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Kumho makes changes in how it markets to the U.S.

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RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — To reach its goal of becoming the No. 5 tire maker in the world seven years from now, Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. is changing the way it markets in the U.S.


Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc., its U.S. subsidiary, already is shifting marketing gears, said Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing for Kumho Tire U.S.A.


For the first time, Kumho is creating a global messaging strategy for its brand.


At the annual dealer meeting of the U.S. subsidiary of the South Korean company, held Jan. 12 in Rio Grande, Brennan outlined the new marketing direction that begins in 2008. It will:


— offer products with high value per dollar;


— expand tire line and size offerings to capture volume growth; and


— introduce premium level products, particularly for luxury vehicle owners.


"We have to come up with great ideas to create buzz and push the performance end," Brennan said.


Additionally, the company wants to elevate the perception of the Kumho brand to broaden its customer base. Consumers view Kumho as good value but not necessarily as a premium product on the same level as the Michelin, Bridgestone or Goodyear brands, he said.


As a result, there will be "no more Bassmaster or X Games" promotions, Brennan said, referring to past sporting event campaigns the company tried to give its brand exposure in the U.S. marketplace. Instead, Kumho is shifting its resources to invest in regional advertising and marketing campaigns and ensuring dealers have enough tire supply to back up those promotions.


Because of this new marketing direction, Kumho made a number of personnel changes. Brennan was promoted Jan. 1 to vice president of marketing from director of brand management.


Mike Leverington was promoted to director of dealer programs from marketing communications manager, also effective Jan. 1. He is responsible for creating regional marketing programs, then implementing and monitoring them.


Kumho also recently hired Marietta Schoenherz as marketing communications manager.


The tire maker will partner with dealers to take a "market by market" advertising approach, Brennan said.


The company´s new slogan, "Get Your Style," will serve as the context in Kumho´s branding strategy to portray its tires as high-quality products with innovative design, exceptional performance and value, the firm said. Style, as Kumho defines it, is a comfortable or "best-of-class mode of existence," according to Brennan.


Unlike Kumho´s previous advertising slogans of "Way to Go" and "Driven Beyond the Expected," the "Get Your Style" tagline is meant to complement Kumho´s global plan of boosting capacity and achieving the sales growth needed to become the fifth-largest tire manufacturer in the world by 2015, Brennan said.


The "Get Your Style" approach will tie in with Kumho´s March 1 launch of the Ecsta LX Platinum luxury touring tire that will be available in H, V and W speed ratings and come with a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty.


Kumho also is launching the W-speed rated Ecsta XS ultra-high-performance tire in June or July in 17- to 19-inch rim diameters and with a UTQG of 180 AA A. This tire is targeted to the sport ultra-high-performance segment, particularly Sports Car Club of America racing, according to Brennan.


In addition, the company will roll out the Road Venture SAT, a redesign of the Road Venture AT, for the "active family," Brennan said. This tire comes in 15 to 22 P-metric and LT metric sizes, has a 65,000-mile treadwear warranty and is S- and H-rated.


"These products encapsulate what we want to do to move up," Brennan said.


When the Ecsta LX Platinum debuts in March, Kumho will begin its campaign by selecting markets with the highest populations and vehicle registrations to begin building brand awareness, Leverington said.


The regional advertising campaigns will focus on whatever works in those markets, Leverington said, including cable TV, newspaper ads, regional magazine ads and radio commercials featuring dealers.


Kumho ads also will be seen on billboards, direct mail, point-of-sale displays and the Internet, as well as any media ideas that dealers present to Kumho.