New Pep Boys Marketing Strategy Targets Women

pep boys waiting room

Overcoming the gender divide in marketing isn’t always easy. Especially when the public perception of your industry often turns off females with images of unscrupulous mechanics and an automotive “boys club.” Women spend billions on auto repair each year, but are solely under-represented in industry marketing efforts.

Now a groundbreaking new initiative is changing minds. With their new “Road Ahead” campaign, Pep Boys is radically revamping their marketing efforts and even their physical locations. The overall shift has been labeled a move from “do-it-yourself” to “do-it-for-me,” the former evoking a sort of boys-only elitism. According to Ron Stoupa, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, one focus group member went so far as to call repair shops a “valley of liars and thieves.”

The changes are coming rapidly. Pep Boys employees now explain in detail all repairs before conducting them, and welcome new customers with a handshake. And 70 of their 800 locations have been renovated with comfortable waiting areas that have leather chairs and free wi-fi.

It’s all miles away from the traditional way that women think about the auto shop.

Not a bad idea, considering women spend $300 billion annually on car repair.  “Though these measures are not targeted toward women exclusively, CMO Ron Stoupa said that the growing influence of female customers in the auto category was a motivator,” Adweek writes.

Despite the male-dominated image of car culture, women purchase over 65% of new cars. Women also spend over half of the annual GDP of the United States, and that number should grow in the next decade as women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

That’s a problem when many marketing assumptions about women are wrong.

While mini-van mom’s do exist, the tone of advertisements targeted to women misses the mark for a large swath of the female population. Slate has an excellent genealogy of auto-marketing to women, noting “many of the basic historical assumptions about women drivers turn out to be wrong. Contrary to theories about cup holders and rosebud upholstery, the data shows that compared to men, women at least as educated in their purchases, less emotional in making them, and less concerned with aesthetics when they do.”

One company that got it right: Cadillac.

Creative agency Muller, that handles Pep Boys creative, changed the logo from “Everything for Less” to “Trust the Boys to Get You There,” writes Ad Age.

While converting one store can cost over $500,000 each, some of the early renovations already have exceeded expectations. Just this week Pep Boys announced the revamping of 30 more stores in 2014. Tire Business reports:

Another key aspect of the Road Ahead strategy is digital operations, (CEO Mike) O’dell added, noting that sales from digital — online service appointments, tire sales made online and/or products shipped to customers or picked up in Pep Boys stores — grew 152 percent in the quarter and 142 percent for year and accounted for 3 percent of overall sales for the year.

It’s not bad for a company whose CMO admits was late to the internet game. Ron Stoupa notes that Pep Boys only got into e-commerce two years ago during this talk. He describes Pep Boys’ strategy of finding a niche in between low-end bargain shoppers and high-end branding. Rather than become an undifferentiated “discount tire” business or a Nieman Marcus, Pep Boys is opting, like Target, to take the best of both worlds.

Quality consumer engagement and affordability without racing to the bottom of discount prices. Stoupa cites Target as a success story that inspires them.

It’s a bold strategy, and much-needed after challenging fourth quarter last year. But in this case, the challenges that Pep Boys has faced have allowed them to transform themselves into a better brand and a more viable business. It’s great to see a reinvention of the way the auto-repair industry sells itself, and I’m sure auto owners will welcome the change.