The proof is in the pudding

I’m going to start this latest conversation by talking about Christmas….. in the middle of summer! Well not exactly the celebration of Christmas, but specifically the humble Christmas pudding. For those of you unaware of this traditional British delight, it’s a boiled pudding composed of dried fruits held together by egg and suet and flavoured with sweet spices. The pudding is aged for several months and the often high alcohol content prevents it from spoiling and has the added benefit of sending adults to sleep in front of a warm fire on December 25th.


Whilst it doesn’t really appeal to my taste buds, it’s a staple part of the Christmas experience to my British friends. But I digress – so where are we going with this unseasonal discussion?


Well, the Christmas pudding is sold across the land in many shops and they are sold in their millions. Last year, the venerable Good Housekeeping magazine did a taste test and here are some of the results. In first place came the offering from the German company Aldi at just £3.89 (less than 5 euros). In last place at a whopping £25 (or 30 euros) came Fortnum and Mason’s pudding – this from the shop that provides the food to Her Majesty the Queen.


In fact Aldi was the cheapest by some way and won the taste test. Fortnum and Mason was actually six times higher in price!


This is just one small example of how product brand positioning is becoming a cloudy business and the positioning of legacy brands in the minds of the end consumer built up over the past decades in the ‘Age of Marketing’ is now fast eroding. Compare the stellar passenger ratings of Easyjet with the lacklustre Iberia or Alitalia, the rise and dominance of Primark and Zara in the clothing business, the amazing JD Power scores of Toyota and Skoda and you can see that the historic linear correlation between price and quality is flexing – and may even be shattering.


Whilst we in the industry still tend to describe tyre brands through historical terms such as ‘Premium’, ‘Mid Range’ and ‘Economy’, it appears that we too are failing to understand ever-changing consumer thinking. In a recent study commissioned by marketing company INNOCEAN, it reveals that tyre brands are failing to gain traction in the minds of today’s consumers….’creating a golden opportunity for new challengers looking to shake up the market’.


Incredibly to those of us who live and breathe tyres on a daily basis, this research found that 40% of drivers have absolutely no idea what make of tyre is on their car – and 46% of consumers spend less than five minutes in the decision making process before buying new tyres.


Most interestingly for those of us who try to invest in the time and effort to develop brand equity, this survey found manufacturers are failing to communicate major selling points of their product, with many campaigns treading the same familiar ground. This results in few communications that actually stand out, with the report concluding that ‘after years of inertia in the market….there are huge opportunities for brands willing to be more targeted – and to focus on more than the usual suspects of safety and performance’.


So does this mean that we should surrender to the public’s growing perception that all tyres are simply ‘black and round’? Definitely not! What it does mean in my opinion is that when a tyre market like the U.K. now comprises over 50% ‘economy’ replacement tyres, is that it is even more important for those of us who consider ourselves ‘challengers’ to step up and memorably communicate to the driving public that even at a lower price point level, all tyres are not created equal (excuse the plug!) and that factors such as tyre labelling, tyre sourcing and tyre brand equity remain important to ensure accountability and a satisfied customer. All economy tyres are simply not the same – in tests we ourselves undertake there are ‘budget’ tyres that deliver similar results to ‘premium’ tyres – and there remains a job to educate and inform the driving public that selecting and caring for tyres remains a key safety aspect of vehicle maintenance.


Just because we have a more sceptical audience does not mean the message is no longer worth delivering, it’s just that in the words of INNOCEAN, we ‘ need to think beyond Formula One billboards and calendars full of scantily clad models, and think much more carefully about the consumer journey’. Or if we don’t, never mind the puddings, it will be those who adhere to the ‘same old same old’ who will soon be the turkeys at Christmas.