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Ritchie Industries, Conrad, Iowa, has quietly manufactured high-quality animal watering equipment in rural Iowa for nearly 80 years. As the company rolled into the new millennium, they partnered with CMF&Z Marketing Communications to help them launch into a previously untapped market - the horse arena.

While Ritchie is known in the beef, dairy, and swine markets as a leading manufacturer of animal watering equipment, there was little crossover of their reputation into the horse market. The only horse owners who had heard of Ritchie were ranch or feedlot owners who also owned cattle. Further research showed the horse category had little knowledge of automatic watering equipment in general, and virtually no brand presence or competition.

Ritchie developed the Stall Fount, a stall-mounted waterer for horses, to join their line of watering fountains. Research identified time and labor savings as the most important attribute horse owners were looking for in watering equipment. Ritchieís automatic watering technology met that need with a product that adds fresh water to the trough each time a horse drinks. The Stall Fount also is easy to clean; just pull the plug.

"Customers are happy to get out of the watering detail, and the Stall Fount helps them do just that," said Cliff Wilson, president and CEO of Ritchie Industries. "The Stall Fount provides fresh water whenever your horse wants it, so you never have to carry another bucket."

With the benefit of saving time and labor in mind, CMF&Z developed an ad featuring a horse bucket, asking horse owners, "How many buckets do you have to carry before you get a Ritchie?" The media schedule was targeted at horse owners with more than six horses and began in February.

A new product release and product photo were electronically distributed to nearly 150 horse publications, with immediate pick-up in the major books. Ongoing relationships with horse magazine editors have kept the Stall Fount product in the news.

"Product sales soared in May and June," says Leon Yantis, executive vice president and COO. "Our distributors and dealers have been really excited about the horse market, and customers love the product. It's been very successful."

In addition to the Stall Fount launch, CMF&Z redesigned the Ritchie web page, The site features a distributor locator and all the producer information a customer could ever want. The redesign reflects a new and consistent look for Ritchie in all their animal species markets.

This isn't the first go-round for CMF&Z and Ritchie. The two companies crossed paths some 30 years ago, and both are pleased to be working together again on some new products. ìThere are two aspects that make the renewal of this relationship particularly satisfying," says Greg Michel, senior vice president, director, client services. ìFirst, after a couple of decades together the first time around, it's very much like reuniting with a very special old friend. And second, the work we are doing together is among the most innovative in the industry. We are very proud to be working with Ritchie, and proud of the work we are doing together."

As an art director on the account in the mid-1970s, Bill Fritz remembers doing a spread ad for the major farm publications. "The client wanted cattle and all their cattle products in the cattle ad, and pigs with all hog waterers in the swine ad," he relates. So Fritz reserved a huge studio at Better Homes & Gardens in Des Moines. "We placed all the cattle waterers on the floor there and herded in the cattle, who walked among the waterers as the photo was shot.

"There was much clean up afterwards," Fritz recalls.

Michel says the new partnership is a strong one. "The strategic plan is targeted in markets that make an impact on Ritchie's bottom line and we're moving into new niche markets that look very promising," says Michel. "It's great to be using cutting edge technology like the web for a client that's such an old friend." AM


Jill Spiekerman-Carrothers, APR, is a vice president at CMF&Z in Des Moines, Iowa.

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