Delta Faucet aims for hip and handy with unique rebranding campaigns

Delta Faucet Co. has succeeded in luring fashionistas to its high-end line. Now the company wants to coax weekend wrench wielders into buying its most-affordable faucets. The Indianapolis subsidiary of Michigan-based Masco Corp. is launching its second major branding overhaul in two years. And Delta is again taking the account from a big-city ad agency and handing it over to locally based Young & Laramore.

Young & Laramore, one of the few local agencies focusing almost exclusively on national brands, helped rebrand Delta Select as Brizo two years ago and now has been given responsibility for overhauling the image of Delta’s lower-end Peerless line.

Delta’s primary line–simply called Delta–represents more than 50 percent of the company’s $3.2 billion in annual sales. But the high end is the fastest growing segment and the low end is most at risk for losing market share to foreign knock-offs, industry experts said. Overall, Delta has seen an 18-percent sales increase since 2003, and company officials think part of that is due to rebranding. Delta does not release sales figures for individual lines. Advertising experts said Delta has invested nearly $1 million in each of its two rebranding campaigns, but that still trails the likes of Kohler, an industry leader known to spend well over $10 million annually in advertising.

Not that the lower-priced campaigns aren’t producing results

Named for a Greek goddess, Delta’s high-end Brizo line doubled its sales in the last two years, all while cutting its distributor outlets in half to 650. While Delta officials estimate they own only about 5 percent of the worldwide high-end faucet market, industry experts said recent sales increases likely mean an eight-figure revenue leap. Delta is projecting double-digit-percentage sales increases for Brizo this year.

Born of debate

Brizo’s place in the Delta product mix is secure with results like those, but the line and subsequent branding campaign didn’t come easy. Its launch was preceded by years of internal discussion and debate, said Amy Hillsman, Delta Faucet’s senior brand manager. Brizo represented a change in philosophy for the 52-year-old company. “It was a real commitment for this company in this arena,” Hillsman said. “Delta was established as a mass consumer brand, and we were making a commitment not only to the Brizo brand, but to a multi-structure [brand] plan.”

Young & Laramore convinced Delta to distance Brizo from the company name, and use an advertising campaign that focused on fashion and design more than plumbing and hardware. “The approach they’re using is quite unconventional,” said Eliot Sefrin, publisher of Kitchen & Bath Design News, a New Jersey-based Wade publication. “I’m not sure there’s anything else in this sector like it.”

The campaign’s content and media-buying choices were equally stunning to industry insiders, Sefrin said. “This is certainly a departure from anything Delta has ever done,” he said. “And my perception is, it’s been successful.” But it can be difficult to gain traction in the high-end market, Sefrin said, with many North American buyers looking to fashionable foreign makes. “The real test may be where it goes from here,” he added.

Fashion statement

The Brizo campaign has succeeded by placing the brand squarely in the midst of the fashion world, said AdWeek magazine’s Wendy Melillo. “[Delta] knew it had a problem two years ago when it watched its premium brand–Delta Select–sit on storeroom shelves despite a booming remodeling market where sales of premium products were swelling,” Melillo said.

In most Brizo ads, which have been placed in publications such as Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, the faucets are almost secondary. Designer dresses and elegant models are played much more prominently to pique consumers’ interests. Delta and Mohen are North America’s faucet sales leaders, but Delta had never made much headway in the growing high-end market. Oddly, industry experts said, Delta’s success with its main lines probably hurt its efforts in the high-end sector.

“People couldn’t differentiate between Delta and Delta Select,” said Ann Beriault, Young & Laramore senior vice president. “Delta is known as a Chevrolet. We wanted Brizo to exist in the world of BMWs–where we could justify the premium price. We had to distance it from the mother ship”

Handyman special

Young & Laramore hopes to use an equally innovative approach to help Delta rebrand its Peerless line. Peerless, unlike Brizo, has a long history. But Delta has put almost no marketing muscle behind the 35-year-old brand.

As the lower end of the market continued to be stolen by low-cost foreign brands, Delta realized it needed to take action. “The Brizo and Peerless campaigns are radically different,” Delta Faucet’s Hillsman said. “But the parallel is they’re both about narrowing in on the consumer.”

While the Brizo campaign honed in on the fashion-minded, the Peerless campaign is intended for the do-it-yourself handyman. Hillsman admits faucets are a “dime a dozen,” fighting for shelf space at just about any hardware store and many mass-merchandise stores, such as Sears, Wal-Mart and Target.

“The Peerless campaign is about owning the do-it-yourself process,” Hillsman said. That’s a smart approach, Sefrin said. It takes the focus off price, which is easily undercut by numerous competitors in the sector. Young & Laramore developed a campaign that combined humor with how-to-guide sensibility, and placed ads with such publications as Family Handyman and Country Homes magazines.

“This campaign is unique in that their focus is as much on selling help and guidance as it is the product itself,” Sefrin said. Young & Laramore conducted market research and faucet consumer surveys for more than a year before tackling the creative side of the campaign. “We found that while some homeowners used do-it-yourself models because they were cost-conscious, many of them take on these projects because they take great pride in completing the work themselves,” Beriault said.

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Coaching consumers

Delta revamped not only its advertising, but also its packaging and included a step-by-step guide explaining how to remove your old faucet and install the new one. Purchasers of the Peerless line also get a double-sided door hanger akin to a “do not disturb” sign you’d find in a hotel room. One side of the hanger shows a smiley face, the other has a frown to indicate if it’s safe to approach the handyman.

The campaign has a folksy tone meant to demystify and simplify faucet installation. The Peerless campaign includes not only print and radio advertising, but also a significant online presence, with a special Web site, www.faucetcoach.com, which has video clips and other installation aids. The campaign has links on other popular Web sites including www.bobvilla.com, MSN and Yahoo.

Though the campaign is still in its initial phases, Delta’s Hillsman said the Peerless line is already seeing sales increases. Hillsman expects double-digit sales increases for Peerless this year. “We’re selling faucets, but we’re selling help along with it” she said. “We think it’s important to add humor and honesty into a campaign like this. We know there can be some headaches involved in projects like this. But we’re there to make it easier, and that’s at the center of what we think is a unique approach.”

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