In southeast Michigan lumber circles, Woody Gutherie is a pretty well-known face. And when he doesn't make an appearance at his usual venues, people call. That's how popular Gutherie Lumber's blockheaded woodman with the cigar-shaped nose and big smile is with the Livonia, Mich., company's pro customers.

The cartoon character that runs in the lumber company's monthly advertisements in some local building-trade magazines is the creation of company president Mel Gutherie, who sketched out the blocky figure five years ago to run with an ad.

Woody struck a chord, not only with the public but with Mel's brother, Bill, Gutherie's vice president, and IT director John Patrick, the fellow charged with laying out Woody's appearances. The duo have been happily chronicling the blockhead's adventures ever since. Patrick even created a six-foot-tall Woody out of foam core for salesmen to haul along to trade shows.

"We felt that if we used a character and put him in silly situations, our customers would not only be reminded that we exist but look forward to Woody's next adventure," says Bill Gutherie. "If you don't create something that attracts the eye, you might as well save the money."

Gutherie admits he and Patrick have a lot of fun plotting the blockhead's exploits. A customer favorite (and Gutherie's, as well) was an ad with a Valentine's Day theme, depicting Woody with a top hat and bow tie, presenting a bouquet of flowers to his lady love–a comely tree. The caption read: "I love her, I love her knot."

In a depressed housing market, the genial cartoon character has performed exactly as Gutherie hoped by keeping the pro dealer's name in people's minds. "I wouldn't say so much that Woody has brought in new customers," Gutherie says, "but when our sales guys go out and contact new accounts, people already know who we are. If we miss an issue, we get phone calls. It's really increased brand loyalty."

Courtesy Gutherie Lumber