In 1999, The Stanley Works developed the "AntiVibe," a one-piece steel hammer that minimizes vibrations. To introduce the product, Stanley turned to its PR firm, Wenham, MA-based Mullen, for a communications program.The PR team targeted the International Builders' Show for the product launch and came up with an idea for a nail-driving competition that would pit competitors in a head-to-head battle of speed, power, and accuracy.
"The overall goal was to get the hammer in their hands, and the best way was with a fun competition," says Eric Montague, account director for Mullen, who worked on the event.
In the past, the demonstration took up a small corner of the trade show booth. But with each successive year, more and more people got involved. This year, Stanley and Mullen decided to use the idea to reach customers on a grassroots level, even before the show started.
To boost interest in the competition, Stanley sponsored local events with the National Association of Home Builders' Industry Education Alliance, a nonprofit that teaches people to be carpenters and tradesmen. The regional winners qualified for the event in Las Vegas and a shot at a $750 grand prize. Stanley also held smaller displays at trade shows in France and Mexico.
The effort was meant to show the differences between the AntiVibe hammers and hammers without the technology, though all the while encouraging contestants to stick to their favorite Stanley choice. While contestants could use whatever Stanley hammer they preferred, a variety of steel-shaft hammers also with AntiVibe technology were offered in order to get people to try them.
"We wanted to find a way to dramatize that when you are whacking at a nail over and over again it's hurting you, sending a vibration up your arm," says Scott Bannell, director of corporate marketing services for Stanley. "There's nothing more basic than hammering a nail."
To reach the local news bureaus, Mullen physically went the extra mile, hand-delivering Stanley brand hammers for kicker stories at the end of news broadcasts or for hosts to banter about between segments. For national coverage, the agency targeted sports-related programming outlets that cater to Stanley's core audience. Mullen also wanted to spur viral marketing with the event, Montague says.
Montague estimates that the booth exposed more than 17,000 visitors to the Stanley hammer line, plus thousands of others in local qualifying rounds. "To be honest, we were floored," says Bannell. "We had no idea this thing would be so interesting for people who build."
A husband and wife emerged as the surprise male and female national champions this year. Donna Ewers was the 2003 winner, and her husband, Everett, joined her when she repeated this year.
Mullen also secured some big national placements. Tom Arnold, host of the Fox Sports program The Best Damn Sports Show Period, went head to head with Donna Ewers on air in a seven-minute segment. He lost badly. By chance, the show aired the Monday after the Super Bowl, giving the Stanley line maximum exposure.
Mullen also arranged an appearance on ESPN2's Cold Pizza morning show and is expecting to send the contest winners to appear on the syndicated The Wayne Brady Show some time soon. In addition, the event drew the interest of The Home Depot, which has asked to do a joint promotion for new store openings.
While Stanley's PR team does not expect the nail-driving competition to become an Olympic event, it does intend to continue the promotion. "Next year we'd love to be on David Letterman," Montague says.
PR team: Stanley International (New Britain, CT) and Mullen (Wenham, MA)
Campaign: Stanley National Nail Driving Championship
Time frame: January to February