Turtle Wax held their first automotive bloggers summit on April 21-22, 2009 at their headquarters in Willowbrook, IL, a suburb of Chicago. Nine bloggers attended and were treated to a tour of their Shine Center product development laboratory and 1-bay product testing area. Turtle Wax’s purpose for the summit was two-fold I believe:
1. Show the automotive bloggers what Turtle Wax is up to and hopefully get some free press with a review or two of their products for people to read, and
2. Gather feed-back from readers and writers on their products and their marketing approaches with their new ICE product line.
I think they accomplished both objectives with the product samples, tour and product demonstrations and Q&A session on the 22nd
. They used an outside PR firm, Zeno Group, to set-up and conduct the summit as well as follow-up with attendees after the summit. It was a very well run event with no snags as far as I could see. When my flight was delayed out of Philly, they called to assure me that the limo driver would wait for me and then get me to the restaurant as soon as I arrived at the hotel.
Turtle Wax is still a family-owned private company that began in the 40s in Chicago. The founder changed his early product’s name to Turtle Wax after a trip to Wisconsin where he stopped along Turtle Creek and saw turtles playing in the creek. He thought of their hard shells and that his car wax could be thought of as a hard shell coating on a car’s finish.
Top management is still family and are in their 40s, I’d say, but they recently brought in a 40-something British chief operating officer. Since they are private they did not reveal their annual sales or other performance or income numbers. They did say the US appearance car care market is about $600 Million and they and two other firms each have roughly 1/3 of the market. They sell their products in 90 countries so their international sales are substantial but no sales figures were given. In emerging countries car care product sales are meager but in the developed countries they have much better sales.
There are 4 production plants in the US that produce their products but the top managers indicated that they do not own these plants. They are working with a Chinese firm to set-up production of their products in China for Pacific Rim sales.
We toured their Shine Center product development lab and 1-bay testing area where they test their formulations on employee-owned vehicles, primarily.
They appear to be developing more marketing savvy the last 5 years with the introduction of a new super premium product line called ICE over the past 3 ½ years. They keep expanding the line to include easier-to-use and innovative products for both exterior and interior surfaces. All their appearance products are self-developed but they do use analytical methods to reverse engineer competitors’ products.
One purpose for the bloggers conference was clear in the Q&A session during and after lunch on the 22nd. They wanted feedback on the appearance car care products and their marketing approach recently with the ICE line. The ICE products have blue packaging and the Turtle Wax brand was de-emphasized in the packaging and advertising and has led to poor customer recognition that the ICE products are by Turtle Wax. They are changing their packaging to show larger turtle logos and also more green and less blue. Several bloggers were very blunt in their impressions of the ICE products in that they do not look like Turtle Wax products.
They also emphasized that the ICE line and their product development efforts are based on customer wants and needs. The ICE products either save steps and time in application or solve a new problem that has developed with newer cars. For example, the ICE polish system is a one-step product that can be applied in the sun making it easier to use and faster to apply than standard waxes. It also doesn’t leave a residue like standard waxes. Also, they developed a headlight lens scratch removal kit that is needed for newer polycarbonate headlight lens that fog, discolor and scratch more readily.
They also market the Marvel Mystery Oil product line, a business they bought some time ago and still grows slightly in sales each year. Its primary ‘claim-to-fame product is an engine oil additive that increases detergent properties and prevents and removes sludge build-up in the top-end of engines.
They have another performance line called CD2 which has specialty products such as oil leak stops which swell gaskets and reduce or stop leaks.
Their product brochure lists two Zymol products which are distributed by Turtle Wax and probably how the rumor that Zymol products are made by Turtle Wax got started. Mike Shultz, TW’s Vice-president of Product Development, said that Zymol developed its own formulations but uses Turtle Wax distribution channels for some of their products. I suspect that some of the Zymol products are also made in the same plants that produce the Turtle Wax products.
