A message made for TV

The Duggans, Karen and Bernie, of Horn’s Hardware True Value of Sayre, Pa., as they appeared in the final cut

Even though he’s appearing on a prime time, national television commercial, Beyond Hardware True Value owner Matt Shapiro hasn’t gone Hollywood.

“I have to admit, I did very little besides show up and read my lines,” he said.

Shapiro, co-owner of stores in Canandaigua and Penfield, N.Y., and more than 20 other real True Value hardware store owners performed in the commercial by showing off their personalities, their storefronts (through the magic of technology) and their passion for the hardware business.

The TV spots employ quick editing that jump from store to store and feature owners completing each others’ sentences — especially the line: “We’re all different, but we’re all the same.” The 30-second spots ran in prime time in April and May, and are coming back for an encore performance in October.

Director of marketing Blake Fohl said there were several strategies behind the commercial. The co-op sought to showcase the true stars of hardware and to build the perception of the brand as a collection of local business people. “Your brand really lives and comes to life with the store and the people in the store,” he said. “Why not make them the center of the campaign?”

Casting for the commercials took place at the co-op’s Fall Market, as dealers were invited to line up and look into the camera. The casting team, a combination of True Value executives and agency professionals, were looking for retailers with a variety of accents and a consistent passion. With 200 retailers lined up for their turn to read and make eye contact, casting wasn’t easy, Fohl said. “Believe me, there were very few people who did not have passion.”

One of those passionate performers was Karen Duggan of Horn’s True Value.

“The idea was letting customers look at our stores and see that we may all look different, the stores might be different, but we are the same in how we do business and what we are trying to achieve,” she said.

For the participants in the commercial, the results were pretty consistent, too — a steady stream of recognition in the local market.

“It did generate a lot of customer response and excitement. People would say things like, ‘Wow, you were on national TV!’ ” Duggan said. “One person told me, ‘Oh my God, we were on a cruise ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, and I saw you and Bernie on TV!’ ”

Though its difficult to pinpoint its impact on sales, given Horn’s other marketing efforts, she believes the exposure will pay dividends the next time a customer needs something for his or her home.

Shapiro feels the same.

“We were able to leverage the commercial into some great local PR, and lots of our customers recognized me and came in just to tell me,” he said. “Of course they also purchased a few items.”

Across the country, there was more of the same.

“In the end, what I was most surprised by were the number of our customers who continually come into the store and told me that they saw the commercial,” said Alan Bryant of True Value Homecenter in Oakhurst, Calif. “It has become a regular conversation with people at the store and around town.”

Bryant also saw an “explosion” of interest on Facebook, as people were sharing the commercial.

Measuring the success of the advertising campaign on a broader scale is a more difficult matter, but Fohl said the spots have succeeded on several fronts.

“We have done some pre- and post-analysis, and the commercial generated excellent scores on awareness of the brand,” he said. “If you look at the anecdotes and read the main message recall, they parroted back what we were trying to get across.”

One bright spot was awareness among Generation Y consumers, “people who grew up thinking the hardware store was a big box.”

While it looks like everyone is standing in front of their stores, the owners were actually shot in front of a giant green screen in Chicago. Architectural photographers were sent on location to get the backdrop for each store.

“I never realized how much was involved in filming a commercial,” Bryant said. 

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