Our thanks to Pete Cloutier and the team at Regional Radio in upstate New York for introducing us to Bob Kellogg who runs 15 New York locations of Warren Tire Service, which was was created in 1983. Kellogg took over running the business after serving in the Navy for 14 years. The company has 105 employees and Kellogg tries to get around to see all of his locations on a two-week basis. Pete Cloutier is the Senior AE (and morning show host) for Regional Radio. Pete was also in on our interview with Bob.
Radio Ink: Tell us about your business.
Bob: Warren Tire Service was created in 1983 by my father Wayne Kellogg who partnered with another gentlemen, Mike Cannaban. I graduated from high school and went into the Navy for 14 years as a helicopter pilot. My dad convinced me to join the business when I left the Navy in 1997, which is when I took over as president. The company was set up a lot differently back then, we were in 13 gas stations. We’ve closed 8 of those and built stores. We’ve really expanded the business, and we’ve doubled sales.
Radio Ink: What has your marketing and advertising philosophy been from the beginning? Tell us how it’s evolved.
Bob: In the beginning, we were very heavily into print, and we started doing radio right in the beginning as well. And the next segment we brought on after that, in the late ’80s, we started doing some with TV also. What we have seen over the years is a decrease in our print quite a bit — in our budget, and just with the different things we do and what we are getting out of it. But we have been able to maintain or even expand on the radio over the years. We have gotten a lot more into electronics, which probably has done a lot to replace our budget in print that we used to do, and TV has been pretty steady in what we do. So we currently advertise with five different companies through radio.
Radio Ink: Why did you decide to use radio, and why do you like using it?
Bob: Well, first of all, we decided we needed to do a certain amount of each — with the number of locations, we have to keep the word out and keep branding and keep our name out there. So we felt like radio was a good fit for us, and for the demographic we were trying to get — you can pick a station and go for a certain demographic based on their playlist.
Radio Ink: So how do you use it? Is it spots, promotions, remotes, sponsorships, or do you mix it up? How are you using it?
Bob: Yeah, we mix it up, so we do some branding, we do nine sales a year — all around the holidays — and out of those nine sales, two of them are very big sales, spring and fall sales in which we set tents up, we have food, live radio remotes, we have giveaways, we really showcase our business during those events. And during those big spring and fall events we will double and triple our normal business for the week. It’s gotten national recognition with Goodyear — we are a Goodyear dealer even though we are independent — and we have won some awards for some of the ideas we have had.
Radio Ink: Do remotes really still work?
Bob: Yep. The remotes still work. I think they were at their best in the late ’90s, early ’00s, but they are still good. We don’t have as many people show up to the remotes, even though we have cash machines and all that, but it’s just a different message you are sending out. Like this particular radio station that I am with, Regional Radio Group, they let me talk live on the radio, and my father, other people; we get a lot of feedback from that. We know that for sure radio works because during those big events we have had drawing boxes, no purchase necessary, and when they fill those out we have a line that says “What brought you out?” And every year we have a pretty good response for radio.
Radio Ink: Pete, why do you think the relationship works so well with Bob and your radio stations?
Pete: Well, let’s see — I started with Bob’s dad back in 1988. I have been in this radio business, not only being on the radio and being an on-air personality for 55 years now, and Wayne and John Payne, and our general manager at the time at the radio station I was with sort of convinced him to give radio a shot, because at the time that was not part of the mix.
And then with all the promotional things that Warren Tire has been involved in — I mean, we have done all kinds of things to bring people down to remotes. Not only the giveaways, but also his dad got up on the roof and threw like a thousand dollars off the roof one Saturday morning at a live remote at one of their big locations. He has hidden money in tires, we have had “guess the weight of a pig,” a lot of things that have brought people into the events. And when people are coming into the events, people are there to of course have a good time, but also to take advantage of the sale prices they get. And these guys — really, really, really in this market — make sure that people get a deal, but not only a good deal, they get them the best deal that anyone is going to give them. That’s why they have 15 locations.
And getting a chance to work with Bob — after one of the gentlemen I worked with for a long time, John Payne, passed away from a heart attack, Bob came into the business, and he sort of had to take the ball and run with it because at that particular time he wasn’t involved in remotes or anything. He was just getting his feet wet after being a helicopter pilot in the military for 14 years. But working with Bob and sitting down and talking about various promotions and ideas he has had and ideas I have had, we have had a great marriage with this. It’s really worked out really well, and they are probably my biggest account that I work with on a yearly basis.
