From Lady Doritos to “pens for her”, few products have escaped the “feminine” twist of modern marketing. Take any consumer item, add a dash of pastels, a sprinkle of sparkle and some vanilla-scented aroma for an aesthetic that screams, “Look at me! I can have all the things a man has!”
Next on the list? Tires.
Roll by Just Tires, the brainchild of Ohio-based tire giant Goodyear, is a concept that emphasizes online shopping geared toward millennial women. And the company will soon open a showroom in every millennial’s favorite place to drive: Center City.
Roll opened its first showrooms in Washington D.C. in October before expanding its “chic,” minimalist storefronts to the Philly area. The company already unveiled a Norristown location and has plans for a branch at 15th & Market as well as three other showrooms around the Philly burbs.
‘Philadelphia was a logical fit’
Per a report by Business Insider on the stores, the showrooms look more like “bright and trendy hair salons or coffee shops” and will also work in tandem with a new Roll app.
Fred Thomas, vice president and general manager of Goodyear, said the new concept wasn’t specifically geared toward millennial women — not at first, anyway. Then everyone realized that Roll tested best among that group, according to Seth Klugherz, Goodyear’s marketing director.
“This [millennial women] demographic is time-starved with a number of responsibilities, so Roll’s value proposition around time-saving is particularly appealing to them,” Klugherz told Billy Penn.
How exactly would “time-starved” women benefit from Roll by Just Tires? Per Klugherz, here’s what makes their showrooms different — other than aesthetic:
- Consumers can walk to a tire wall and scan the QR code of the tire that they want, simplifying the purchasing process.
- Mobile installation = Roll will meet you at home or work to put on your new wheels.
- The company also offers a valet service to pick up your vehicle, install the tires and then drop it back off.
- Or you can visit the Roll showrooms and get their tires installed while hanging out in the “lifestyle center.”
- All purchases and installation options can be selected online, too.
Not only is Goodyear interested in drawing a younger female crowd to stores, but they’re also interested in cities that attract other innovative concept stores (hence, Philly was chosen as one of Roll’s pilot cities). “Philadelphia was a logical fit,” Klugherz said.
The mechanics of gender marketing
Klugherz said there is no extra cost to any of the services provided by Roll and that prices will be similar to what you can find in a traditional Goodyear retail store. But the concept has raised ethical questions about gender-targeted marketing and advertising among scholars in the region.
Dr. Shauna M. McDonald, co-director of the gender and women’s studies program at Villanova University, says it makes sense for new tire showrooms to be more modern and convenient — “all seemingly smart marketing in a world that likes to ‘hide’ the dirt, the labor and the manufacturing and distribution of material goods,” she added. But the implications of a frou-frou auto part store for ladies aren’t lost on her.
“Is it based in the (outdated and inaccurate) assumption that women know nothing about cars?” McDonald asked. “Why is it assumed that women are too busy to get their tires changed as we always have? Or, why is it assumed that women want their mechanic shop to look like a beauty parlor?”
There are plenty of other facets of the Roll concept that could be further examined if Goodyear wants to make their stores women-friendly, rather than supposedly attractive to women.
Molly Lawrence, an administrative assistant and program coordinator of the Gender & Sexuality Studies department at Swarthmore College, thinks that Goodyear should answer questions about equity in the labor market if they want to pander toward women. For example, does the company employ female auto workers and compensate them in the same way as men?
But, some women in the auto industry do find the transformation of a traditionally male-dominated space to be progressive.
“I think that women are tired of getting the runaround every time we go into a normally male-dominated business,” Jessica Kryssing, the first ever female auto-technician at Piazza Honda of Springfield told Billy Penn.
“I can see how [this concept] will give a lot of women confidence in the purchases they’re making because it’s more familiar to how we function in our every day lives,” Kryssing continued.