How sneaker makers like Nike can teach tyre companies about influencing its buyers

Daniel · Oct 9, 2020 02:46 PM

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It is amazing how much time and internet juice is spent trying to explain that tyre choices matter. Not too long ago we made a post about why when it comes to tyres you get what you pay for. And it is good to see that for many of our readers, it isn’t news to them.

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This time around let’s outline a suggestion that may make people care more about the tyres they buy. And for that, we will use an economic theory known as the Diamond-Water Paradox, or better known as the Paradox of Value.

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The Diamond-Water Paradox was thought up by Adam Smith, the father of modern economics. In it, Smith wonders why water, a substance so essential to life that you will die an agonising death when deprived of it for 72 hours, is valued far less than a diamond, a substance that will only affect the mood of your spouse.

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Smith initially thought that it had more to do with the labour cost of extracting and refining a diamond. However, if you were to say, stumble across a diamond while fishing or robbing a bank, is the value of the diamond not the same?

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Other economists offered a more convincing explanation. That the value of the diamond doesn’t come from its production cost, but the subjective value people put on it. The same way people would spend hundreds more for a bottle of older fermented grape juice. Or thousands more for a C-Class than a Camry.

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So, can this theory help tyre manufacturers raise the subjective value of its products? The funny thing is, many tyre manufacturers are already doing so. They are doing it in plain sight at every motorsports event. And I don’t mean those big sponsorship banners and tyre supply partnerships.

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Motorsports sponsorship works as well as preaching to the choir. As it is no good if the rest of the town isn’t showing up to hear your message. What tyre manufacturers should be doing is displaying its name on its product, in the same manner, it has been doing with racing tyres for years.

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Now the more astute of you would say that every tyre on the road already carries the tyre branding along with some coded gibberish. That is true, that is why every tyre comparison always seems to begin with the phrase - “They may look similar on the outside, but…”

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But what if tyres have slightly more noticeable branding. Well, we don’t need to think hard to see examples of the Paradox of Value at play. So while we are at it, let us move on to the subject of sneakers.

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The fact that our species haven’t been eradicated because of our sneaker obsession is proof that no space aliens are out there observing us. I'm sure everyone knows someone who will willingly give up their paychecks for a sick pair of sneakers. Yet a sneaker is so useless in its utility that it cannot touch water. Forget diamonds, at least you can drill for oil with those.

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Objectively sneakers should be as useful as a pair of shoes. But instead, it has less utility and less durability than a pair of flip-flops. So, what makes people pay crazy money for certain sneakers? Remember the Paradox of Value and the importance of subjective valuation?

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What bolsters a sneaker's value in the eyes of society? That would be the prestige of the name attached and its recognisable branding.

From afar anyone can tell the difference between a pair from Nike, Onizuka Tiger, or Supreme. To extrapolate that idea, if we always equate tyres as shoes for cars, maybe the footwear industry has lessons the tyre companies could adopt.  

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Just as how tyre companies plaster bigger and more noticeable branding on its racing tyres, it should do the same for retail tyres. Does it work? Well if you are familiar with car enthusiast circles, it is not uncommon to see owners stencilling their tyres.

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These stencilled tyres might be decorative in nature and done to capture the old-school look or infuse a motorsport vibe. But you can't deny there is something oddly cool about tyres with big branding and lettering on its sidewalls, even if you haven't watched a Formula One race in your life. 

Think about it, just as how celebrities and atheltes make certain footwear fashionable, so too has old school stencilled tyres from motorsports turned a mundane necessity into something fashionable and desirable.

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Some might caution that big branding would open the doors to someone as recognisable, and egoistic as Kanye, to swoop in and create a fashionable brand of tyres with no actual objective merit. Though, that scenario seems unlikely.

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Pirelli has caught onto the idea with its "Colour Edition" option for its P Zero tyre. Though the option is only available for supercar-spec tyres so far.

As explained before, gaining OEM approval in the car industry isn’t as easy as name throwing. And it is safe to say that these colourful tyre graphics are inspired by its links to motorsports participation rather than pure aesthetics. 

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If anything, bigger tyre branding might finally kill off the industry-wide trend of attaching bigger wheels. This would make people more inclined to go for small wheels with taller sidewalls to show off their tyres. Now wouldn’t that be another good enough reason to give this idea a try?

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Daniel

PGC

After a life of growing up with Malaysia bustling streets, Daniel set out to experience Australia open roads and ute culture for himself but ended up missing destination:makan morning drives and teh-tarik sessions. Our often-peculiar love of cars served as the inspiration for his musings at The Motor Muse.

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