When Van Millwork switched its focus from lumber supply to interior millwork 30 years ago—and changed its name from Van Lumber—the company found a niche where it could be successful. But until a few years ago, the Bellingham, Mass.–based supplier's marketing mentality hadn't changed and neither had its image as a lumber supplier.
The look and feel of Van's existing marketing was geared more toward the roll-up-your-sleeves contractor rather than the high-end builders, homeowners, and architects that it now primarily serves. The marketing focus “didn't resonate with them at all,” Van's director of sales and marketing Kristen Koehler says she found when she joined the company nearly three years ago and spearheaded a customer survey that revealed this finding and fueled a two-year overhaul of Van's marketing program.
Designed to target the high end of Van's audience, but still reach the full range of customers, the revamped marketing program includes a sophisticated new logo and new marketing collateral, including print advertising, a product catalog and brochure, a CD-ROM of CAD drawings, and a new Web site with information-specific portals for homeowners, builders, and architects.
Van's original red, white, and blue logo, which incorporated a triangle and showed a contractor carrying lumber in each hand, spoke to the company's past as a lumberyard, but not its present as a quality millwork supplier. The new logo, which reads “Van Millwork Interior Specialists,” better reflects the focus of Van's high-end target customers on quality and refined details. The gray-and-black color scheme is more subtle, and while the triangle was retained, it was turned on its side and placed at the end of the logo. The result is elegant and subdued, designed to reinforce Van's new brand identity while not detracting from the marketing materials where it appears.
For its advertising, the dealer decided not to use co-op dollars, which Koehler says would make the ads look like those of every other millwork supplier. Instead, Koehler relies solely on Van's marketing budget to create a unique advertising campaign that incorporates photos of the company's customers' completed mill-work jobs. The ad campaign, called “How Do You Sign Your Masterpieces?” shows Van's installed work in finished home settings, framed and signed like oil paintings. This same artwork—along with the new logo—is used on the Web site, brochures, pocket folders, and product catalogs, and in the company's showroom, providing a unified look.
Along with a uniform front, the new brochure, CD-ROM, and product catalog give Van's sales staff exactly what they had been clamoring for: something to hand out to customers and potential customers that would reinforce their message about Van's image and product offering. Catalogs also tell builder-customers which products are stocked, which are not, and which require special orders.
The advantage of name and brand recognition is difficult to measure, but Koehler says that Van Millwork's creative labors have generated new relationships with architects who are specifying the products, which in turn is driving new builder-customers to request sales visits from the company whose product line their architects have speced. Most significantly, since the marketing plan was implemented, Koehler says, Van's sales have increased by 15 percent—a much higher rate than the company's historical growth—and the company continues to grow.