Radio Ink: Talk about how competitive your industry is.
Bob: It’s a very competitive business. There are national chains that you would know, like Firestone stores, and there are some other real big dealers in New York State that we compete against. Even the car dealerships sell tires now — we do tire service as well, so we do have to keep our name out there and we do have to keep it fresh. And we work on that all the time by doing new and exciting things. And we do a lot of charity type work too, especially with the Regional Radio Group, and they are helpful with that, so you get a lot of goodwill and recognition through that as well.
Pete: Bob is involved with us on a yearly basis, with our go-kart race, and one of his charities that he does a lot with is a thing called Wait House. We get a bunch of people we solicit on the radio. Bob has his team, and we have other people who own businesses, and we race go-karts. We raise $10,000-$20,000 a year, which goes to the charities.
One of the big things they are involved in, because they are a family business, is Operation Santa Claus, which we do every year. People call up and “adopt” the kids. We have over 1,000 every year who ask for a specific gift they would never get because of their situation. Bob’s stores take in all these toys, and we send people over to his stores, and he has people bring them to a storage unit to be distributed at Christmas. He is involved in a lot of family things, as well as a thing with the SPCA of Upstate New York, where we do an adoption every single week on our stations, both WCKM and WCQL. They are very tied into the community.
Bob: For over 25 years we have done a blood drive, and they have always helped us with that. It is right before July 4th. Literally thousands of pints have been collected over those years. We do updates on the radio throughout the event. We do a morning and bring in the Red Cross. It has a huge draw.
Pete: We don’t believe in taking the cash and dashing. We want it to work. After all the sales, Bob and I get together and we talk, and bring back that info to the sales team. We let them know OK, this was great, it was up 10% or down 3% etc. We want them to be successful so they will continue to use radio, as they are.
Radio Ink: It sounds like you’re hitting the right buttons — charity, consistency on the air, local feel, etc.
Bob: In 2014 we won an award out of over 3,000 Goodyear dealers. They give you $10,000 toward your charity; we gave that to the Wait House. It was called “Put More Good on the Road with Goodyear.” A big part of that was the Regional Radio Group and all the things we do. When they read the nomination package we put together, they picked us.
Radio Ink: How do you know radio is working for you?
Bob: We ask people what brought them to the event. Radio is a big percentage of that every year, so we have hard data on that. Also, word of mouth. We are on social media. We have all the demographics. My daughter is 22, I’m 54, and my father is 75. We have friends that tell us they heard us on the radio. I have a bulldog and he comes with me everywhere, and he gets a lot of mentions.
Radio Ink: If you could give other advertisers advice on why they should give radio a try, what would you say?
Bob: Get with a local station and put a budget together, and run an event. I would include some branding, and look at your traffic. We go by car counts a day, how many tires we sell, and service we do. Any time we step up the advertising, we have increases. We don’t go with the approach that we max out every day. We take breathers in between and then hit it hard again. We still keep branding — that’s part of that message also.
Radio Ink: Pete, what is the correct way to call on somebody to keep it fresh and avoid being a pest to a client who’s being called on by so many salespeople?
Pete: I started on radio illegally in ’64, when there was no such thing as rock ‘n’ roll in our market. I got caught by the FCC. Most of the people that were listening back then were business owners, so I was able to call somebody up and they have a general idea of who I am. If they work with me, I will take care of them. I am not in it for the short haul.
I’ve done other things — I was a photographer for many years. Radio has always been fun for me to do. When I walk in the door of a new business, I ask what their game plan is, what their budget is. Many of them don’t have a clue nor a budget, and those are the ones who 90-120 days later are out of business. Warren Tire is one of the organizations that cares about what they’re doing. They make things right. A lot of the big corporations don’t care. Taking care of the customer is not the priority. In my particular situation, I can tell if I’m being a pest or bothering someone. I have a couple of clients who I will say, “Hey, I will catch you in a few days.” You have to know when to pull the plug.
Radio Ink: Bob, what is it about the relationship you have with Regional Radio that makes it work?
Bob: I have good relationships with every medium we advertise with. There are about 10 different people calling on us. Regional Radio Group is by far the best. They have the same exact philosophy we do: local, hometown family-owned. They help us out in so many ways. I say often at these live remotes, I feel like they are working for us. They are not just working for radio, but for Warren Tire. They know everything about us. It’s a great working relationship. There is a personal touch and approach that you just don’t see every day.