MAG Engineering is a privately held research, design, and manufacturing firm that produces security and safety products.
One of its most recent debuts is Kleer Drain, a device that looks like a cross between a plunger and a bicycle pump. The concept behind the item is that it can unclog drains and toilets with a shot of compressed air.
MAG had never worked with a PR firm before, but CEO Mark Allenbaugh says that he recognized the need to do so.
"I knew it was a great product, but we were nowhere with it," he says. "We needed help getting the word out." Realizing that vital third-party endorsements could only come from journalists writing about Kleer Drain, he turned to Mertzel PR to help launch the item and garner trade and consumer press.
Joelle Mertzel, president of Mertzel PR, admits plungers and clogged toilets aren't the sexiest topics, but the agency's experience in promoting similar products gave it an edge.
"We're very passionate about the products we pitch," she says. From the start, Mertzel says, the campaign was designed as strictly media relations.
"We focus on securing media coverage that will drive sales for our clients' products," she says. "That's our number-one mission." And so, the plan was twofold: driving consumer aware- ness and helping with retail distribution. This meant Mertzel PR would have to craft two different types of messaging to promote the product to consumer and trade magazines.
Using its experience in promoting plumbing products, Mertzel PR contacted plumbing trade titles like Jobsite: Plumbing & Heating Edition, Plumbing & Mechanical, and Maintenance Solutions.
For these magazines, Mertzel says, the message centered on how it would affect the plumbing industry. "For the plumbing trades, [the message was that] it's a revolutionary product that would rival the plunger," says Mertzel. Because it uses cartridges that have to be replaced, Mertzel PR positioned Kleer Drain as a product that would provide an ongoing revenue-generating stream for retailers.
For consumer-based titles, radio, and TV, price was the key message: Kleer Drain costs just $30 with four cartridges, far less than a call to the plumber.
Mertzel also offered reporters the chance to try the product.
Kleer Drain received coverage in all the industry trades Mertzel PR pitched, as well as the Orange County Business Journal and Oakland Tribune. Following coverage in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, all of the Home Depots in the area sold out of Kleer Drain. The product was also featured in the Better Homes & Gardens newsletter, which resulted in an 800% increase in click-through visitors to MAG's website.
Among the product's several TV appearances was a live on-air demonstration on ABC-TV in Cincinnati, which resulted in a 350% increase in Kleer Drain orders in the area.
Allenbaugh says he has been "ecstatic" about the results. "This is opening up incredible opportunities to us," he says. "Now that we have a solid footing with Home Depot, this will allow us to more easily introduce products."
Mertzel PR continues to work to promote Kleer Drain. "As distribution increases, we do targeted outreach to metro markets," says Mertzel.
Allenbaugh says the agency will help the company introduce it in other distribution markets. Mertzel will also assist in the launch of Kleer Drain Pro, an updated version of the product designed for commercial use, in the first quarter of next year.
PR team: MAG Engineering (Huntington Beach, CA) and Mertzel PR (Woodland Hills, CA)
Campaign: Kleer Drain launch
Time frame: January 2005 to present (ongoing)