Nucor ads forge bond with CEOs

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Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp. is the largest steel manufacturer and steel recycler in the U.S. About two years ago, however, the company realized that it was known primarily for its size, not its strengths or brand.

In 2005, Nucor launched a full-scale rebranding effort and ad campaign with the help of marketing communications agency Eric Mower & Associates to differentiate itself from other steel producers. One of the primary audiences for the campaign was C-level executives, said Matt Ferguson, an EMA Group B2B partner and manager of the Nucor account.

"The sales managers within Nucor's product groups have found that whenever they had relationships at the C-level with a prospective customer, it paved the way for making a sale," Ferguson said. "If CEOs begin to understand that Nucor is more than just a commodity steel manufacturer? they're more likely to spread the news to purchasing agents and engineers, the people who actually buy steel. It creates a mentality that `you can't get fired for specifying Nucor.' "

EMA and Nucor put together a series of ads made specifically for the print and online editions of BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal. The ads were designed to convey the point that Nucor is more than just another supplier of steel. "We worked to tell the story about how Nucor is an innovative, well-run, environmentally responsible, all-American company," Ferguson said.

Added Daniel R. DiMicco, Nucor's president-CEO: "We are in a dynamic industry that has reinvented itself virtually overnight, and we believe Nucor is at the leading edge of that transformation. We believe it's important for our customers, stakeholders, plant communities and other business associates to understand the difference that our culture makes in everything we do."

The campaign, dubbed "It's Our Nature," focused on how Nucor recycles and works to provide cleaner air, builds loyalty among its 11,000 workers through such initiatives as a no-layoff policy and pay-for-performance bonus system, and creates smaller factories that save space and increase productivity. In addition to the ads placed in BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal, Nucor and EMA supported the campaign with aggressive public and media relations efforts, internal communications and trade publication ads.

The results have been so impressive that Nucor and EMA launched a second wave of the campaign in 2006.

In a McGraw-Hill Cos. tracking study of C-level audiences following the first year of the campaign, unaided brand awareness for Nucor in its industry increased 85%, Ferguson said. And in a similar Dow Jones Co. study, the company's overall corporate reputation increased 35%.

The ads also scored very high. In Starch readership studies, Nucor's "What if We Could Make Pig Iron Grow on Trees" ad was ranked the No. 3 most-noted ad in the edition of The Wall Street Journal in which it was measured, beating "sexier" brands such as Hummer, Armani and Lexus. This same ad was the No. 2 most-noted and No. 1 most-read in BusinessWeek, besting brands such as Infiniti and Sprint, Ferguson said.

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