It took a new kind of rock star to put some bang into the Sheetrock brand. Yet it wasn’t the likes of Steven Tyler or even Fred Durst who turned the brand around, but rather the "rockers" themselves—those who install the drywall product—as featured in a unique, three-year campaign developed by DDB Needham, Chicago.
Materials manufacturer USG Corp., also of Chicago, was concerned that Sheetrock had become a generic name for the drywall product, and it wanted to give equity back to the brand. It also wanted to create a stronger link between Sheetrock and the corporate USG identity. "If a product or brand name becomes generic, the value can be diminished, and it’s harder to hold the price," said Dennis Ford, VP-customer segment marketing at USG.
To launch a new awareness campaign, USG held a review in 1998 and selected DDB Needham as its agency of record. The agency hit the ground running with research that revealed much about the target audience, including contractors and the rockers. "If we got to them with a message that was benefit-driven, they’d be the ones to be the evangelists for the brand and product and pull it through the supply chain," said Jim Stadler, DDB Chicago’s senior VP-group director, business-to-business practice.
Through its research, DDB learned the two most important benefits to both installers and contractors are speed and efficiency in installing Sheetrock, so it created an integrated campaign to drive this message home.
"In order to make sure our reach and frequency of the message were at a level to effect change, we had to make sure we had multiple touch points," Stadler said.
So the agency created a broad-based awareness campaign driven by TV, radio and print, and a grassroots effort driven by events including a "Rock tour" and a NASCAR sponsorship. The budget was between $4 million and $6 million each year of the three-year campaign.
The print campaign launched in the summer of 1998 with a series of ads in Professional Remodeler, Construction Dimensions and other trade publications. With themes such as "Rock star," "Rock legend" and "Born to rock," the ads featured the rockers using Sheetrock and touting its benefits.
Taking the checkered flag
The TV component launched in 1999 with a spot to promote USG’s sponsorship of NASCAR, with a follow-up spot in 2000. USG decided to sponsor the NASCAR racing series, including hospitality events for its key contractors at races, because the sport resonated with Sheetrock’s target audience, Stadler said. The TV spot, with a tagline "Fastest finish," tied NASCAR to the qualities of Sheetrock, he added.
Finally, a critical component of the campaign was a nationwide "Rock tour," which featured drivers dressed up in NASCAR garb who drove to construction sites all over the country to visit installers and talk about Sheetrock. The drivers, teaming up with USG sales reps, passed out T-shirts and hats with the Sheetrock logo and signed up installers for a chance to win a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Local radio promoted the tour during the 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. drive time in cities on the tour.
All these elements working together paid off. Between 1998 and 2000, awareness of the Sheetrock brand jumped from 10% to 44%, based on research conducted by Ducker Worldwide, Bloomfield, Mich. Stadler said the integration of the broad awareness campaign with local events was key to the success of the campaign. "If we didn’t couple the two together, it wouldn’t have made as major an impact," he said.