Choosing the squad
The first step was a big category review. No stone was left unturned – Marley held qualitative interviews and surveys with its customers, the electrical merchants and with its end users, the electricians.
It found that people couldn’t say what the benefits of one brand over another were.
They thought the products looked identical, and couldn’t even really distinguish between products.
Back at headquarters, the marketing team got to work on their first objective – differentiating the goods.
Marley sells three types of flexible conduit, each with benefits for different uses. So, in an innovative move for the piping category, the team decided to trash functional descriptions of the piping in exchange for benefit-based names.
Exit Light Duty, Medium Duty and Heavy Duty became SUPA, EASI, and SOLA.
The new names reflected the benefits of each pipe, and actually helped educate the market about what was best to use. SUPA for tight jobs needing more flexbility. EASI for everyday jobs. SOLA for heavy duty jobs requiring UV resistance.
With the new names Marley had a basis for developing unique packaging for each of the products.
It knew its audience didn’t like fluffy marketing, and appreciated a touch of humour. It also knew its audience was too busy getting on with business to bother with subtle marketing messages.
So Marley developed a marketing platform that revolved around three ‘stereotypical electricians’ illustrated as toy characters – one for each product. The Wallaces & Gromits of the electrical piping world, you might say.
These blobby-eyed, likeable characters were united as the Flex-Force team – almost, not-quite super heroes. SOLA is your typical Kiwi bloke in stubbies, with a cricket bat, EASI is your ready-for-anything type, laden with gear including pie and a Red Bull, and SUPA is a lanky sportsman with accessories that accentuate his flex.
Marley unified them for the campaign under the theme ‘FLEX-FORCE IS ON THE JOB’.
The use of characters allowed them to introduce a heap of personality into what had previously been undifferentiated products.
The marketing team says while this approach may be commonplace in other categories, it was “almost unprecedented” in the regulations-driven electrical category where a functional approach is mostly taken.
The next challenge was making sure all stakeholders were on board.
Meetings were held with sales, manufacturing and distribution internally. But Marley also held planning sessions with its customers – electrical merchants. As well as planning the transition of stock to the branches, it also allowed Marley to map out a schedule of activity to engage branch staff and promote the product to end customers.
“We knew we were on to a winner when the feedback from merchants was ‘why hasn’t anybody done this earlier?’” Marley says.
The new branded stock was pushed out to 300 merchant branches nationwide over four months.
It was backed up by the Flex-Force campaign: splashed through magazines, merchant catalogues, online display ads, industry email mailouts, promotion, with life-sized models of the Flex-Force at point of sale, brochures and banners.
Marley also engaged the Master Electricians association to explain its plans, which led to an education campaign through the Master Electricians e-newsletters, and sponsorship of its annual conference.
Marley also encouraged a Flex-Force dress-up competition, which went surprisingly well, considering the audience.