• Simpson-Strong Tie wanted ground breaking promotion for its new Engineered Timber Division.
• The campaign focuses on service and support as well as product performance.
• Galvanised men representing timber connectors form the central theme.
• Latest design and artwork technology was used to create a 3D look.
• The campaign has had a strong market impact.

When the timber connector specialist Simpson Strong-Tie decided to launch a division dedicated to the fast growing engineered timber market, the company also decided it was something worth shouting about. The aim of the new Engineered Timber Division (ETD) was to provide a team of experts to provide extra customer value through a combination of innovative products, personal service and technical expertise – all from Simpson’s UK base in Tamworth. It was a major move for the business and it briefed creative marketing specialists, Cravens, to come up with an integrated campaign to match.

The ETD was launched in March 2007, but the planning started the previous July. It was a demanding strategic exercise with plans including the launch of 12 new and innovative products and services through the year.

Proving that some of the most creative ideas come to life in the most unusual places, the initial concepts for the campaign were born during a brainstorming session in a tree house on a frosty day at Alnwick Gardens in the heart of Northumberland. Led by Cravens, an idea was sparked and has since been developed into the award-winning campaign aptly entitled Dedicated Support.

The theme was intended to reflect the nature of the ETD’s commitment to the industry, with a marketing campaign that focused on not just the connectors that hold up buildings safely, but also the human endeavour behind the product – the “service, innovative thinking, testing and training”. Simpson Strong-Tie head of engineered timber Richard Jarvis said: “Every time you place an order with Simpson, you don’t just buy a box of hangers, you get all the dedicated support that a team of engineered timber specialists can provide.”

To bring this concept to life Simpson worked with Cravens to create the character of the galvanised man.

Art and science

Working with Paul Hogg, an internationally recognised illustrator whose client list includes Disney, Warner Bros and MB Games, the galvanised man soon became a whole team. Mr Hogg specialises in using Digital design technology to create work that in the past would have been done using traditional methods such as airbrushing. This enables him to do everything the latter could achieve, and far, far more, making 3D modelling particularly effective and eye-catching.

The Simpson Strong-Tie metal men were modelled using these latest 3D techniques, with all textures such as the wood and brick created based on photographs that were placed in the scene then rendered. The resulting image was then retouched in Photoshop to create the final, polished, photo-realistic effect.

“It’s always an interesting challenge to bring Cravens’ creative ideas to life, but the metal men have now taken on a character of their own!” said Mr Hogg.

Galvanised men at work

To get the campaign under way, launch postcards and e-flyers were distributed showing a Simpson connector box filled with galvanised people. Advertising in the press then moved the campaign on by showing the characters in situ on roof trusses. This activity was backed up with a PR campaign led by Cravens’ partner agency, Hundredth Monkey, announcing the launch of the new division. This resulted in widespread editorial coverage across industry media.

The the campaign not only proved popular. It was flexible too. The next press ad mailer in the series was designed to demonstrate the ETD’s new free overnight delivery promise – which was billed as an “industry-first” – in a fun way. Then came a product launch for the brand new Party Wall Tie, using an attention-grabbing animated e-flyer.

A free summer hamper promotion was next on the agenda, dispatched with a clever twist on an iconic image from the early 20th century of builders nonchalantly tucking into their lunch while perched hundreds of feet above ground on the framework of a new New York skyscraper. The metal man theme even found its way onto the cover of Simpson’s new training movies DVD as a hangerman’s Oscar.

The ETD’s pledge to launch 12 new products in its first year has also been supported by a series of co-ordinated ads and mailers. These promoted both product launches and training initiatives, all re-enforcing the campaign messages.

The impact

And the campaign has clearly made an impact. First it won the 2007 TTJ Excellence in Marketing Award, with the chairman of the judging panel, David Evington of Dynamo Marketing, impressed with both the strategy and execution.

“The judges were struck by the campaign’s exceptional creative quality with the galvanised men capturing perfectly the brand’s personality,” he said. “They work very effectively across all the marketing materials providing a consistent uniting theme. Every creative piece of the campaign was engaging, truly memorable and no doubt highly effective.”

Customer response to ETD has also gone from strength to strength with the team picking up a number of new accounts in addition to existing business.

“In addition the campaign provided a clear focus for the new division, as well as both motivating and uniting the team to work together towards a common goal,” said Mr Jarvis.

Instrumental for success

“Overall it has been instrumental for the success of our new division, not only in promoting better products and services, but positioning Simpson Strong-Tie as a leader in engineered timber connectors – and of course winning us a prestigious award.”

Most notably, he added, Simpson Strong-Tie’s “pioneering new service” and its campaign have also received highly positive feedback from clients and customers. For instance, Paul Amphlett of CR Taylor Timber said the creation of the ETD meant that there was now “a dedicated team at Simpson Strong-Tie, who understand us and our business”.

“And the galvanised men campaign only serves to highlight their innovative and personal approach to the engineered timber industry,” he added

So what next for the galvanised men?

“Well it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in 2008,” said Mr Jarvis. “Watch this space!”