UHP Tires: Mainstream Marketing

Customer track days can be a great way to build UHP brand loyalty and influence purchase decisions - but they won’t appeal to all your UHP customers. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Customer track days can be a great way to build UHP brand loyalty and influence purchase decisions – but they won’t appeal to all your UHP customers. (Photo: Huw Evans)

The UHP market has changed, and so should your marketing message.

You’ve probably heard the expression “a rising tide lifts all boats.” When it comes to tires, the “tide” in question could very easily be performance, since we’ve seen a continuous shift to lower profile, higher rated performance rubber on an ever-growing number of vehicles.

Yet with performance oriented tires becoming increasingly mainstream, how does that impact demand for Ultra High Performance rubber?

Orazio Mastracchio, Public Relations Manager for Pirelli in Canada, says that in general, UHP customers today do look for similar attributes to those shopping for more mainstream tires. The key essentials that drive a UHP tire purchase often include a combination of comfort, longevity, safety and fuel efficiency.

The difference however, lies in the selection process itself. UHP customers tend to be more informed, Mastracchio says, as well as driven by their own specific requirements, including the type of vehicle they own and their individual driving style.

“A UHP sports sedan customer wants high levels of handling,” he says, “but tends to place more emphasis on longevity, safety, fuel efficiency and comfort.”

At the other end of the UHP spectrum, a pure sports car driver tends to gravitate towards outright handling and grip, since durability and fuel efficiency aren’t often as important a consideration.

That said, there’s been a growing trend towards comfort, durability and fuel efficiency across the entire UHP spectrum, and it’s something manufacturers are keenly aware of.

Marketing approach

With that in mind, is there still a need to differentiate UHP tires from a marketing perspective? A big selling point for UHP rubber has always been the link between high performance on the road, and on the racetrack – Goodyear’s unidirectional Eagle line, Bridgestone’s Potenza and Michelin’s Pilot Sport all being good examples.

While there’s still a valuable marketing message in such strategies, perhaps it’s time to target more specific audiences with tools like social media.

Whether you’re a manufacturer or retailer, finding that common ground with your social media audience can pay big dividends. Examples for UHP customers can include invitations to track day events where drivers can get to see how the tires perform.

In Canada, seasons can also have a key role in a successful UHP marketing strategy. Building awareness for UHP product lines, or offering rebates in the spring, can help to not only boost business, but to create interest for other, more mainstream tire lines as well.

Think of it as a “halo effect,” similar to the way car manufacturers show off their flagship sports cars in order to attract broader audiences to their brands as a whole.

Selling on price

What about price? In the world of UHP tires, the notion of price can be rather complex. “Rebates can help,” says Mastracchio “and based on our own analysis are definitely appreciated by UHP customers.” However, tire requirements tend to be more important.

Jeff Cunningham, Operations Manager at Beverly Tire & Auto, says that when it comes down to the retail level, rebates can help get customers in the door—even for UHP tires—but its the quality of the product, combined with the quality of service the customer receives, that will be the biggest influence in the purchase decision, especially over the long term.

The evolving UHP market calls for an evolving marketing strategy. Not all UHP customers are alike, and not all will respond to yesterday’s marketing messages. Tire dealers need to understand today’s UHP customers’ needs, and respond accordingly.

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