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IDENTITY CRISIS
PROSOURCE ONE TACKLES BRANDING DILEMMA WITH AUDACIOUS CAMPAIGN
The color green conjures up images of vegetation, money and, in some cases, Dalmatians, sunsets and lipstick. But the latter only applies if you have seen ProSource One's award-winning branding campaign created by Chandler Ehrlich, Memphis, Tenn.

ProSource One, also of Memphis, Tenn., is a distributor and marketer of chemical products, seed and hard goods for the golf, turf, ornamental, vegetation management, forestry and specialty agriculture industries.

The relationship between the specialty product distributor and its agency was sparked in the skybox at Memphis' baseball stadium when a supplier of ProSource One suggested that Chandler Ehrlich help with its struggling brand recognition. From that referral was born a unique campaign and a great client-agency relationship.

STUMBLING BLOCKS

"Lucky," the first ad in the ProSource campaign, has received accolades in the industry and become a true icon for the company's brand.
Brand recognition was a problem for ProSource because in 1999 it went through a name change and at the same time was acquired by Agriliance, the agronomy marketing joint venture between CHS Cooperatives, Land O'Lakes, Inc., and Farmland Industries. The distributor was formerly owned by Terra Industries, Inc., and known as Terra Professional Products. After a few years of ownership by Agriliance, there was a failed attempt to buy the company by Royster-Clark, which added up to customer confusion and an identity crisis.

Customers weren't the only ones frustrated with the world of mergers and acquisitions. The very heart of the distributorship - the sales force - was frustrated with its customers' lack of knowledge about the company's products and new identity. Morale had hit rock bottom and employee turnover was a serious concern.

"We went from Terra Professional Products to ProSource One and had to somehow get in front of the customer who we were - that we were the same entity with a new name," explains Keith Woodruff, national accounts manager of ProSource One. "We just didn't have any name recognition and that was a cause of frustration for our own sales force."

Through research with sales reps and intelligence gathered from industry experts, Chandler Ehrlich discovered that ProSource needed an extensive branding and public relations campaign.

With this campaign, the Chandler Ehrlich team sought to increase external awareness of ProSource One, while boosting morale internally among sales reps and educating the media on the stability of the company.

Woodruff says of the campaign's purpose, "We didn't feel we were in a position to sell a particular product. First, we needed to make people aware of ProSource One, and that we are in this industry to stay."

'LUCKY' STREAK

In order to establish an identity for ProSource One, the agency's team members, Camille Gamble, account manager, and Jonathan Schmitt, account executive, researched competitors' ads and editorial content. What they found was that most ads in trade magazines featured photographs of beautiful golf courses, sports fields, vegetation and ornamental plants, with the color green being a consistent theme.

This led to the slogan ╩ "Welcome to a Greener World" - which refers to making the customers' products greener as well as bringing more green to their bottom line.

The team brought this slogan and theme to life with a series of advertisements that really stand out. "To establish the new identity, we utilized everyday images and added the color green to enhance the shock factor and break through the clutter," says Gamble. "For example, a Dalmatian with green spots."

The "Dalmatian" ad was the first produced, which led to the creation of stuffed replicas of "Lucky," the ProSource One green Dalmatian.

In all, there are five full-page, four-color print ads that include a range of images from egg yolks, Santa's suit, a sunset and, most recently, a woman's lips. In addition to the print ads were several direct mail campaigns, press releases, a media tour and trade show exhibitions.

"The philosophy at our agency is that integrated marketing is the way to go," explains Daney Kepple, vice president/account group manager at Chandler Ehrlich. "We tried to do a wrap-around image campaign, so that everywhere you look, something green screams at you."

"Another strength of the campaign is it connects with people on an emotional level. The dog and his nose Í you see the eggs and think of home and Mom's cooking, which is very appealing," she continues.

The newest ad in the "Green" lineup depicts a woman with green lips to appeal to the target audience.
"The overall message we conveyed to the industry and the media was that ProSource One has impeccable service, highly educated sales reps and an audacious element of innovation that ultimately helps increase the end users' business," says Gamble.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Both ProSource One and Chandler Ehrlich feel that the campaign was a great success. The sales reps are now known as the "green" people in the industry, and customers and media have latched onto the Dalmatian enthusiastically.

Gamble notes that sales reps are able to approach a customer with a "Lucky" dog and the ProSource brand name is recognized from the print, direct marketing and PR campaign.

This resulted in the boosted morale of sales reps and employees who feel the company is committed to establishing a name in the industry. Employee turnover has also halted at ProSource One, according to Kepple.

Woodruff says in the beginning there was some doubt from the sales force that the dog idea was "too cutesy." But he goes on to admit that they were wrong. "The dog was very successful, especially at trade shows."

At industry trade shows, prospects and customers were drawn to the booth by a "Lucky" green dog giveaway, leading them to register at the computer station for a free digital camera and allowing the company to build an e-mail database for highly targeted marketing efforts. Woodruff admits that he even had a competitor come up and ask for a dog to take home to his child.

In addition, Kepple tells of a recent phone call she received from Bob Lee, director of ProSource One, thanking her for the agency's efforts. According to Kepple, Bob said, "It's been a long time since a sales rep has called to chew me out because no one has ever heard of ProSource One, and I just want to thank you for it."

Not only did Chandler Ehrlich help ProSource One achieve its goals; the agency also took home several awards for its creative efforts. The campaign won two Best of NAMA National awards in the Turf and Ornamental Advertising Campaign and the In┤┤ugural Turf and Ornamental Print Ad categories, as well as two Creativity 31 Awards of Distinction and two first-place awards from the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. However, Kepple says the agency gauges its success not on the number of awards, but on the happiness of its clients.

Putting Kepple's mind at ease, Woodruff touts the success of the campaign by saying, "We are very pleased with the ideas and services they have provided. They deserve the credit for helping us accomplish our goals." AM


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