Director of Brand Development | Cooper Tires
Charles Goodyear revolutionized the rubber industry when he discovered the vulcanization of rubber, protected by his U.S. Patent 3633. The filing of this patent can be seen as a starting point for the modern tire industry. It is in recognition of his fierce determination and accomplishment that our Club 3633 takes its name. The Tire Review Club 3633 celebrates and recognizes the next generation of innovators — those who continue to shape and advance our industry. We welcome the 2019 Class of Club 3633 members and applaud their accomplishments with our sincere congratulations.
On day one of Jessica Egerton’s career at the Cooper Tire & Rubber headquarters in Findlay, Ohio, she sat at her desk as the company’s new director of brand development and read the first email in her inbox. It was from a Cooper employee working in a different state.
“It simply said, ‘Welcome to the family. We’re glad to have you,’” Jessica says.
Now, almost five years later, she says that email, which immediately defined the culture of the tire industry for her, still makes a significant impact on her relationships with members of the marketing team she leads, as well as tire industry folks across the country.
For Jessica, fostering strong, family-style relationships with the people she works with is a critical aspect of the job, and it’s a big part of what motivates her in her position at Cooper. She cited one memory she made while shooting a company commercial in 2016 that is particularly meaningful to her.
“We purposefully wanted some of our employees featured in the ad, so I had the opportunity to spend several days with six Cooper employees from throughout the U.S., two from each of our manufacturing plants. It is truly one of the highlights not only of my time at Cooper, but of my career,” she says. “It was a new experience for them; they had never seen or done anything like that before, so watching how delighted and intrigued they were by the world that I live in, in advertising, made me fall in love with my job all over again.”
She adds she keeps in touch with those employees and is sure to grab a meal with them whenever she has an opportunity to visit any of Cooper’s manufacturing locations.
Jessica is responsible for the overall marketing strategy for each Cooper brand, including Mastercraft Tires, Roadmaster Tires and more, as well as communicating that strategy to retailers, distributors and the end consumer. Outside of that position, Jessica also takes on the role of executive sponsor with Cooper’s recently-formed women’s network. As executive sponsor, Jessica helps Cooper employees find resources for professional development to help them further their careers.
“My role as a sponsor is really to act as a lead, a mentor and a guide … I’m a resource for the women of Cooper to talk to if they have questions about navigating their careers,” she says. “[Cooper] came to me and asked me to play the role of executive sponsor, and I was so humbled by it because I really want to pay forward what I’ve been able to benefit from it by helping other women break down barriers and find their voices and navigate their careers in order to succeed.”
Jessica’s people skills have quickly made her a respected representative of the tire business in the eyes of her peers, but she says it is utilizing these skills in a way that ultimately benefits the consumer that will lead the industry to the next level of success.
The key, she says, is adapting to the ever-changing expectations of the consumer.
“We’re really in the midst of a major transformation driven by how consumers want to act with brands, with significant changes to their access, and I would say even the convenience of that access, to products and services. I mean, just look at how the internet has changed things,” she says. “But I think it’s really important for people to understand, too, even with all of this talk about digital, retail is not dead. Even digitally-native companies like Amazon are opening up retail stores. It’s important to know that these aren’t separate experiences anymore. It’s not retail or digital, it’s both.”
One struggle she believes many companies in the tire industry need to address is successfully communicating to consumers the complexities of the tires themselves.
“We’re a very tech-centered and tire-jargon-centered industry. We like to talk a lot about silica and sipes, but, for most consumers, that’s not really what they’re focused on,” she says. “They want a tire that fits their vehicles, that’s good for their Honda or their Ford. They want a tire that helps them stop in the rain. That’s how they’re approaching it.”
She pointed to her own work where she’s tried to simplify some of Cooper’s advertising materials by focusing on the customers’ comprehension of the product first.
“Understanding how complex tires are, if it’s difficult for those of us in the industry [to understand], it also illustrates for me the struggles that consumers have every day,” she says. “Many consumers don’t like to talk about tires as much as we do. But you can help validate what they’re looking for, and you can be there to help them get what they need quickly and get them back on their way, and that’s a huge opportunity to build a customer for life.”
Jessica got her start in marketing and branding by working for companies like Maytag’s Whirlpool Corporation, Delta Faucet Company and Masco Cabinetry — companies that have been cornerstone brands in American homes for the past century or more. The historical significance of Cooper Tire is also not lost on her and is part of what drew her there in the first place.
“I love the connections to heritage and history, and when you look at Cooper, we’ve been around since 1914, based in Ohio where we started,” she says. “That connection to that history and that heritage is very strong at Cooper … those are values that I really believe in.”
Looking ahead, Jessica says she is looking forward to continuing to tell Cooper’s story to consumers, as well as strengthening her family-like connections with her peers.
And, she believes those peers will continue to do the same.
“That is so true of the Cooper culture,” she says, “but I also think that is very true of everyone I have met in this industry.”
Fun Fact: Jessica has photographic evidence from a time she stood at the end of a rainbow on the shores of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.
Other inductees of the 2019 Class of Club 3633 include Chris Albertz (Tire Discounters); Ryan Lopes (Alliance Tire Americas); Jonathan Ransom (Black’s Tire Service); and Sean Conley (American Tire Distributors).
Check out the rest of the July digital edition of Tire Review here.