Blowing the Roof Off

The Challenge:

One of my clients was the world’s leading manufacturer of a roofing underlayment membrane that protects homes from water damage caused by ice dams and wind-driven rain. Typically, the product is applied on a fraction of each roof—typically only the front three to four feet along eaves and in valleys where different sections of the roof meet at angles. Used primarily in more temperate regions with frequent freeze-thaw cycles, the product had never sold well in the Southeast.

During the 2004 hurricane season, however, a homebuilder in Central Florida applied the product to the entire roof deck of an unfinished home in desperation after hurricane Charlie had destroyed the roof deck, and hurricane Frances was approaching in the Atlantic. To everyone’s surprise, the underlayment, when applied to the entire roof deck, prevented any structural damage to the roof after hurricane Frances, but from hurricane Jean as well. So the question was “How do we get the word out about this to sell more product in areas in which it had never sold well?”

The Response:

Working quickly with the product’s engineering teams, we quickly arranged for additional UL testing to confirm that the underlayment, when applied to the entire roof deck, did indeed protect a roof’s structural integrity as well as preventing water damage. After receiving the green light, I worked with our team’s PR department to interview the builders who had used the product, took a series of photos of under-construction homes with and without the product, and blasted the story to a variety of trade publications.

I felt strongly that there was a tremendous opportunity to drive consumer awareness to create pull-through and demand, as the number of homes that had sustained roofing damage throughout the Southeast numbered in the tens of thousands. I negotiated half-page newspaper ads in four key markets based on home density, value, and extent of storm-related damage. The creative department and I conceived dramatic ads using images of the builders’ undamaged home and ran the campaign for four to six weeks (depending on the market) with a designated toll-free number to track performance within each market. Consumers who called in were given referrals to local roofers or distributors who had signed on for special pricing on the product.

The Results:

During the campaign, and in the quarter that followed, the company sold 300% more product in Florida and Alabama than it had in the entire country during the third and fourth quarters of that year. Because the reputation of the product as a premium underlayment that not only protected from water damage, but also roof deck integrity continued to drive adoption among higher-end and custom builders for the remainder of the housing boom.