JohnDow Industries (JDI) Inc.'s sales of auto shop equipment have grown annually by double digits for the past nine years, but that wasn't good enough for the company, which has struggled for some brand recognition in a crowded field.
So JDI decided to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to bolster brand awareness with auto technicians and shop owners.
The promotion includes rebranding and repackaging its products, boosting advertising and sponsoring a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.
The privately held Barberton-based company has been in business 30 years, assembling and selling shop equipment through distributors of auto repair shop equipment in the U.S. and Canada.
Among the products the company sells are waste oil drains and accessories; gas caddies; fuel- and fluid-handling, lubrication and lift equipment; and other automotive service supplies. The parts are manufactured in Europe and Asia, then assembled at the firm's 100,000-sq.-ft. Barberton plant, which employs 24.
Part of the identity problem JDI faces is with its self-branded products.
``People never realized what JohnDow was,'' said Mark Pfleeger, vice president of sales.
Results of the company's industry research indicated that ``those who know us like us a lot, but there is not enough industry knowledge on all levels concerning JDI and its product lines,'' Mr. Pfleeger said in a statement.
``JDI is a very successful, well-run organization, but the brand needs to be created, communicated and understood.''
So this year the company said it will rebadge its offerings to better reflect the products' functions. Its fuel-related items will be renamed Fuel Chief, and its waste oil and fluid handlers will be relabeled Crew Chief. ``We built new company brands that associated themselves with the market they're in. They can associate the name quickly.''
The company also sells the JohnDow line of auto service equipment, Shop RX shop supplies and Eurovent exhaust products.
``Every product is rebadged with a new logo, new badge and new package,'' Mr. Pfleeger said. New product flyers will be issued to customers in the third quarter.
The company also has adopted the new tag line: ``Unique features, quality products and value pricing.''
To augment the new look, the company jumped into NASCAR sponsorship this year with its moniker on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' No. 49 Toyota Camry driven by Kenny Schrader of BAM Racing. (The team started out driving Dodge Avengers but has switched to Toyotas.)
JohnDow also has its branding on the team's trailer and is supplying its equipment to the team.
However, the racing team has been beset with race day setbacks and financial problems, so it announced recently it would be participating only in a partial season, mainly in the fall.
Nevertheless JDI is tying its NASCAR sponsorship to its marketing efforts, including in its print advertisements and on packaging decals.
``Most of our end-users-techs and shop owners-closely follow NASCAR,'' Mr. Pfleeger explained as the reason for the sponsorship.
The company has doubled its print advertising in professional and trade publications over last year, and while Mr. Pfleeger gave no figures, he said the campaign has taken ``a lion's share'' of the company's marketing expenditures for the year.
But ``it's a one-year expense I think will pay dividends for many years,'' he said.
The company predicted the campaign would help increase its annual sales 19 percent over 2007. ``It's exceeding that now,'' Mr. Pfleeger said, declining to disclose sales figures.
The company touts its distinct features and value pricing to set itself apart from the competition, including that from foreign markets, which has intensified, Mr. Pfleeger admitted.
``That's another reason to put more focus on our brand and quality vs. (foreign manufacturers'),'' he said.
``Automotive aftermarket service is slow to down. The overall economy has impacted shops' ability to buy new equipment,'' Mr. Pfleeger said.
Like other manufacturers hit with rising raw material prices, JohnDow has raised its prices annually but ``we've eaten most of the costs that have risen here in recent months.''
Despite these market factors, ``our business has been very, very strong,'' he added.
In the midst of the new campaign, the company added 68,000 square feet of warehouse space this year to its 10-year-old Barberton facility and it is looking to expand into the European market in the fall.