When AutoZone talks, the automotive aftermarket listens. And what Steve Odland, president of the U.S. parts chain said had them buzzing at the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium.
There is some $60 billion U.S. of unperformed maintenance in the U.S.–an estimate from industry research–which is can be unlocked through marketing, says Odland. The automotive aftermarket often takes a passive approach, he says, focusing and market share rather than driving growth.
"We need to start leading the consumption. Why should people wait until their brake pads are down to nothing and their brakes are down to metal? What do we need to change their brakes more frequently. Why wait till a battery wears out? I think their is an opportunity to have clean communication to take a seasonal approach.
"We can get into cycles and start matching jobs to cycles. I think we can drive this maintenance back into the industry." It’s going to take advertising dollars. That’s a commitment, he says. How, he asked, does he know that advertising works?
"There is no better example than AutoZone’s experience. When we firs heard this $60 billion number, we were skeptical, but we went out there and put our money where our mouth was. We launched this ‘Get Into the Zone’ campaign last March and sales have gone up 5%, then 8%, 9% and 12% in the four subsequent quarters. I think that this says that this is a business is elastic to marketing.
"We are in this industry. We love cars. But most people aren’t in this industry. Most people would rather not think about cars. They’re busy thinking about other things."
Odland says that a key indicator of how consumers view their cars is that some 20 to 30 million car owners in the U.S. are currently driving with their Check Engine lights on.
"You would not believe how many people have taken duct tape and put it over that light," says Odland.
"I think we have an industry opportunity like never before to be spokespeople for our industry, whether with the investment community, whether it’s with the local newspaper or the boy scouts or the girl scouts.
"We as an industry can lift the whole industry. There is a formula for success here, but if you take that $60billion that we can drive simply by marketing and public relations, it translates in to $4 billion of profit that this industry can add simply by getting up and going after it."