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Hardware

Different by Design

1 May, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response

The latest DRTV campaign from Professional Tool Manufacturing highlights its new Work Sharp product. But the company also continues to break ground in the branded long-form DRTV environment.


Homes in vintage Victorian. A 100-acre town-center of trees, trails, tennis courts and duck ponds. Fountains of mineral water. A university. An outdoor Elizabethan Theater and Shakespeare Festival. Recreational opportunities from biking Bear Creek, to ski runs and cross-country trails just 15 miles from downtown, or river rafting on the nearby Rogue.

Such is Ashland, Ore., population 21,000, just 15 miles north of the California border, "but a world apart from everywhere else," according to the folks at Professional Tool Manufacturing (ProTool). The small, 80-employee, privately owned firm has, for more than 30 years, prided itself on participating in the Ashland lifestyle — asking that its employees, as part of the company's core values, manifest honesty and integrity, love and respect, and last, but not least, enjoy what they do.

In 2007, Professional Tool Manufacturing (ProTool) introduced a multi-product informercial for its new Work Sharp product and its stand-by, Drill Doctor.
In 2007, Professional Tool Manufacturing (ProTool) introduced a multi-product informercial for its new Work Sharp product and its stand-by, Drill Doctor.

 

As manufacturers of the hugely successful Drill Doctor, a drill bit sharpener sold via infomercials and retail outlets to more than 2 million do-it-yourselfers (DIYs) worldwide, ProTool is a quirky combination of the bottom-line demands of DRTV and an orientation that a relaxed "quality of life counts as much as ambition."

For seven years, the niche market Drill Doctor has sold via half-hour DRTV and retail outlets beyond anyone's initial expectations. Then, in 2007 Professional Tool Manufacturing introduced Work Sharp, an innovative benchtop grinding and sharpening tool with a model for both the automotive and DIY marketplace, and an advanced model for the professional woodworker, continuing its success in the DR marketplace.

 

ProTool, Atomic Make a Formidable Duo

 

In 1997, ProTool introduced its Drill Doctor. The sharpening technology was a simpler, more economical version of its sister company Darex Corp.'s internationally best-selling, industrial drill sharpeners. Darex had already established itself as the world leader in specialty grinding and finishing machines.

"The concept of drill bit sharpeners wasn't new," says Kyle Crawford, product manager. "But bringing the technology to an ease-level and price point that the home hobbyist, as opposed to trade professionals such as carpenters and contractors could use, was."

Not only was the concept an unknown among potential buyers, but also the mechanics of use weren't particularly intuitive. No longer would a hobbyist with a broken drill bit have to replace it with a new one.

Hank O'Dougherty, company CEO and president, suspected that a different advertising medium, offering education and demonstration, would be key to marketing a product with advantages not readily discerned by viewing a box on a shelf or through a traditional branding approach in magazines such as WOOD, Workbench, Woodworker's Journal or Family Handyman. After calling several DRTV agencies, with little callback success, O'Dougherty received a referral to Atomic Direct, a DRTV agency based in Portland, Ore.

In seven years, ProTool has sold more than 2 million Drill Doctors through DRTV and retail.
In seven years, ProTool has sold more than 2 million Drill Doctors through DRTV and retail.

 

With clients such as AT&T, Sears, Bissell and Hamilton Beach, Atomic Direct was known for specializing in a unique, mixed-channel blend of branding combined with DRTV. "Brand DRTV is a very different beast from the traditional," says Doug Garnett, company CEO. "Yes, we sell on TV, but generally the biggest benefit comes from increased sales at retail. For everyone buying direct on an infomercial, you're probably also influencing a thousand other buyers."

"Besides, branding is ultimately about profit, anyway," continues Garnett. "The question is how to get profit today as well as in five to 10 years. We want to sell, yes, but also to create a clear vision of the product that connects more strongly with people's lives, and remains with them longer than the traditional yell-and-sell format."

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