Through the first four months of 2008, the $55 million exterior contracting company formerly known as Statewide Windows grew its revenue by 16 percent vs. the same period a year earlier.
Part of that success was, no doubt, due to a sustained strong market for home improvement services in the Pacific Northwest where the Mukilteo, Wash., firm maintains its base of operations.
Another factor is an improved closing percentage from its seasoned sales team. But much of the increase can certainly be attributed to a strategic decision to invest in a new brand — Penguin Windows — launched only 14 months earlier in February 2007, complemented by a sizable television and radio advertising campaign.
The company will not quantify the size of the investment. It will only say that the total cost in a new name, new creative and a massive media buy in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Boston is “multi-millions” and will continue for many years.
The name change, says Vaughn McCourt, the company’s general manager, had been kicked around for several years, beginning about 2004 when the do-not-call list was enacted, effectively ending telemarketing as a viable lead source for most exterior contracting companies. McCourt says the company pivoted toward canvassing as a means to pick up the slack in lead flow.
“The do-not-call list knocked us out of that lead source, so we converted over to canvassing. Now about 50 percent of our revenue comes from canvassing,” McCourt explains. “Then all of a sudden there was some talk out there about a possible do-not-knock list. It was then that our owner Dean Laue said we needed to do something different. The thought was to get on TV and radio in a unique way. We wanted to brand the product and brand the company.”
Penguin Windows management says they made the commitment to a new brand with the long term firmly in mind, setting expectations of a return on investment in years, rather than weeks or months.
“Our plan was that this was going to be a five- to six-year project and that we would not get any leads out of it right away, according to what the advertising agency told us. And we agreed to it,” notes McCourt. “We made a long-term investment in a new brand. And historically, the thinking in our business has been that if you spend a dollar in the media you’d better get a lead for it somehow.” The company, says McCourt, had to temporarily set aside that kind of thinking.
The return on investment came faster than expected. Toward the middle of last year, the company began to see new leads come in from its newly branded Web site — www.penguinwindows.com — as well as inbound calls to its (800) Penguin toll-free phone number. McCourt says the new lead flows have not yet been able to pay back the full return on investment but it is moving that direction.
“We had really planned on investing for two years with a negative return based solely on leads coming in from our Internet site or the telephone. It is coming back to where our advertising is coming in, but not quite yet.”
That said, the company also began to see better performance from its other lead sources — home shows, direct mail and canvassing. McCourt calls these intangible gains “the X Factor.”
“We have no way to quantify how the added visibility and awareness is affecting our other lead sources: our canvassing or our home shows,” says McCourt. “Our marketing manager says she was recently working a show and commented on how remarkable it is to see how many people are now coming to find us at the shows. So it is certainly having some impact, but to actually measure the gain is very difficult. It seems like everybody knows who we are. That is the important thing.”
Another intangible benefit from the name change and the growing brand awareness is anecdotal reports from Penguin sales representatives of quicker closings. The sales staff might just be getting into his or her pitch and the prospect will want to move more quickly into pricing. “Let’s put it this way; you have a person more apt to buy than you would on a canvass lead. We’ve had cases where we go to the house and after 15 minutes the client says: ‘Let’s get to pricing. I want to buy tonight.’ ”
About the name
A Seattle-based advertising firm, Destination Marketing, assisted the company in selecting a new name. Destination is also involved in developing the creative for television, radio and print advertising as well as media placement. Today the name is everywhere. The logo is on all of the company’s trucks. It graces the locks of every window the company sells. (Last year the firm installed 4,600 jobs with an average ticket of approximately $12,000.)
But the name Penguin did not originate with Destination. It is one that CEO Dean Laue had been kicking around for many years. And, according to McCourt, Laue was reluctant to bring it to Destination as a possible idea because they were the experts on names. McCourt says he flatly did not like the name, at first.
“I told Dean that I thought the idea of Penguin Windows as a new name was dumb. Who is going to go for that?” remembers McCourt. “Then we had our meetings with our advertising big shots who were going to go out and get us this modular name that is going to blow everybody away, and at the end of the meeting Laue says, ‘you know I have always thought about Penguin Windows.’ Sure enough, the Destination staff all went away and when they came back they said they liked Penguin too. Destination said it didn’t like using clients’ ideas, but then they started pitching it to us and it all made sense. The rest is history.”