THE tremendous growth of the Philippine vehicle market has spawned numerous businesses like the marketing of car accessories and maintenance products.
But while the market for car care products and accessories has grown over the past few years because of increased vehicle sales, very few brands have managed to corner a market share and have a brand recall among motorists. But Edbert Tiu can show how a premium brand can gain a following from everyday motorists and even car enthusiasts.
Through his firm Waido Marketing and Distribution Inc., Tiu markets the Blaupunkt, PIAA, Sonax and CTEK brands in the Philippines. Blaupunkt is a car audio brand from Germany while Sonax comprises car care products also from Germany. PIAA is one of the leading brands in automotive bulbs and lighting and claims to be the leader in cutting-edge technology.
Although his company started five years ago, Tiu has extensive experience in marketing vehicle accessories and car care products from working for his parent’s company. That helped him accumulate over 30 years of experience in marketing automotive products in the Philippines.
Today, Tiu is assisted by his 31-year old daughter and 29-year old son in marketing and distributing the four premium brands in the Philippines.
“The first two years [for me]was all exploring. So we really got to moving the brands three years ago,” he said referring to PIAA, Blaupunkt and Sonax.
Tiu took the Blaupunkt product under his wings because he loved to listen to music. Meanwhile, he knew the Sonax car care products for many years.
“Sonax – I’ve known that brand for many years. German brands are conservative. They have good products, but they didn’t do much marketing,” he noted.
It was only last month that he launched CTEK battery chargers and conditioners in the Philippines.
He said he got the deals to market PIAA and Sonax products in the Philippines directly from the headquarters of the brands based in Japan and Germany, respectively. Meanwhile, he was referred by a friend to the regional headquarters of German car audio maker Blaupunkt in Malaysia to market the brand’s products in the Philippines.
Tiu got the deal to market CTEK products in the Philippines after learning the brand was looking for a local distributor.
“They [CTEK] were looking for a distributor and they never had an official distributor in the Philippines although their products, some people were bringing them in [to the country]. They buy in Singapore and other countries and resell [in the Philippines],” he said.
Tiu explained that manufacturers of vehicle accessories and car care products are beginning to realize that it is better to directly deal with people or companies who are familiar with the domestic market.
“A lot of them realize that it’s better to deal directly with people in the market. There were many brands before, they go through regional distributors. And usually, regional distributors are basically traders [but]they don’t build the brand. So most of them now realize they have to go direct [to the market]and deal with people in the market, whether that is the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore or even Vietnam,” he said.
Tiu added that in the 1970s and early 1980s, there was no need for brand-building activities because the Philippines did not have a liberalized economy. But with the country bringing down trade barriers, Tiu said there is a need to undertake brand-building activities.
When it comes to brand building, his company takes part or supports motoring events and car club meets, and engages customers in social media. One such activity Tiu supported is the raising of additional funds for wounded Philippine Marine soldiers.
“Recently, the Land Rover Club they had an event called ‘Tribute to Defender’ that was held in the Bonifacio Naval Station [in Makati City]that was in support to the Marine Injured Fund. We participated, we donated some funds and gave away products [during the event],” Tiu said.
NOT A CAR ENTHUSIAST IN A REAL SENSE
While explaining the virtues of the products he markets, Tiu can be mistaken for a hardcore car enthusiast. But that is not the case. He said those who do business in the car industry out of pure love for cars can end up failing.
“Many entered the industry [of car accessories and car care]without commitment. It was like play to them. These people are in the industry because it’s their hobby. So they like to do this and they have access to products,” Tiu said.
“The [automotive]industry looks glamorous but it’s a tough business,” he added.
Tiu dispelled the idea that being a car enthusiast is the key to succeeding in the vehicle accessories and car care business in the Philippines.
“In fact, you don’t have to be a car enthusiast, you just have to understand the customer you are targeting. I like cars. Because of our family business, I came to enjoy, came to love cars. I won’t say I’m a hardcore enthusiast, but I’m one step down from the normal car enthusiast,” he added.
Focusing on car enthusiasts as the main market for automotive products can also be an unwise move because most motorists are not really very mad about cars.
“The enthusiast market is very small, it’s a niche. The bigger market is the common everyday car owner, and you need to find out what they’re looking for,” Tiu said.
This, however, does not mean that Tiu disregards the enthusiast market because he interacts with various automobile clubs in the Philippines as part of the below-the-line marketing activities he undertakes. As for regular marketing activities, Tiu also advertises and seeks media exposure.
“[Car] clubs, they like to know what is out there, what products they can use for their cars. What we do is tech talk [for them], we demo the product, show them how the product works,” he said.
“It’s crucial that word gets around thru word of mouth,” Tiu added.
COMMITMENT IS KEY
He believes that the most important ingredient to successfully build a brand and market products in the Philippine automotive market is commitment.
“You need to have commitment here, the automotive industry, it’s a see-saw [market], it goes up and down [and]we don’t have a sustaining phase [yet]. So you must be willing to commit yourself and stay over the long term for this business, Otherwise, you will not have the ROI [return on investment]. And people won’t be confident in doing business with you,” Tiu said.
“There are those like in my case, this is our commitment, this is our core business. You must work on this, it’s a long-term [effort]to build these brands,” he added.
The commitment to a core business also resulted to the top people in the automotive industry giving support to Tiu, because they know he is in it for the long haul. He counts among the people who helped him Sammy Liuson of Wheel Gallery, Erwin Versoza of Outdoors Club and Victor “Atoy” Llave of Atoy Customs and Body Kits. They also helped him learn more about the industry and its trends.
“I learned from our friends in the industry like Erwin, Sammy, Atoy. They are very helpful, they are actually very supportive. I wouldn’t where I am right now if there was no help from them to build the brands I market,” Tiu said.