Marketing of safety enters mainstream

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"Please join me in a moment of silence," said Gen. Barry McCaffrey at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2002. The general was delivering a keynote speech at the 48th annual conference of the American Society of Industrial Security at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

The timing of the conference of 17,600 security professionals couldn't be more appropriate, or inappropriate, depending on your perspective. According to an ASIS spokeswoman, it was simply an incredible coincidence.

"We didn't plan this for Sept. 11," she said. "The site was booked two years ago."

The security and investigations industry, a more than $100 billion worldwide business that's been around for at least 125 years, is suddenly finding itself at the right place at the right time.

"We were the guys who sold raincoats on a sunny day," said Howard Safir, CEO of security and investigations startup SafirRossetti, which was at ASIS. "Now we're selling raincoats and it's pouring."

The events of 9/11, obviously, focused attention on this industry. The Office of Homeland Security is preparing to spend $37.7 billion in this sector. And the insurance industry is now establishing standards for corporate security plans that companies must follow in order to qualify for industrial coverage. According to Freedonia Group, an international industry-research firm, revenue for the security and investigations business is expanding almost 9% a year. Robert McCrie, editor of The Security Letter and professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, projects worldwide revenues for security services and products by 2004 will be $158 billion.

The security industry is beginning to find a focus and identity, and it's terrorism. Now the challenge is for companies to differentiate themselves and market their brands.

"There are a lot of companies that are positioning themselves as players in the homeland-security market," said Tim Clark, editor and president of trade magazine Government Executive, where security firms advertise, including Siebel Systems, a security-software company.

"Clearly if I was running one of these security businesses," General McCaffrey told Ad Age, following a speech that addressed convergence of criminal activity, drug activity and terrorism, "I would not only do client maintenance and communication. But I'd also advertise my services."

primitive techniques

The security industry includes everything from video-surveillance monitoring equipment, biometric identification devices, concertina wire and security guards to corporate investigations, and although it is growing , it still relies on primitive marketing techniques, mostly direct mail, e-mail, print ads, industry conferences like ASIS and word of mouth.

"At the Fortune 500 companies, the security directors all talk to each other, that's often the best way to find a particular product or service," said Regis W. Becker, global director, security and compliance for Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries, a chemical and coating manufacturer, and a security products end-user. "It is not an efficient buying strategy to go to TV. It's really a small market, you work through the ASIS's of the world. You don't need to spread as broad a net."

Pinkerton, which is owned by Swedish holding company Securitas, does its own advertising, with an in-house team overseen by Jan Marie Johnson, director of strategic initiatives, in Charlotte, N.C. "A lot of what we do is analyze different markets and come up with a campaign," Ms. Johnson said. "Invariably it will be a lot of direct marketing and a lot of Web, pushing HTML e-mails."

time for sophistication

Some, however, feel that it is time for this business to get more sophisticated. "Unfortunately the security manufacturers and other product-sales groups in this industry have and will continue to wait for the market to come to them," said Roy Bordes, president-CEO of Bordes Group, a security design and consulting company based in Florida. "They will always have a market but it is dwindling because they refuse to address the issues of the mass market and think outside the box. You do not see any major marketing efforts. Our industry is going to go through an interesting next five to 10 years with some people awakening to a totally new environment."

O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, which manufacturers armored vehicles and is owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based Armor Holdings, has done lifestyle advertising in magazines such as Robb Report, according to Dennis Lang, O'Gara's marketing director. "We do some corporate advertising in wider-read publications such as U.S. News & World Report. Also, in trouble spots around the world, such as in Latin America, the company has placed retail advertising ... for our passenger vehicles," Mr. Lang said. "There you get into some of the classic advertising techniques such as newspaper or billboards. And it is very effective." (To see an O'Gara promo, see QwikFIND aan98w.)

Omnicom Group is a backer of SafirRosetti, a connection that proves useful in marketing. "Omnicom has a very aggressive cross-marketing program in which they bring their CEOs together to talk about business and we participate," Mr. Safir said. "You try to build a brand and get that brand recognized. We're trying to get the message across that we are the gold standard." Mr. Safir hinted that a corporate identity TV campaign might be useful, "though it is not something we are contemplating in the near term." Print ads may appear, however, for a piece of skyscraper-escape technology soon to be introduced called the SafirRossetti ResQline, which allows people to safely lower themselves down the sides of tall buildings using cables.

"If I had unlimited discretionary funds for advertising, I could have a whole lot of fun," said Pinkertons' Ms. Johnson. "Sometimes I'll see a competitor ... with an ad, sometimes on television even, and I just go `Oh! I want to be there."'

Will we ever see the day, here in the U.S., when TV and outdoor advertising will be used to sell armored cars? "If it gets to be that bad here, there will probably be anarchy," PPG's Mr. Becker said. "Advertising will be the last thing on people's minds."

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