PR Team: Marketing Support Campaign: Septic disposer product
Time Frame: 1997 to the present
Budget: dollars 50,000 to dollars 100,000
Rumor: If you have a septic system - as 27 million Americans do - you
can’t have a garbage disposal.
Fact: That’s not true.
But try convincing consumers (and some contractors) otherwise. In 1997,
In- Sink-Erator of Racine, WI, decided it would fight the septic
skeptics and introduce the Septic Disposer, a system with a replaceable
enzyme cartridge to break down food.
In-Sink-Erator asked its longtime PR, advertising and packaging firm,
Marketing Support Inc. (MSI) of Chicago, to introduce the product and
market it to septic owners who don’t have disposals.
Marketing Support decided to focus on education - first with plumbing
contractors, since the product was initially available only through
’The message to the trade side was there’s this whole new market of
opportunity for you,’’ says MSI account supervisor Arla Medvin.
’Disposers have been around since 1927, but there hasn’t been anything
new in the category for 40 years. Fifty percent of homes have a
disposer, but the percentage is lower for homes with septic systems,
After the company and agency had the contractors on board, they planned
to focus on trade publications, then the mass media.
MSI started with a direct-mail appeal to plumbing wholesalers. The
mailing featured a marketing kit, which included counter displays. After
that initial contact, in the fall of 1997, MSI met with media at
plumbing trade shows for wholesalers and contractors, providing
one-on-one product demonstrations.
Meanwhile, it sent a newsletter called The Septic Line to 40,000
Then MSI began pitching the retail side. During a media tour of New
York, it met with everyone from Country Living to Popular Mechanics,
bringing along the product for demonstrations and getting a number of
placements and color photos - often in the publications’ ’what’s new’’
The week before Thanksgiving, MSI also went after radio coverage in
rural markets where septic use is higher and news is slower. The theme:
Here’s how to get rid of holiday food scraps.
At the International Builders’ Show in January 1998, MSI focused its
message on reducing the amount of garbage in the home and handed out a
gift - a little trash can with an accordion-style folded message inside:
’Taking out the garbage will never be the same for the 27 million
homeowners on septic systems.’’ The firm continued to pitch the Septic
Disposer to media covering home remodeling.
MSI estimates that mentions in print publications - from the Chicago
Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer to Kitchen and Bath Business magazine
- reached more than 60 million readers and were worth an estimated
dollars 435,000. The radio spots in rural markets reached an additional
853,000 people, MSI figures. In May 1999, Medvin won a Silver Trumpet
award from the Publicity Club of Chicago for her efforts.
As for its sales, In-Sink-Erator says business is up 42% this year. ’We
got press in all the trades, but we received a tremendous amount of
consumer press,’ says Dave MacNair, VP of marketing.
Marketing Support has recommended that In-Sink-Erator concentrate on
home-remodeling shows over the next five years, with the focus on the
top 50 septic markets. (Yes, someone has compiled a list of the regions
with the most septic systems in use.)
’When I tell people what I do, I sometimes laugh a little bit,’’ Medvin
says. ’Garbage disposals? But, you know, it’s a necessary part of life.’