Kreg Does a Jig for DR1 Jun, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
"Many of our past brand campaigns before DRTV were inefficient because we didn't close the loop," says Brad Lilienthal, vice president of sales and marketing for Huxley, Iowa-based Kreg Tool Co., a leading U.S. manufacturer of quality woodworking tools. "Since we've been exposed to DRTV, we get instantaneous results and measure them against our retail numbers to analyze the overall performance of the media. It leads to better decisions and more targeted use of marketing dollars. In addition, it allows the CFO to get behind campaigns much earlier in the process."
Brad Lilienthal says a long-form TV campaign helps the woodworking tool leader build a new DIY market, get closer to its customer base and satisfy its retail partners.
The privately held company has grown from its humble beginnings thanks to the visionary leadership of founder and CEO Craig Sommerfeld and his son, Todd, who now serves as president. "Kreg is a family owned company that was started back in 1989 primarily through tradeshows," Lilienthal says. "Craig Sommerfeld invented a great product that simplified the way wood was joined. This is a product that when demonstrated live is very convincing to someone that has built with other techniques in the past."
However, when Lilienthal joined the company in 2000, a direct response television campaign was the furthest thing from the Kreg brain trust's mind. The company, which now boasts nearly 100 employees, was utilizing a number of different forms of marketing, but still leaned heavily on the live tradeshow demonstrations that Craig Sommerfeld used exclusively back when he started the company.
However, there was always an inkling of what the Kreg Jig® — the company's signature product, a wood-joining tool popular among do-it-yourself (DIY) woodworkers — might be able to accomplish if the company could find an effective way to mass market it. "We have always thought that the message of what a Kreg Jig can do for an average DIYer had mass appeal if we could effectively deliver some of the excitement of a live demonstration through video," Lilienthal contends. "Recently we realized that DRTV done the right way would be an effective means to spread the message of the Kreg Jig to a larger DIY market."
Brad Lilienthal and Todd Sommerfeld, Kreg Tool Co.'s president, have worked together to expand the company's retail presence. Both are thrilled with the metrics and measurability provided by the company's successful long-form DRTV campaign.
Building a World of Woodworkers
However, getting to that point was a lengthy process, both for the Kreg team, and Lilienthal personally. The Kreg business grew out of an invention by Craig Sommerfeld in 1986. As he was building his own home, he needed to find a way to attach his doweled face frames to his kitchen cabinet carcase members. He was a tool and die maker by trade, but a woodworker only out of necessity.
"There was no way he could put nail holes in the front of the face frames and putty them — there's no way his wife was going for that," Lilienthal says with a chuckle. So, he designed a tool he called "Craig's Jig," based on pocket-hole joinery, which was popular among furniture makers in the 1940s and 1950s. His invention, a single-hole pocket hole jig crafted from steel and aluminum, allowed him to attach the face frames from the inside of the cabinet, where the joint could be hidden.
Encouraged by friends and family, Craig Sommerfeld built a few more of his jigs and began showing them at woodworking shows. His success led to the formation of Kreg Tool Co. in 1989.
Lilienthal's journey to Kreg was not quite as glamorous a story, but it was also not without some learning experiences. After earning a marketing degree from the University of Northern Iowa, Lilienthal became a sales manager at an industrial distribution company that sold extensively to John Deere.
"I had a staff of 10-12 people, and it was a very nuts-and-bolts type of business," he says. "What I really got a feel for there was what it was like working for a large corporate entity and how it does business, compared to smaller businesses. There's so much waste. I didn't learn much that I could bring to this position. But I did know that I didn't want to work in that environment."
That made his transition to Kreg nearly a perfect fit. "We are a relatively small company that is focused on bringing value to woodworking professionals, as well as the weekend woodworker," says Lilienthal, who joined Kreg in 2000. In his current position, he focuses on the strategic positioning of brand messages to the consumer.
The long-form DRTV show for the K4 Kreg Jig offers various payment plans and a risk-free guarantee for viewers who call in or visit the Web address used in the ad.
"I make sure we truly understand what our customer wants and shape the message to deliver it to them in a way that appeals to them," he adds. "We are focused on empathetic messaging. As a company, we then work to drive the understanding of what our customer truly wants all the way through product design, manufacturing and customer service."
The depth of that customer focus can only be understood by knowing how the Sommerfeld family views its company's mission — as a gateway to unlocking the DIYer's interest in woodworking. "We don't just exist to manufacture and sell woodworking tools," Lilienthal contends. "Our long term goal is to help customers discover their woodworking potential by putting them in touch with the varied resources of our industry — educational videos, magazines, Web sites, etc. The Kreg Jig is, in our mind, the gateway tool that allows customers that are new to woodworking to get involved, have early success, and quickly build their skills."
Kreg's catalog and Web site sales were strong and branding efforts had built a stable retail presence. But to capitalize on the idea of the Kreg Jig as a "gateway" product, it would take something more.