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Executive Interview With Robert Christy, Director Of Marketing, Dayco Products

Robert Christy is the director of marketing for the North American Aftermarket division of Dayco Products. In that capacity, he is responsible for all marketing and category management activities for the automotive aftermarket. In this exclusive Executive Interview, Christy talks about Dayco’s new VIN-scanning app and the use of other technologies in the aftermarket today.

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Robert Christy is the director of marketing for the North American Aftermarket division of Dayco Products. In that capacity, he is responsible for all marketing and category management activities for the automotive aftermarket. Christy began his career with Dayco as a field sales representative in 1992 in Pittsburgh, Pa. He was later promoted to major accounts sales manager in 1998 and is now director of marketing for the North American aftermarket, based in Tulsa, Okla.
 
In this exclusive Executive Interview, Christy talks about Dayco’s new VIN-scanning app and the use of other technologies in the aftermarket today.
 
Dayco recently announced the launch of a new app that offers a pretty unique new feature – VIN scanning. Tell us about Dayco’s use of new technologies for brand marketing purposes. Why did Dayco feel this was the right time to offer this specific technology to the market?
 
Dayco does monitor emerging technology for application with our marketing implementation. In every case we ask ourselves this question: Does this technology make things better for our channel partners and customers? If you have to hunt for a way to use a piece of new technology, you probably don’t need it; in other words, implementing new marketing technology should always be form following function.
 
In the aftermarket we often see technology introduced that’s "golly wiz" but provides no tangible benefits. There are other apps we’ve seen lately that are definitely "golly wiz" at first glance, but when they’re applied turn out to be virtually useless.
 
A marketer has to look at what value the technology can bring. Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t cut it. It’s how it solves a problem and how you deploy it that matters.
 
What benefit does this offer to your customer – by having a VIN look-up available via the app?
 
Well for one thing, application lookups in a typical catalog use a tree approach to find the right replacement part. While our catalogs are very accurate as a result of our religious use of data standards, a tree can have many branches in a replacement part lookup. Our new patent-pending "VIN Scanner" goes around the tree and directly to the proper vehicle information, which can include technical bulletins, installation videos, marketing stuff … all for that specific VIN. The smartphone also knows your location and will display all the Dayco distributors in your area with the ability to tap the phone number and instantly call the store to order the part. We’re already envisioning where the VIN scanner can take us in the future. This is form following function!
 
In addition to apps being so popular in the marketplace today, we’re seeing increasing use of QR codes in both packaging and marketing materials in the aftermarket. What’s Dayco’s take on QR codes?
 
When the technology became available a few years ago, marketers were falling all over themselves to use it. The problem has been and remains that most use them inappropriately. I’ll give you what we’ve found to be a common example. I remember seeing one on an ad in a trade magazine next to a company’s logo, 800-number and their Web address. So I scanned it and it took me to their website and a page with their logo, 800 number and their Web address. No value added.
 
So what then, in your opinion, is a good example of QR codes offering valuable info in the aftermarket today?
 
Let me answer that by telling you how we use them on our tensioner packaging. We only put a QR code on the packages of products where we can take the customer to application-specific information. An example would be a step-by-step installation video specifically for their application; or installation techniques for their vehicle that will assure quiet operation, things like that. We NEVER just drop them on a generic product page on our website. Since the inception of the computer, there has been a phrase that developers have always used, “Content is king.” That is as true today as it was decades ago. Unless you have meaningful content to share with a customer, you are just sending them on a wild goose chase.
 
Taking the technology discussion a step further, what role do smartphones and tablets play in Dayco’s marketing and customer service efforts?
 
As I said, the key to using technology wisely is that it solves a problem and is deployed properly. Where mobile apps offer the most value is to get the good content to the right place, in our case – under the hood. At the risk of redundancy let me say again that if you are simply launching an app to have one, you are not providing value to your customer. Deploying apps just to be cool and contemporary is a waste of everyone’s time. I see way too many apps for apps sake around the aftermarket. They have the typical features like catalog look-up, interchange and maybe a “where to buy” function. We’ve had those same capabilities in place for years. They are fine and good, but if that’s all an app can do, it’s kind of a nothing burger. Other apps have the perception of being innovative but ultimately prove to be useless in the end. We felt like there had to be more, so we integrated a VIN bar code scanner and lookup in a recently launched app.
 
And what about social media – is Dayco taking advantage of the medium? Do you feel you get good ROI from it?
 
Social media is, first and foremost, sociable. Getting on these social forums and blatantly “hawking” products cuts against the nature of the sites and turns off viewers. Again, customers are looking for content they value, not just what we want to tell them.
 
Dayco recognized the value of YouTube years ago in providing DIYers with the help and assistance they need to install our products. DIYers go in search of installation instructions, and YouTube is a great resource to make that content available. It is our responsibility to ensure there is accurate content to offer a good solution.
 
Facebook and Twitter are great ways to communicate directly to our customer base. The biggest challenges we all face is to recognize the need to keep content fresh, entertaining and helpful. This takes a huge commitment of company resources. We are working on some new things that we will be able to share in the near future.
 
Forums are another area where Dayco has turned our marketing attention. Forums have grown at an exponential rate over the past five years. Dayco has invested in Web analytic tools to identify when our brand is mentioned and in what forum. We take a proactive role in responding to statements and questions made about our products throughout these sites. Anyone can say anything but the manufacturers can gain a tremendous amount of respect by responding and helping to correct misconceptions. It’s a great opportunity to speak directly to our consumer, helping with a solution and gain brand loyalty throughout that exchange. It is also a great way to get in front of product complaints. Unchecked complaints can be fueled by “piling on” and a bad situation just gets worse. If a marketer is plugged in, they can intervene before a small problem becomes a big one.

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