By early 2004, Finnish elevator company Kone Corp. was enjoying widespread acceptance and adoption of its unique and environmentally friendly lift systems, particularly in Europe.
However, the U.S. market had proved to be more challenging because each state had its own set of codes regarding elevator installation, said Randy Jacobs, VP-account director at Kone's U.S. agency, Charleston/Orwig.
But Kone was determined, and by the spring of 2004 it had finally arranged code variances in every state. Kone was now ready to tout EcoSpace, its elevators for low-rise buildings. EcoSpace is a machine- roomless system, meaning it does not require an extra room for housing hydraulic equipment like traditional low-rise building elevators. The systems are also ecologically sound in that they do not use oil and can cut energy use up to 60%.
Kone tapped its b-to-b marketing agency, Charleston/Orwig, to help devise a strategy. The objective was not only to introduce the system to architects and owners/operators of low-rise buildings in the U.S. but also to help establish Kone as a major player in the machine-roomless elevator market. Even though Kone had pioneered the concept of a machine-roomless elevator in the mid-'90s, by 2004 several competitors had come up with their own versions.
"Kone was at the back of the pack, really. It wasn't No. 1 or No. 2 in the U.S. So we wanted to use the EcoSpace product to raise awareness of them and their technological prowess, as well as stimulate sales, of course," Jacobs said.
The campaign first targeted architects. Not only do architects specify and design elevators into their buildings, but they generally seemed to share Kone's idea of environmentally friendly products and design, according to executives at both Charleston/Orwig and Kone.
The launch of the EcoSpace marketing campaign was planned around a debut showing at the American Institute of Architects conference in Chicago in June. In order to make sure architects knew Kone would be at the show, a preshow mailing was sent to about 3,500 AIA members several weeks before the show inviting a visit. Charleston/Orwig focused specifically on architects of low-rise buildings within 300 miles of Chicago because their research showed the AIA drew a fairly regional audience. The mailer also teased Kone's big promotion at the show-the giveaway of a Ford Escape hybrid vehicle. It read: "Going to AIA 2004? You may only need a one-way ticket."
The dark green Escape parked in the middle of the Kone booth helped draw record crowds during the show. The car giveaway had been chosen to tie back to the environmental friendliness of Kone as well as serve as a bit of a curiosity draw. After all, architects are curious engineers and designers as well. The media and promotion leading up to the event helped Kone generate 1,200 quality leads just from the show, said Russ Mitchell, who was then Kone's director of marketing for new equipment business. For 2004, Kone saw an overall leap, with some 8,000 total leads for the year. Kone had just over 1,000 leads for all of 2003, Mitchell said.
The booth was so swamped with people that Kone representatives had to move into the crowds to organize potential customers into manageable groups, Mitchell said.
During one evening of the show, Kone also hosted an editorial event to help establish relationships with some of the leading trade publications. Kone and Charleston/Orwig executives, as well as two architects from Ohio who were early users of the Kone elevators, were on hand at a dinner and after-dinner excursion to see Blue Man Group perform. Attending were journalists from magazines including Architectural Record, Architecture, Building Design & Construction and Buildings.
"Kone had never done anything like that before, and it really helped develop relationships with the editorial community," Jacobs said. In fact, Kone's EcoSpace elevator system was included or featured in 17 articles post-show, with an estimated $171,000 in ad value, Jacobs said.
After the show, Kone followed with a direct mailer to the initial group as well as to those who signed up at the booth. It also placed print advertising in architectural publications, using a targeted message to highlight the fact that the EcoSpace design allows it to fit inside the traditional U.S. design-specific hoistway, creating a simple "plug-and-play" solution for architects.
All marketing and ad materials also directed potential customers to www.myecospace.com for more EcoSpace information. The Web site included specifications, presentations and CAD drawings. The site was created specifically for the launch; however, it continues to serve as a marketing tool for the elevator system.
The coordinated efforts seem to have worked. Research on 2004 showed that Kone had become the basis of elevator design in 9% of the architectural firms where it had qualified leads, Mitchell said.
"What was so successful was the combinations of channels," said Deb Robbins, VP-marketing and business development for Kone's U.S. operations. "We've gotten a tremendous response from our architects."
—Beth Snyder Bulik