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Agrimarketing : June 2009
25 Feature Story:32 Feature Story 6/12/09 12:41 PM Page 25 COVER STORY FIRESTONE’SRE-ENGINEEREDIMAGE B by the AgriMarketing Editors ack in 2004, one of the strongest, longest-enduring brands inAmerican agriculturewas continuing to lead itsmarket. Saleswere very good, the dealer force was enthusiastic and the company continued to have excellent relationshipswith themanufacturerswithwhom itworked. But youwouldn’t have known it fromthe DesMoines, IA-based Firestone FarmTire brand’s public persona. “Even thoughwewere doing verywell in themarket- place, our advertisingwasn’t showing it,” says Joyce Bonish, Communications andAdvertisingManager for Firestone brand FarmTires, a part of Bridgestone Americas TireOperations, LLC. “Froma communications perspective,weweren’t capi- talizing on the real strengths of our brand: technical innovation, superior quality and nationwide service,” Bonish says. “Our look and ourmessagingwere inconsistent.We knewwe needed to change that.” Five years later, Bonish and her DesMoines-based marketing teamhave done just that.And the results have been outstanding. THE PROCESS Arestaurant conversation stimulated a change in the approach for representing the Firestone brandwhen Bonish and amedia representative bumped intoDonna Tweeten and JillGreene of TheMeyocksGroup. “The rep toldme, ‘You should talk to these two about what you need,’” Bonish recalls. “Wewere just at the point of preparing for our big spring dealer promotion, so I told themto go ahead.” JimHead, Creative TeamLeader on the Firestone account, said the agency had been looking for an opening to the Firestone account for several years. The agency team took advantage of the opportunity andwent towork. “Firestone isn’t just the leading brand in the farm tire category, it’s one of themost respected brands in American agriculture,”Head says. “Weweren’t seeing this market dominance reflected in theirmarketingmaterials. Somewhere along the line, the brand had lost itsmojo. The spring promotion gave us the opportunity to demonstrate howwe thought the brand should be presented.” Everyone in the agency pitched in on the process of developing ideas for Firestone’s “Early Bird” campaign, an annual promotion important to its network of dealers. The group came backwith an array of approaches, and set up ameetingwith Bonish to showwhere they’d gone. “We hadn’tmade any promises,” Bonish recalls. “What they didwas on their own dime and their own time. But what they showed us blewus away. In fact,when our president sawthe concepts in the conference roomafter ourmeeting, hementioned that they didn’t look like they’d come fromour current agency.He could see the difference at a glance.” (more on page 26) June 2009 s Agri Marketing 25 THE AG TIREMARKET They’re round and black andmade of rubber, but when it comes to visibility in agri-marketing circles, farmtires’ contribution to agricultural productivity is often overlooked. Without them, though, the big iron that tills, plants, harvests and applies crop protection products would still be running on the steel lugged rims of yesteryear. According toModern Tire Dealermagazine, the industry bible,manufacturers shipped 3.39million agricultural tires in the U.S. during 2008, up 14%from a year earlier. The 2008 total included 1.8million small farmtires, such as those used on planters,wagons and other implements used inmodern farming operations. But the really big rubber—some tires are taller andwider than anNBAforward—are intended for the drive axles on large farmtractors, combines and 4WDmachines.Manufacturers shipped 1.57million bias and radial rear tires during 2008. The larger sized rear tires can tip the scales at 750-plus pounds each. Themarket tracks tire sales in twomain categories: those shipped to original equipmentmanufacturers (OEM) and the rest sold as replacements to farm operators. OEMsales totaled 1.225million in 2008; replacement numberswere nearly double that at 2.165 million. Farmtiremanufacturers have benefited fromthe strong agricultural economy the past several years as farmers reinvest in larger,more powerfulmachinery. Tiremakers added considerable capacity in 2008 and are continuing to ramp up production this year. As it has historically, the Firestone brand held the largestmarket share inmost farmtire categories in 2008 (see table). Firestone builds a full line of farmtires —fromthe biggest radials for 4WD tractors to bias tires forwagons and planters. BIG FOUR AG TIRE BRANDS MARKET SHARE, 2008 (Source:Modern Tire Dealer) Radial Rear OE Repl. OE Bias Rear Repl. OE Small Farm Repl. Firestone 42% 36.5% 48% 45% 38% 40% Goodyear 46% 32% 26% 19.5% 36.5% 19.5% Michelin Titan Other 9% 9% —— — — 3% 11% 23.5% 18% 22.5% 16.5% — 11.5% 2.5% 17.5% 3% 24% Firestone farmtires are sold through the industry’s largest distribution system. There aremore than 1,600 (more on page 27)
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