Shine Center Development Laboratory
Mike Schultz led the tour and demonstrations. Their product development lab is no more than 2000 sq.ft. with bench shelves loaded with hundreds of various product components screened for possible use in their products. They also have analytical equipment to help reverse-engineer competitive products. He also showed us a sample of carnauba wax which is in their standard car wax products. Carnauba wax is softer than synthetic polymers and gives a certain shine and feel that customers really like. It is imported from Brazil where it is scraped from palm leaves.
In the lab he demonstrated the use of the Premium Chrome and Metal polish on a used chrome reversed wheel which really shone after treatment.
The first demo in the auto bay testing area was the Black Box product for black car finishes on a right side door of a fairly new black Jeep. Black car finishes are the most difficult to polish and produce an acceptable shine without scratches and swirl marks. First the polishing compound was applied to ½ of the door; then the black carnauba wax was applied. The finish was very shiny and without swirl marks. The product is tinted black so it cannot be used on other colors without some tinting.
Next the improved ICE Liquid Polish was applied to an almost new black BMW SUV in the parking lot in the sun. It went on easily and was removed easily with only light pressure with a microfiber cloth which is included with the polish. The finish was very nice without any swirl marks or powdery residue. The microfiber cloth is helpful in getting a smooth application with one side of the cloth and then a thorough removal of the excess polish with less pressure with the other side of the cloth. Mike Schultz said that the microfiber cloth should not be washed with cotton materials or you’ll get cotton lint on the microfiber cloth and then the car finish when using it. For a finish in decent condition, the ICE Liquid Polish allows significant reductions in time and effort in polishing your car. With standard waxes you must wait for the wax to dry before removing it with a lot more effort and wax residue settling on the finish.
Next the hood of an older silver Honda Civic was waxed beforehand with ICE Liquid Polish on the left half and a competitor’s wax on the right side and then was repeatedly washed with a car wash solution. After at least 6 washes, the half polished with the ICE Liquid Polish was still beading water significantly more than the half waxed with the competitor’s product.
Next the ICE Wheel and Tire Cleaner and ICE Tire Shine products were demonstrated on the Civic’s right-side tires and wheels. Both have a removable brush on the top for more thorough scrubbing of the wheel and tire. Since the tire and wheel cleaned were not very dirty, cleaning our tires and wheels with these products should be done to really see how well they do.
Next the ICE Total Interior Care T465 cleaner was demonstrated on the Civic’s interior. This non-greasy product can be used on all interior surfaces including the windows. Also it conditions as well as cleans the material in one easy step.
Their new Headlight Lens Restorer Kit was demonstrated on the Civic which had mild lens scratching/haze on the driver’s side lens. First a liquid clarifyind compund was applied. Then four fine grit pads were used sequentially from 1800 to 8000 grit to remove the larger scratches and haze. There was a significant reduction in the haze of this lens. A more severe test with my ’03 Taurus will tell how well it really works. I hope to have that done in the next week.
Their improved spray Bug and Tar Remover is the top-selling bug and tar remover on the market and was demonstrated on the Civic. This product was recently updated with the addition of a new solvent for tree sap and seed-pod stains. A customer had contacted Turtle Wax and submitted samples of tree seed-pods that caused the stain that the previous product did not remove. Mike’s group found a solvent that cut the stain and then added it to the formulation. It also stays on the body without running off allowing it to soak into the debris if you wait several minutes after application as recommended for better removal. Mike also said that a stain should be washed off as soon as you see it. If it is not removed initially, wait 20-30 days to give the stain time to lift out of the finish before trying to remove it with a removal product. Mike Schultz also said the remover does remove the polish where it is applied but it also contains a wax that will leave a barrier to reduce the absorption of future debris.
Overall, Turtle Wax is paying attention to customers’ wants and needs with the innovative ICE products and willingness to improve their existing products.
I want to thank the Turtle Wax people for inviting us to see what they’ve been up to.
Larry Schappell (Kevin's Dad)