1 million to assist with funding the national advertising campaign. Tire Pros used the conference to ask dealers to contribute to the campaign, as well. “Tire Pros is committed to helping you grow your business. Let’s look to the future of a truly national brand,” said Brown.
Tire Pros expects to announce more details on the status of the national advertising campaign at the end of the first quarter this year, said Chadwick.
In the land of cartoon characters, Tire Pros also unveiled its new national mascot: PROfessor Owl.
“We realized we needed a family-friendly identity to support what we’re doing organically,” said Chadwick. “Many of our dealers host store-level events, and we need to support those events with a mascot.”
PROfessor Owl was chosen to represent the group of independent tire dealers because, according to Chadwick, an owl represents wisdom, support and protection, just like a Tire Pros dealer.
And just as any national brand needs a mascot, every national brand needs a consistent look and feel. In order to achieve this, Tire Pros is continuing its work to offer dealers store branding, including an awning shaped like a tire that will eventually become the “Golden Arches” of Tire Pros.
Chadwick also announced a few other marketing initiatives to be completed in 2015. Tire Pros will unveil two mobile apps in 2015. The first app is designed to reduce customer wait time by letting them check-in on their mobile devices and “wait in line” for service. The app will also update customers on the repair/service process and their estimated wait time. The second app will provide educational materials to consumers about tires and tire maintenance.
Tire Pros will advertise on mobile devices through The Weather Channel and Pandora apps. Both of these allow Tire Pros to reach consumers based on such factors as a song preference (indicating age and gender, among other details), and weather conditions and geography.
Tire Pros has also signed on to be an official sponsor of “Independent We Stand,” a movement by independent business owners in the U.S. to shift consumer spending to local businesses and away from big box operations. All Tire Pros members will receive a complementary membership into the program.
There will also be four Tire Pros exclusive rebate promotions in 2015, taking place in February, May/June, June/July, and Fall 2015. This is the first year that every promotion will incorporate the Tire Pros Preferred Customer Credit Card, which saw record-breaking success in 2014, the company said.
Tire Pros also detailed a new vendor program called the My Car Care Rewards loyalty program. This program offers dealers a customizable, loadable rewards card, where dealers can offer customers points for every dollar spent at their store.
Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair, the 2013 Tire Review Top Shop Award Winner, was present at the vendor fair with My Car Care Rewards to demonstrate the card in action. All six of Community Tire’s locations in Arizona utilize the program, which has been branded the “High Mile Club” by owners Howard and Pat Fleischmann.
“It’s been great for us,” said Pat. “Not only can customers earn points to redeem on future services, but we as a business can load up a customer’s card if we need to credit or reward them.”
The organization also congratulated three Tire Pros dealers that were awarded the title of 2014 Tire Review Platinum Performer. Tire Pros supported the program in 2014 in an effort to help Tire Pros dealers benchmark themselves against other independent tire dealers. Out of 10 Platinum Performers, three were Tire Pros dealers: Community Tire Pros & Auto, Hoffman Tire Pros and Ray’s Tire & Service Center Inc.
The Second Punch
As important as it is to proclaim that Tire Pros is the best, it’s just as, if not more, important to demon-strate that claim every single day. Stephenson communicated that message throughout the conference and detailed Tire Pros’ commitment to training – it’s second jab in the “one-two punch strategy.”
“What do customers want?” asked Stephenson. “In a world full of long lines, numerous forms and poor customer service, customers want the best.”
At the conference, Tire Pros honored its outgoing national council chairman Greg Moore, owner of Discount Tire & Service Tire Pros in Terrell, Texas, who has been working with Tire Pros execs and the national dealer council over the past year to redirect focus on the group’s training offerings.
“Everybody is getting into the tire business,” said Moore. “We’ve got to learn the rules of the game and then play it better than the rest of the competition.”
Moore noted that in 2014 Tire Pros focused on training by offering specialty educational programs on all aspects of a tire business. Once a year, the organization offers advanced training for dealer principals through its Tire Pros University classes, which will explore topics such as real estate, expansion planning, expense control and marketing principles.
Regional “think tank” meetings for dealer owners will also occur throughout the year and are de-signed for owners to get together to brainstorm new ideas and ways to build their businesses.
PROS (Professional Retail Operations and Sales) training will be made available at the regional level for store personnel to learn basic topics such as telephone techniques, wheel sales, tire protection plans and credit card sales.
Tire Pros is also expanding its new dealer orientation, which coaches new dealer members. In addition, it’s also working on two related orientation classes for new store managers and veteran dealers.
Moore urged dealers to continue to take advantage of Tire Pros offerings and the knowledge of fellow Tire Pros members. Hootie Gipson of Gipson’s Tire Pros in Montgomery and Prattville, Ala., was then introduced as the incoming national council chairman.