PR Team: Vandiver Group (St. Louis) Campaign: Maytag heating and cooling equipment launch for Nordyne (O'Fallon, MO) Time Frame: June-December 2002 Budget: About $30,000The big names in the heating and cooling business don't often roll off the tongues of consumers. The Trane, Carrier, and Lennox brands may mean a lot to dealers and homebuilders, but not to the people in whose houses they install furnaces and AC units. Several years ago, manufacturer Nordyne decided to take a different approach. The company identified brand names with strong consumer recognition (like Westinghouse, Tappan, Frigidaire, and Kelvinator), and sought licensing agreements to build and sell heating and cooling systems under those brands. Instead of targeting home-construction contractors, who generally buy lower-priced units, Nordyne honed in on homeowners looking to replace their existing systems. Last winter, Nordyne launched Maytag central air and heating products that feature a unique, brushed stainless-steel finish and a 10-year warranty on parts and service. The Maytags cost about 25% more than competing units, and are intended for high-end customers, explains Nordyne VP of sales and marketing Dennis Kloster. "This was basically the culmination of the brand strategy," says Chris Horner, a team leader at Vandiver Group. The PR firm helped Nordyne sell Maytag on the licensing idea, and led the campaign. Strategy Nordyne wanted to create awareness about Maytag entering the heating-and-cooling market, and to get the word out about the products' superior quality and warranty, Kloster says. To do this, Nordyne needed not only to target leading trade publications, but also to create a new marketing channel for the high-end products. The company went after fewer but larger distributors with more marketing sophistication who recognized the value of the Maytag brand. Although messages filtered down to consumers through both wholesale distributors and retailers, research commissioned by Vandiver identified women as being heavily involved in buying decisions - a revelation many in the male-dominated industry found novel, if not completely surprising. Tactics Vandiver began beating the drum at a September trade show in Baltimore, and continued the effort during a January show in Chicago. In between, the PR team visited key trade editors and invited others to tour the client's facilities. Targeted Nordyne distributors learned about the new products during advisory council meetings. More recently, Vandiver has conducted sales-focused training classes in various cities for distributors and dealers. Among other topics, the classes address trends identified by research, such as Americans' nesting urge and how low-interest refinancing has put cash in many homeowner's bank accounts. Vandiver also produced press packs and woman-friendly sales collateral for dealers to give to potential customers. Cooperative advertising kits and trade-media ads supported PR efforts. Results "I wanted to have 15 distributors signed up by the end of 2002," Kloster says. "I had 18 signed up by year's end." Geographic areas covered by those distributors account for about half the US population. Trade editors say the weight of the Maytag brand and the recruitment of new distributors made Nordyne's story newsworthy. The day an article ran in one prominent trade publication, Nordyne received more than 100 calls and e-mails from dealers and distributors. Take Steve Bellar, for example, president of Thrifty Supply, a wholesale distributor in Bellevue, WA. Dealers who knew that Thrifty distributed other Nordyne products began calling his company when they read about the Maytag launch. "It was almost a new paradigm for us," says Bellar, noting that many heating-and-cooling professionals never considered the advantage of selling systems that carry well-known brands. Future Vandiver continues to work with Nordyne, including the coordination of more classes for dealers and distributors. The team also continues to publicize deals with new distributors and the launch of additional high-end, high-efficiency Maytag products.