Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Merging Traditional Branding with Digital Marketing

Gabrilson truck 2 533x400Y'ellow, Gabrilsons,” says a friendly voice on the phone.

The “Y” replacing the “H” in Hello is not an accident. It’s an extension of an extremely successful marketing campaign that’s been going strong for more than 70 years.
Yellow. It is much more than a color for Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions, a SMACNA firm based in Davenport, Iowa. It is the foundation of the company’s brand.

“Everybody here is trained to answer the phone, ‘Y’ellow’,” said company president Tom Gabrilson. “It’s an example of how we try to consistently build top of the mind awareness.”

Gabrilson truck 3 533x400According to Wikipedia, top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) is a measure of how well brands rank in the minds of consumers. Gabrilson said his firm has great TOMA in the Quad Cities area (southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois), and it all began with his father, the company’s founder.

The younger Gabrilson learned that the colors of black and yellow stand out better than other color combinations. So, he painted his service trucks yellow, and painted the exterior of the company building yellow—and everything had the Gabrilson name painted in black. Just about everyone in town noticed. 

Gabrilson marketing 1 533x400“I grew up, going to school, where everybody thought I was rich,” Gabrilson recalled. From that time forward, he understood the power of branding. As president, he embraces the branding every day, and he is always looking to the most effective marketing strategies.

“In our business, if we do everything right, nobody notices us,” Tom explained. Thanks to the success of the company branding, everybody notices Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions.

Gabrilson used to advertise the company brand everywhere he could: television, billboard, home expos, jingles, and—of course—the yellow pages. Not anymore.

“The internet is changing the scope of our business,” Gabrilson said. “Basically, I’m moving my marketing online—virtual marketing, so to speak.”

He has found the internet to be the best way to reach customers who don’t have the Gabrilson yellow on the top of their minds. So Gabrilson is using Facebook and putting some of his marketing budget into services provided by Podium—an online company that makes interaction management tools for local business. According the Podium website, they help businesses with customer interactions “from reviews to webchat to messaging and everything in between.”

“It’s a little expensive, but it really has brought us up in the generic Google search,”

Gabrilson truck 4 533x400He said. “I think it’s important to reach the next generation. They would rather text than talk to a human being.”

Whether he is testing new online strategies or updating traditional branding tactics that have been so successful, Gabrilson is determined to run his company like restaurateur Ray Crock—selling consistency.

“That’s my philosophy too,” he said. “I want my customers to know that they’re going to get a clean-shaven, well-groomed technician to provide a solution to their issue.”

That consistency is visible in the Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions branded show room, where they have a fully operational Carrier hybrid heating system on display. To ensure all the company’s yellow service vehicles are consistently clean, Gabrilson offers his employees financial incentives to keep a tidy truck. It is also evident in the company’s policy restricting the use of branded apparel.

Gabrilson marketing 2 306x400All employees must wear Gabrilson’s apparel. Old company ball caps and shirts must be returned to the office, for example, not handed down to employee’s kids or donated to a thrift shop where their apparel may be worn inappropriately. “I guard my brand very closely,” Gabrilson said.

Gabrilson doesn’t have metrics to evaluate the impact of each of the company’s branding and marketing efforts, but he is looking to Google to provide those.

He also recommends hiring an ad agency. Working with professionals, he’s learned that there are some popular marketing strategies that are not worth the money. Wrapped vehicles, for example, often feature designs that are wordy and visually busy.

“They may look great sitting still,” he said. “But they lose their effectiveness when they’re going down the road.”

At Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions, simple is better. Their yellow service vehicles feature the company logo, and essential information, like a phone number—easy to read and remember.

“The old man’s idea and our signature color has served us well for many years,” Gabrilson said. “If you see a yellow truck coming at you, you know it’s us.”

Gabrilson Indoor Climate Solutions »