Rebelling Against Mediocrity
This month's theme is creativity. There is much to be said. Also,
I will put in some plugs for Car Care World Expo because this ICA
show will be here soon. In case you are wondering, I haven't been
invited this year to speak to the assemblage of car wash operators
and detailers. It probably was an oversight, and there's always
Speaking of creativity, you have to hand it to the ICA and its
Car Love campaign. If you haven't visited the campaign web site
at www.carlove.org, you're
missing something. Apparently, 64 percent of the respondents to
the ICA's research indicated that they hold conversations with their
cars, and 90 percent of car owners sing in their cars. The apparent
goal of the campaign is to encourage more trips to the car wash,
but it sure makes you wonder about the "DIYers." Well,
it's your dues at work.
From a detailer's perspective, there is little to like about Car
Love. It's a cute idea but without the money to back it up, cute
it will remain. Another question that arises is why anybody would
think that Car Love and car washes go together. Could this be a
case of creativity gone mad?
CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION
When I saw the logo (below) and the day, I was impressed. What
a great idea! You can learn more about Creativity Day at this web
site: www.creativityday.com. When you receive this copy of ALN it
will be Idea Week. One couldn't ask for better timing. Recognizing
creativity and innovation is a worthy activity. There wouldn't be
much to the detailing and car wash industries without invention.
In a matter of weeks, Car Care World Expo will be upon us and any
number of innovative products and inventive ideas will be available
to those who take the time to attend.
As I looked at the exhibitor list, I noticed that some familiar
chemical companies would not be present this year. There are many
possible explanations, but the primary reason for not attending
probably is money: Is the show a good investment? For many, it is
rather like preaching to the choir when what they really want are
new customers. This is a dilemma.
The question that manufacturers should ask is "Who are our
customers?" From my experience and observations, I suspect
that many manufacturers don't have a clue. If you ask, some might
say that their distributors are their customers, but just because
the distributors pay the invoices doesn't make them the customer.
Well, if the distributor isn't the customer, should we call the
detailer the customer? And what about the vehicle owner? Is that
Ultimately, the vehicle owner is the customer, but there is a limit
to what marketing and sales dollars can do. To reach a vehicle's
paint surface, a bottle of wax must first be manufactured and sent
to a distributor. A distributor then sells the bottle to the detailer
who applies the product to the vehicle.
Certainly, these are many steps, and for some products and distribution
schemes there are even more steps. At each step along the way, somebody
must be convinced that the product is worth making, promoting, selling,
buying, and using.
Creativity enters the picture somewhere around here. New product
ideas - the innovation - are often the result of distributors complaining
that they don't have a product that works like a competitor's which
is sweeping the market. R&D frantically burns the midnight oil
to create a product that looks like and then outperforms the competitor's
product. The cycle goes round and round. Everybody copies competitors
to keep the distributor happy.
And what makes the distributor happy? Sales!
Well, that's the way it often works. This is a pretty good example
of a "push" philosophy of marketing. You push the products
Another approach is to pull the products downstream. You create
demand from end-users and customers. Think about a product like
Zymol. Whether you like it or not, you must admit that the product
and its extensions are positioned beautifully. Vehicle owners "know"
that Zymol is the "best." Anybody that uses the product
must, by extension, also be dedicated to "best" performance.
If you are a manufacturer, you can make a better product, but can
you build a better brand?
Starting from the bottom and working your way up the distribution
chain does make sense, but it takes time and resources. For some,
a good place to start is at the shop level. 3M is famous for this
approach because its products are so well distributed (after all,
if everybody sells your full line of products, you can focus on
pulling distribution down to the shop). There might not be any mystique
for the vehicle owner, but the shop appreciates the quality and
The problem with pulling and shoving is this: You have to keep
all the links in the distribution chain intact. If a link breaks
or is missed, the customer will never be reached. This is the challenge
of trade shows. Let's say you have a booth and talk to a shop owner
about your line of products. Unless you have a distributor in the
area, you are wasting your time because there is no way to reach
the shop. Of course, there is the Internet and mail order, but detailing
products are expensive to ship. Similarly, a potential distributor
can face challenges if it does not have a customer base ready to
receive the products.
Trade shows are expensive. When you go to a trade show, a small
program can cost around $25,000. At a 5 percent margin before taxes,
you would need to increase sales $500,000 to break even on the show.
If you already have good distribution and a loyal customer base,
is the expense of a show a good investment? Add to this the difficulty
of obtaining a good booth space at a trade show. Unless you are
a major exhibitor with top seniority, you are going to be on the
fringes of the show. This makes recovery of trade show investments
more difficult. Manymanufacturers, then, decline attendance.
Well, how do we find solutions or alternatives? How do we tap our
New ideas and products drive business. When there are few innovations,
newness comes to mean variations on older themes, improved packaging,
or promotions. While these may not be innovative, finding the right
program that produces profits and customer satisfaction does require
a high level of creativity. How do you uncover opportunities?
As you can imagine, there are many creative systems available.
One of the easiest to learn and to obtain results from is the SCAMPER
System. For more detailed information on this approach, visit www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_02.htm
or the Ideas Unlimited(tm) web site.
SCAMPER is an acronym that encompasses a range of creative actions:
S = Substitute something
C = Combine something
A = Adapt something
M = Maximize or minimize something
P = Put something to another use or to a new use
E = Eliminate something
R = Reverse or rearrange something
If you were a detailing-products manufacturer, you might use this
approach in a wide variety of ways:
When you look at your product line, is there a new product
that can replace several others? Is there an ingredient that improves
performance and reduces cost? In short, look for things that result
in an overall improvement. Detailers, don't feel neglected! What
would happen if you could substitute a special paint sealant for
compounding with the same results?
Products that do more than one thing often seem to be poor
compromises. However, if you could create a product that would do
more than one thing, you could deliver more value to your customers
and increase their efficiency. A potential example would be a wheel
cleaner/sealant and tire dressing. A manufacturer might also create
a trade show strategy that combined efforts to expand into international
markets with a domestic marketing program. You could kill two birds
with one stone at one show.
An example of a clever adaptation of something simple to a
useful tool is a squeegee. Think about all the squeegees that are
available that dry car bodies as well as glass. Many detailing product
innovations have come from shops that have adapted products to suit
Maximize or Minimize
One example here would be developing packaging that would permit
the most economical RTU (ready-to-use) cost. If you were a manufacturer,
perhaps you would change your packaging strategy and develop attractive,
but inexpensive containers and printed on-line labels. A good example
of this approach is Paul Mitchell shampoos and conditioners. They
demand top dollar at salons and their packaging is one- or two-color
silk-screened HDPE rounds with flip tops. Compare this with the
"wild" and highly creative packaging of other products
like "Bed Head."
Put Something to Another Use
Many shops have accused manufacturers of selling the same products
for different applications. A good example here would be a glass
and hard surface cleaner. The aerosol people have done this, but
how often have you seen a concentrated glass cleaner that can be
used for more than one task?
One of the continuing challenges facing manufacturers is reducing
the number or products. Shops also like small, compact lines, because
choosing the correct product becomes much easier. The challenge
is determining what stays and what goes. To stay competitive, detailers
should look at their services and decide what should be included
in basic services. To reduce costs, they might want to eliminate
a service and charge extra for it as an optional add-on - especially
it if is not a high-demand item.
Reverse or Rearrange Something
Look at the processes in your shop. Perhaps you can gain productivity
improvements if you reverse or rearrange vehicle flow through your
shop. Look at the creative things that have been done in detailing
and car washes. Sometimes creativity starts with knowing where to
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at email@example.com.