Brickhill: Tyre Labelling to Facilitate Tyre Value Conversation
Tyrepress.com was pleased to have the opportunity to meet up with Mark Brickhill at the media day for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in his last public engagement before completing his transfer to Brussels. Goodyear Dunlop’s new vice president of the company’s EU Consumer Business Unit talked at length on a wide range of subjects including what he sees as “the cornerstone of our branding strategy”; his thoughts on the newly launched Dunlop High Performance Centre and the rest of the company’s retail involvement; Dunlop and HiQ’s roles in the BTCC and his experiences with the company over his time in the UK hotseat. Here, tyrepress.com presents Brickhill’s thoughts on his new role in the company’s EMEA division and his views on tyre labelling. The whole interview will be printed in the May edition of Tyres & Accessories Magazine.
Tyrepress.com: Congratulations on gaining your new position. What will the new role entail?
Mark Brickhill: Well the responsibility changes from being the managing director of a total business in a country to being in charge of 70 per cent of the EMEA EU business, which we call consumer. That includes product development, marketing strategy, pricing strategy and brand positioning. It directly includes sales to OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], motorsport – what we are here today to celebrate – and motorbike as well. It’s a pretty big role and it means working very closely with what we would call the consumer business unit directors in each market and their teams and their general managers.
It’s ironic that you’re moving to Brussels to take charge of motorsport (such as the British Touring Car Championship).
MB: There’s a certain irony that’s not lost on me, I can assure you. I’ve been very proud of what the motorsport guys have done through the UK company. About 25 per cent of what we produce in Birmingham is fitted to cars that race on UK tracks, about 25 per cent is sold internationally by our UK sales team, then half of it we sell through to sister companies in Germany et cetera, who link with their own touring cars. Having the overall responsibility on that really means trying to link the Dunlop motorsport brands with Dunlop car tyre brands and Dunlop motorcycle brands and I think there’s an opportunity to drive that triangle even harder. I’m excited about that.
How will you be looking to do that?
MB: You’re asking me questions about how I’m going to do things in the future! I think part of it is saying actually strategically what we have to do and I think part of that will come from how we structure roles and responsibilities within the organisation. I think some of that’s going to come down to either strong belief in the brand and that includes consistency of brand identity, consistency of message, consistency of positioning, consistent look and feel. So I think there’s an opportunity there to be more holistic and therefore be stronger as a result. And also I think there’s a unique opportunity that we have versus our direct competitors: the power of brand we have – having Goodyear in very distinct position versus Dunlop – means (from an R&D point of view) that you can do really exciting, different things across the two brands; you don’t have to be a Jack of all trades. And having a portfolio of brands is a big, big advantage – I’ve seen it in past careers and I’m seeing it in this.
Speaking of the opportunity to use different brands for different segments, Arthur de Bok referred recently to “significant market changes”. Bearing in mind your marketing background, what do you believe the changes will be and how do you see your role in reference to negotiating those changes?
MB: I think one of the most significant changes we’re going to see is the introduction of standard format tyre labelling from 2012. And for the first time the industry is going to be required to give the consumer clear information in a standard set of KPIs [key performance indicators] from a standard set of tests, and something that is very complex – and sometimes confusing – for the consumer is going to be hugely enlightened. I’m not going to say that it’s going to be transformed overnight, but it is going to be a huge change.
What that also means is that as a result product performance will be raised, and I think ours is an industry where, because there hasn’t been a clear set either of regulatory standards on the one hand or clear transparency in an understandable way to the consumer, it does allow for some frankly low price, poor performing product commoditising the market at the lower ends and (our view would be) products that have a very unsatisfactory safety and performance profile; certainly things that our company wouldn’t want to associate our name and reputation with.
I’ll be honest about it: as someone who’s still relatively new to the industry, I’ve been shocked about something that is so critical – you think about how much crash testing is in place for the OEMs, and then something that can make a transformational difference to the car’s performance on the road. Literally, you had a single parameter, which involved running at 150mph and see if it falls apart, which is just nonsense. So this old destruction testing has been replaced by something that’s really meaningful. I think if you can engage with the consumer and say, “for an extra £5 per corner – for example – you can buy a tyre that is going to reduce your braking distance at 50mph by eight metres (that’s two car lengths)”, and ask, “are your kids worth £5 a corner?” – that’s not an unreasonable marketing position to put across.
Most people don’t ever get into that conversation when they’re buying tyres, and the low end is driven by price, poor performance and is – in some cases – commercially insensitive to the people selling them. It’s not driven by value for the consumer, the safety of the consumer and that’s going to change.