I've just returned from speaking at the University of the Aftermarkets Leadership 2010 executive education graduation. Having completed this course in 97, it was an honor to be asked to address this years graduates. The great thing about the Leadership 2010 (besides that fact that its held at Ohio State Universitys world-class business school) is that it forces collaboration to take place among students who come from many of the industrys manufacturers and WDs.
Each 2010 class breaks up into teams and collaborates on various projects, the best of which will be presented in Las Vegas during the University Forum session on Oct. 31st. One particular project caught my attention this year. It was a study of Economy vs. Premium brands. The purpose was to better understand technicians buying decisions, much like Countermans own Professional Automotive Repair Technician Survey (PARTS) Supplement, which you received with last months issue.
Compiling data from technicians via surveys is a daunting and complicated task. Even after youve done your best to collect it in an unbiased manner and without the slightest bit of influence, you can easily come to many divergent conclusions. Yet, with the very same data, you can clearly see specific trends and buying patterns. Such is our aftermarket: ever evolving and ever changing, yet always remaining basically the same.
For example, the teams project concluded that quality remains the number-one criteria by which technicians choose a part. But if you dig a little deeper, youll see something interesting: The more experienced the technician, the more brand sensitive they become.
However, regardless of experience level, all technicians agree that support from suppliers is much more important than the brand itself. These results practically mirror our PARTS Supplement results, which over a four-year period have revealed that availability, speed of delivery and knowledge of sales reps are the key reasons why a shop chooses one supplier over another. But what about brand?
A brand is comprised of all of these things. A brand is a promise, a promise of a certain price, a certain level of availability, a certain level of quality and often, a certain level of expertise by the parts professional selling it.
Supplier support is but one ingredient in the overall brand mix. Another key ingredient is price. Brand is more complex than just the name of a company or a product. A brand is comprised of many factors that will eventually influence a technician to make a buying decision.
In the automotive aftermarket, we have come a long way in understanding the importance of the brand promise. However, our industry needs to know much more about the complexities of brand and the power that it ultimately has. Slowly, but surely, the University of the Aftermarkets Leadership 2010 coursework helps to build that bridge and shorten that knowledge gap.
I hope the industry is much more supportive of these types of initiatives. We all still have a lot to learn.