Emerson ads target contractors to drive sales from OEMs

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Not long ago, most computer buyers bought PCs based on the names branded on the outside of the box. But because of a groundbreaking, pull-through marketing campaign engineered by chip maker Intel Corp., now buyers are just as choosy about what brands reside inside the computer.

The same basic concept has already worked wonders for Emerson Climate Technologies, a business unit of Emerson, St. Louis, that makes components such as compressors, thermostats and motors for residential and commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

The integrated b-to-b campaign, which launched in January and was developed by DDB Chicago, targets an audience of about 750 HVAC contractors.

“Traditionally, most advertising dollars are spent by component makers trying to convince HVAC system original equipment manufacturers to use their components,” said Kathy Button Bell, VP-chief marketing officer at Emerson. “But we decided to break from the mold and focus our efforts on building strong relationships with top contractors who have significant influence with the OEMs.”

Preliminary focus group research by DDB Chicago uncovered some very surprising information.

“We all believed that keeping costs down and eliminating callbacks was the most critical issue for contractors,” said Jim Donath, VP-management representative for DDB Chicago. “But what we found was that they were more concerned about their reputations than they were about saving money.”

Using this knowledge, DDB Chicago and Emerson Climate Technologies focused on two primary tactics: educating contractors about the technical aspects and quality of Emerson components, and illustrating the competitive advantage contractors have in installing HVAC systems that use Emerson Climate Technologies components.

Contractor education starts at, a new Web portal. DDB Chicago created the site as a storehouse of information on Emerson Climate Technologies products, as well as technical and business resources. Direct mail and print advertising drove contractors to the site, Bell said, but high-volume traffic wasn’t the goal.

“We’ve been building a database of top contractors for the past two and a half years, but we mainly sought a group of about 50 to 100 [out of the 45,000-plus HVAC contractors in North America] that we felt were the most influential in their space,” she said. “For 2003, we launched the portal and we’ve broadened the list of our target audience to about 750.”

The launch of the current campaign coincided with the 2003 International Air Conditioning Heating Refrigeration Exposition in Chicago in January.

The January exposition also helped launch a new line of HVAC technologies that boast quieter, more efficient and more reliable heat-ing/cooling systems offered in high-end, OEM residential packages.

This UltraTech Home Series line was developed following DDB Chicago’s focus group work with contractors as a way to give them an edge on their competition.

The campaign messaging has been all about “igniting” and “catapulting” contractors’ businesses by installing systems that take advantage of the UltraTech series and other Emerson Climate Technologies components, Donath said. And the creative has veered away from bland HVAC marketing traditions by using bright colors and fun images, such as a contractor van with a jet engine on it. The full trade advertising and direct mail campaign launched in April.

While Emerson won’t give out specific metrics on the campaign’s success, Bell said she was happy with the results.

“We weren’t getting any credit for the quality of our products downstream from the OEMs, and now we’re finally being recognized throughout the chain. Our customer satisfaction ratings are through the roof,” she said.

Emerson Climate Technologies Campaigns: and UltraTech Home Series
Goal: Build “pull-through” by educating top 750 HVAC contractors about Emerson Climate Technologies’ “in-the-box” components such as compressors, thermostats and motors. Also, to demonstrate how contractors can build their reputations and gain competitive advantage.
Duration of campaign: January 2003-present
Integrated elements: Web site, trade advertising, direct mail, trade show launch
Results: No specific metrics disclosed, but Emerson claims soaring customer satisfaction numbers, high trade show traffic and greater brand awareness.
Budget: Not disclosed
Agency: DDB Chicago

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