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Advertising: Reaching Your End Users

A drumstick manufacturer explains how advertising brings his company closer to his retail customers' customers.

It's not easy for manufacturers to get to know the people who ultimately use their products. So Pro-Mark, a $10-million drumstick maker in Houston, advertises in trade publications like Modern Drummer. The ads help bring the 40-year-old family business closer to its retail customers' customers, test-market new products, and build brand loyalty. "I've been selling drumsticks for 40 years," says founder Herb Brochstein, "and my instincts have been right a great deal of the time." Modern Drummer's readers agree. Pro-Mark won five awards in the magazine's 1995 consumer poll, including most interesting advertising/marketing campaign. Here are a few of Pro-Mark's campaigns and their payoffs:

Finding test-marketers. One ad, offering free product samples in return for customer feedback, generated more than 3,000 responses. The respondents' names were entered into a database, and each received a catalog in addition to the sample drumsticks. The new test-marketers have proved to be conscientious reviewers. For example, when Pro-Mark recently tested a new finish, it sent samples to 125 drummers, and only one failed to return the detailed questionnaire. For the first two years of the project, the company boasted a 100% response rate.

Profiling end users. In June 1995, Pro-Mark ran a simple black-and-white ad asking readers to nominate themselves to be selected as the "Not Yet Famous Drummer." Readers sent in a photo of themselves and filled out a survey card, indicating preferences in drumsticks, music styles, and bands -- information that helps Pro-Mark target future ads. The contest not only made stars of the winning unknown drummers, whose pictures appeared in subsequent ads in Modern Drummer, but doubled Pro-Mark's database of names. Five thousand people entered the contest, and the company received 100 calls a week for months about it. "Our customer base is made up of countless thousands of nameless drummers," says Brochstein, "but the point is, we're branding the Pro-Mark name in their minds."

Promoting new products. When Pro-Mark wanted to draw attention to former Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese's new autographed drumsticks, it printed a coupon allowing readers to buy them for $5 and entering them in a contest to win a chance to hang out with Abbruzzese. More than 3,500 people sent back coupons. Pro-Mark added those names to its catalog mailing list. The company's only costs were the black-and-white ad and the famed drummer's expenses.

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