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Got Milk? Pork – The Other White Meat. Beef – It’s What’s For Dinner. Ahh, The Power of Cheese. These all-too-familiar catch phrases have been seared into our memories because the Dukes of Dairy, Princes of Pork and Barons of Beef figured it out: There really is no "I" in "Team".

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Back in the All-About-Me 1980s, health-niks started pointing fingers at all things cholesterol. The popularity of chicken, fish and veggies soared, while sales of all-American beef, milk, cheese and pork dropped dramatically.

The multi-billion dollar dairy, pork and beef industries decided they needed to extol the healthy aspects of their products.

In 1985, their associations went to Congress and got a series of "checkoff" programs instituted, which collect an assessment on all domestic and imported beef, pork and dairy products. The funds are used for research, evaluation programs, consumer information and, of course, domestic advertising.

According to AdAge.com, the milk and cheese groups will churn some $175 million this year promoting the wholesomeness of dairy products. Beef and pork groups will fork out another $50 million. That’s over $225 million to make Americans feel better about foods we were taught to hate.

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Are those ad pushes working? The beef association says over 80% of all consumers recognize the Beef – It’s What’s For Dinner campaign. The iconic Got Milk? effort rates closer to 90%. And who didn’t see that little girl leaving cheese for Santa this past Christmas? Sales of dairy and meat products have never been higher, and consumers now see America’s dairy and meat products in a better light.

Focused resources + focused messages + focused campaigns = Success.

It has been more than two years since the harsh light of public attention turned on the tire industry, striking fear in the hearts of consumers. Heck, there was so much bad publicity, you’d have thought tires killed as many people as cholesterol-induced heart disease.

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The Big 3 U.S. tiremakers alone spent close to $300 million advertising their various brands last year. Conservatively speaking, the other tire marketers spent at least another $300 million on top of that.

How much of this $600 million-plus pie was dedicated to educating consumers about tire care and safety? Just a meager fraction, I’m afraid. And on a series of passive efforts at that.

Let’s be clear here. I applaud what’s been done to promote tire safety and care. More money has been spent and more attention paid than ever before on making people smarter about tires.

But the Titans of Tires don’t get it. Their reactive programs passively make tire care info available only to tire shoppers or those willing to hunt it down on the Internet. As a result, we’re only reaching about 25% of all vehicle owners once a year, if that. No wonder NHTSA studies show the knowledge needle hasn’t budged.

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The food folk have been smart, force-feeding their industry-first messages by putting them directly in front of the audience; you can’t watch TV or open a magazine without getting their messages.

Would anyone still be serving red meat, drinking milk or eating cheese if the dairy, pork and beef groups followed the tire industry’s passive philosophy? Lucky for tire companies they have no salmon, chicken or fruit juice competition.

With apologies to Churchill, the consumer education war won’t be won on showroom floors, in service bays or on race tracks. It must be waged in the family rooms, in the mail and on the airwaves.

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Tires are a $25 billion enterprise in North America. Just one-half percent of that would create a $125 million annual kitty for a solid in-your-face program.

TIA suggests such in its strategic plan, but it can’t engineer a multi-million dollar campaign without serious tiremaker support. RMA’s Be Tire Smart effort is great, but it can’t even generate big dollar support from its members.

Does the tire industry need a "checkoff" program like the food groups? If benevolence and wisdom can’t match need, then yes. Half a dollar for every tire sold in the U.S. would generate over $150 million annually.

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Just in the last 24 months, the tire industry has spent billions defending and settling lawsuits. Billions more will go to meeting TREAD Act-mandated changes. How much of this could have been avoided if we had a fully funded aggressive, proactive public information campaign?

How much better off will this industry be when we finally get one?

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