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Direct Response Marketing

Do-It-Myself? Show Me How

7 May, 2010 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Direct response gives hardware marketers a way to demonstrate their goods and sell higher-ticket items.

Since 1929, Festool has been building customer interest in its precision, high-quality power tools through a strong branding campaign and long-term reputation in the hardware industry. The strategy has worked well for the German firm, whose founders developed the first portable chainsaw 80 years ago. Little did Albert Fezer and Gottlieb Stoll know at the time, but the company they founded would become an industry leader in designing and developing portable power tools.

That recognition doesn’t carry over to the U.S., however, where the typical tradesman has brand names like Craftsman, Makita and Dewalt emblazoned on his mind. With its American headquarters in Lebanon, Ind., the company has been working domestically for about 10 years, during which time it’s found itself going up against these well-known brands in a highly competitive industry.

“We’ve encountered some major hurdles in building our brand here in the U.S.,” says Michael Williams, vice president of product marketing. Standing in the way, he explains, is the firm’s limited distribution network that does not include big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. “Their staff just aren’t capable of supporting a premium product line like ours,” Williams says. A customer looking for a miter saw at Home Depot, for example, would probably get pointed to the $500 option by a worker in an orange apron. Overlooked would be Festool’s $1,200 miter saw.

“When your product is literally twice as expensive as the next competitor’s, you need someone who will take the time to explain in detail the features that make your item distinct,” Williams says. To make sure its products don’t end up languishing unnoticed on a big box shelf, Festool works with independent tool distributors or “mom-and-pop” shops that have the time and impetus to peddle the firm’s premium tools.

This year, Festool is adding direct response to the mix with a series of point-of-sale and online videos, as well as short-form DRTV. The manufacturer is using DR to create awareness for its TS 55 EQ Plunge Cut Circular Saw, a tool that was invented by Festool more than 40 years ago.

Festool’s first DR effort is focused on its most popular product, a $500 saw that competes in a world where Joe Handyman can schlep down to the Home Depot and pick up a circular saw for $30. Communicating the additional value that the TS 55 EQ Plunge Cut Circular Saw provides is nearly impossible, says Williams. “We could use labels on boxes,” he says, “but how many people are really engaged and motivated by stickers? Very few.”

The company is using several different shows to advertise the product, including a 16-minute, dealer-focused, in-house looping version that plays on a video screen. Festool is also using a 10-minute online version, as well as a 2-minute option. All of the shows draw from the same content, and were being distributed to dealers at press time.

Williams calls the campaign a mix of “DR video and education,” and says the shows include a “see your dealer for details” call to action. “You can’t just put video out there and hope someone reacts to it,” he says. “We have to combine the show with a trained dealer staff and call to action to make it work.” Designed around customer testimonials and end user experiences, the shows serve as a “virtual salesperson,” for Festool at the point of sale, online and — soon — on television.

“It’s not just a sales pitch,” says Williams. “It’s an advertising mechanism that shows viewers that there are other people out there who have the same problems, and who solved them with our products.” Festool can also show users how low-end, $30 circular saws can actually cost them money over time, in repair and replacement costs. “Our saw pays for itself on the first job,” says Williams, “and it’s our task to prove that to customers at the point of sale. That sells the tool.”

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