The Benefits of a Bold Branding Strategy

It doesn’t matter how well you can do the work if you’re not the company that comes to mind for people when they encounter a plumbing-related problem. Memorable branding is vital, and these companies have all put careful thought into how they go about it.

The Benefits of a Bold Branding Strategy

"I love pushing my superheroes. Nobody remembers Marvel Sewer and Drain; they remember my superheroes," says Ben Smith, owner of Marvel Sewer and Drain.

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Producing quality service work is an important aspect of business success, no doubt, but it only gets you so far. No matter how good you are out in the field, you also have to be highly visible to customers so that you stand a chance of being the company they’ll call when they have plumbing-related problems.

The importance of strong branding is something that Bizzy Bee Plumbing of Raleigh, North Carolina, featured in the May 2020 issue, understands. When owner Robert Schwachenwald established the company in 2011, he immediately made sure he had a distinctive name and logo to set himself apart from competitors. The trademarked logo features a smiling, muscular-looking bee holding a drain machine cable with a cutting head in one hand and a monkey wrench in the other. That image is paired with the company’s slogan: “We make your honey happy.” An additional aspect of the brand is the small jar of locally produced honey that technicians give to customers after finishing a job.

“It may sound small and uninteresting, but it definitely sets us apart,” Schwachenwald says. “Most people are completely surprised when our technicians hand them a jar, but they think it’s cute — a great thing to leave behind at the end of a service call. We even have some customers who like the honey so much that they ask if we can drop off a jar the next time we’re in the area. Overall, we get such great feedback about it that we could never stop doing it now — it’s become a company marketing staple.”

There are many ways to go about developing a strong brand for your company. Whatever route you take, you just have to keep in mind the ultimate goal: To stick in potential customers’ minds.

Catch the Eye

Like Bizzy Bee Plumbing, Marvel Sewer and Drain of Fridley, Minnesota, has established its brand around a distinctive logo: cartoon versions of owner Ben Smith and his family as superheroes.

“One of the coolest moments for us: We were on a personal trip and someone recognized our name,” Smith says. “She said, ‘You’re the guy with the superheroes on your truck!’ Right there, that person remembered me from looking at my van one time. If you know much about advertising, that’s pretty epic. People love it — they think it’s super cool. It’s eye-catching; we get remembered for it.”

Smith began his branding initiative as a simple outreach to customers’ children. He had a graphic designer print superhero versions of his kids on coloring sheets to be handed out at jobs and events. Now, in addition to the prominent logo on truck wraps, Marvel Sewer and Drain incorporates its superhero motif into bid sheets, invoices, emails and coffee mugs. Smith even expanded the cartoon family to include versions of his technicians for their personalized business cards.

“Don’t stand behind some image that isn’t you,” Smith says. “Don’t have something you’re not going to enjoy. I love pushing my superheroes. Nobody remembers Marvel Sewer and Drain; they remember my superheroes.”

A Name to Remember

Striking visuals often come to mind as one thing about a good brand, but just as important can be a name that easily sticks in people’s minds.

Hugh McLaughlin has owned and operated Quality Drain Service in Tucson, Arizona, for more than 30 years. But that generic, official name has taken a back seat to the strong, memorable brand the company has built around its phone number, which when converted to letters produces 88-DRAIN. Customers simply refer to the company nowadays as 88 Drain, and you can see McLaughlin embracing that fact in all of its marketing materials.

“We moved to that number, and that became my sole marketing vehicle,” McLaughlin says.

Put It Where They Can See It

Even when you have things like a distinctive name and logo, they will be more effective if you’re taking advantage of all opportunities to get them in front of people. Many companies invest in quality vinyl wraps so that their service vehicles essentially turn into traveling billboards. Another thing that Campbell Plumbing & Drain Cleaning of Eastlake, Ohio, does is put its logo on stickers, which can then be affixed to garbage disposals, sump pumps and water heaters.

“The sticker is by far our best way of advertising,” says Scott Haymer, vice president of Campbell Plumbing. “When you just took a shower and you have no hot water and you walk downstairs, you’re like ‘Oh, there’s a big orange sticker that has somebody to call.’”

What Color Can Convey

When designing things like truck wraps and logos, you’re going for attention-grabbing, but you also must think carefully about what aspects like color combinations might subconsciously convey to customers. People have emotional reactions to colors. Some give us anxiety and amp us up, like red and orange. Others are soothing and calm us down, like blue and green. You have to consider how you want customers to feel about your business while looking at your logo.

The color scheme chosen for Mark Treglia's company branding was carefully selected.
The color scheme chosen for Mark Treglia's company branding was carefully selected.

When Mark Treglia started up his company, Straight Up! Plumbing of Reno, Nevada, he got the help of an advertising agency to develop a branding package that included a logo, wrap design and business cards. After doing research about what colors appeal most to both male and female baby boomers, the advertising agency developed a red, black and aqua blue color combination for Straight Up! Plumbing’s truck wraps and logo. 

“Who would’ve thought that combination would work, but it does,” Treglia says. 

A Comprehensive Strategy

When considering branding strategy, think about all the ways it can tie into your company. If you want it to, it can be more than just an eye-catching logo and truck wraps.

When Sunshine Ray became involved in her family’s company, Atlas Plumbing of Las Vegas, a few years ago, she decided to incorporate a retro aesthetic as part of the company’s brand, which extended all the way to technicians’ uniforms.

She did a redesign of the company website that featured a red-headed female character reminiscent of Lucille Ball, developed a slogan of reassurance — “At Last a Plumber, Not a Salesman” — and instituted a dress code that had technicians going to a customer’s home for the first time donning either vintage overalls or a button-down gray shirt, suspenders, bow tie and hat.

“I’m a woman, and I tell the guys that women sometimes feel uneasy when a man comes into the house,” Ray says. “It’s women who usually are there during a service call. When women see one of our technicians come to the door in uniform, we hope it lowers that uncomfortable feeling.”

A retro theme defines Atlas Plumbing's brand.
A retro theme defines Atlas Plumbing's brand.

The old-fashioned look of the website and uniform was also designed to convey old-fashioned feelings of trust, something that has always been important to the company, just not so explicitly expressed in its branding.

“You wouldn’t believe how many compliments I get for the uniforms,” says Rod Ray, who operates the company alongside sister Sunshine. “I tell our techs to wear the uniform properly. Put on the hat and bow tie because otherwise you just look like any other plumber. We’re different. We don’t want to look like every other plumber.”


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