The Most Important Company You’ve Never Heard Of
ProMinent Fluid Controls is a chemical treatment company that’s been around since 1960. They are responsible for one essential thing: clean water. They make pumps and systems that help get chemicals out of water — whether that’s local tap water, your gym’s pool, or the vegetable misting systems at the supermarket.
ProMinent’s goal is to become, as their Vice President says, every company’s “trusted advisor” in chemical treatment and water. But the elder statesmen in their industry were retiring, and the young blood replacing them weren’t familiar with ProMinent’s messaging. ProMinent’s Canadian division hired me to update their branding and messaging to engage with a younger and less experienced audience.
Telling ProMinent’s Story
ProMinent saw two trends happening in their industry. The first was that a younger customer, with less experience, was looking for information about their products. They didn’t necessarily know who ProMinent was, so the company wanted to reach Millennial customers with a clear and compelling story about each of their major product lines.
The second trend ProMinent saw was that the industry frequently competed on technical specifications, but specs were becoming less meaningful as the products matured. Like the smartphone market, our data told us that the total experience was more important to ProMinent’s customers than a specs list.
I identified two key ways they could reach new customers and get out of the proverbial spec wars.
1. Simplify the Material
One of the things I quickly realized was that a lot of the terminology ProMinent and their competition used had become entrenched over decades, and wasn’t familiar to younger customers. My first goal was to write snazzy, simple copy that broke complex products down into simple ideas and stories.
This was complicated, to say the least. ProMinent’s folio of products is so extensive that it fills hundreds of pages in their catalogue. We met almost every week to talk about products, break down their unique selling points, and find ways to share them with potential customers.
2. Design Material People Want to Read
I couldn’t simplify the way ProMinent talked about their products without also radically changing the way they visually presented their products. I wanted to redesign all the marketing materials to match the new approach.
This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. ProMinent wanted to shift more of their focus to online advertising, and their corporate identity guidelines didn’t have a lot to say about websites. We had free reign to forge new ground.
A Visual Overhaul
I wanted to make the products clearer with great photography and clear copywriting, and the first step was creating a new colour scheme. ProMinent’s brand guidelines stipulated two primary colours, but they approved a secondary option that we could use to identify our marketing materials from a distance.
What we ended up on was a champagne colour that we could use as a backdrop for all the websites, ads, billboards, and more. The champagne colour fades into the background, but remains identifiable from a distance — which also made it perfect for trade show booths.
More importantly, the primary colours looked amazing against the new champagne tone.
Minimalist Print Work
The print work that ProMinent used shared all the basics. I went all in on this champagne colour approach, and rolled out a ton of ads over the course of eighteen months with the new style.
I also removed all the bullet points from ads, and focused on simple copy and great product photography that clearly communicated the point. We knew ProMinent was already one of the most popular companies in the business because the purchasing and ownership experiences were incredibly simple. These new ads matched the experience, and because we traded spec lists for glossy photography, they had the added benefit of making ProMinent look confident in the products themselves.
Web Design to Match
We also launched a series of microsites — one for each major product platform that ProMinent was interested in selling. We tried to make these easy to find on Google, and worked to make sure the SEO was as strong as possible.
The microsites matched the existing print ads in colour and tone, and I put a URL for a microsite on every print ad so we could see how effective the ads were over any given publication period. This allowed us to track the print ads’ successes in meaningful ways, and we could use the data to help ProMinent decide where they were going to invest in the future.
The microsites were all designed to be mobile-friendly and easy to use, regardless of the platform its visitors were on.
A Long-Term Strategy
We also collaborated to create a strong, ten-year plan for digital marketing. I wanted to create a strategy that could enhance the reputation of ProMinent with new customers, clarify ProMinent’s messaging, and give potential customers a taste of what it’s like to work with ProMinent while they were browsing online.
We spent over a year developing the strategy together. I’m under an NDA and can’t publicly reveal the details, but I can say that it appears ProMinent is still working towards the same long-term plans now as they were when our contract ended. I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Start with the strategy.
Nobody at ProMinent thought that we’d work together for as long as we did. I certainly didn’t. For the first year, we were working together without truly thinking about long-term plans or a strategy. That was a mistake.
Once we got a strategy together, that was when things really took off. All the great work that we did — the stuff I’m truly proud of — was completed in the second year we worked together.
Since ProMinent, my policy with Wildfire has been to start with the strategy. Some people call this the “discovery” phase, but I don’t think that defines it clearly enough. A strategy must understand the product or organization, but it also has to communicate what success will look like, and how you’re going to get there.
Every project at Wildfire starts with the strategy phase now.
Collaboration is essential.
One of the biggest challenges that we had was communication. ProMinent is huge, and Wildfire is pretty tiny. It’s just me, after all. Any time I collaborated with other folks, I had to update them on the whole project, and it became a challenge for different departments to be on the same page.
We artificially fixed this by setting up Basecamp, a project management and collaboration tool. We basically used it instead of email, and set up our calendar of deliverables and everything there. We used it across ProMinent and invited multiple people into the projects we were doing, so everybody was on the same page.
The second thing we did was create a style guide. The style guide gives everybody some clear expectations of how to make something at ProMinent. This style guide represented all the work we had done over the past two years, and it allowed us to part ways when the contract ended without risking losing the foundation that we built together.
I worked with Nathan for over 2 years. He handled all of our marketing, art, and web presence. Nathan did a great job keeping current with web requirements, keeping our marketing material both friendly and effective. If you need a company to handle marketing, web and social networking challenges, call Wildfire.Garth DeBruyn, VP, ProMinent Fluid Controls Canada