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You can adopt a challenger brand strategy in any category. We created one in the sleepy car mat category.


Car mats are typically purchased from a dealer as an OEM accessory when you buy a car or from an aftermarket supplier.  The aftermarket category has traditionally offered a variety of generic, inexpensive options to protect the second largest investment most people make.


WeatherTech, and its founder and CEO, David MacNeil saw an opportunity to redefine the category using an inherently “challenger brand” strategy. They designed and built custom fitted floor liners, designed to protect car floors from dirt, mud, spills and other elements that can harm car interiors.  Liners provide more complete protection for a car’s floors, and liners custom fit for individual makes and models of cars provided dramatically better protection than any other option in the market.


Having built a successful brand with national distribution, a robust e-commerce capability and a respectable double-digit growth rate, the company wanted to test a more aggressive approach.


Dave Sollitt, as Director of Strategic Planning at Pinnacle Advertising, designed the marketing, creative and media strategies, as well as the initial creative direction for the WeatherTech campaign test launch, which eventually became a national television campaign, and one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the advertising industry.




WeatherTech asked Dave Sollitt and the team at Pinnacle Advertising in suburban Chicago to test a reach-based advertising program, featuring television. The company had achieved a reasonable customer base and sustained growth utilizing ‘remnant space’ in magazines targeted to car aficionados and sportsmen. Magazines facilitated the direct-to-consumer distribution model WeatherTech had built to provide higher margins from sales of their unique product.


The client initially suggested a campaign based on a “Made in America” message, since the product is manufactured entirely in the US. Company owner David MacNeil was proud of his “Made in America” ethic and thought it captured both his corporate ethic and took advantage of the patriotic national mood.


Following some initial exploratory research, the agency tested multiple strategic approaches among a variety of car buyers and recommended a message based on a problem-solution strategy, which demonstrated the greatest consumer response instead. When consumers buy a new car, they obsess about every 'unfortunate event;' every spill, every muddy shoe, every snow covered boot. That obsession would stimulate the growth of the "new" floor liner category.


The client also asked us to consider a national launch instead of a local market rollout, based on the very promising research results, but we strongly recommended against it. Our concern was that a national or even regional launch that reflected the initial appeal demonstrated in the research might strain the client’s manufacturing capacity and disrupt its ability to fulfill orders. You only get one chance to make a first impression.


The Strategic Challenge


Having settled on the most promising strategic and creative launch advertising, the remaining strategic challenge was determining a launch scenario for a readable test based on of multiple variables that could be scaled and expanded to additional geographies as capacity increased.


Initial Test


We developed the initial test based on a hybrid launch strategy:

  • Utilize a hybrid branding/direct response creative execution, depicting events that can introduce significant dirt and grime into a consumer’s car;

  • Use of Direct response/remnant broadcast media to enhance efficiency of media delivery;

  • Fill-in spot media to ensure a 4-week “reach” of at least 80+% of the target market and a 4-week “frequency” of at least 3.


We selected 4 initial test markets based on a multi-variant selection criteria evaluating:

  • Brand/category penetration/development;

  • Media cost/efficiency ratios providing projectable results in other markets;

  • Market economic development criteria and car sales performance;

  • WeatherTech brand velocity over time.


Test Results


Test market volume increased over 250% after the initial 4 weeks of advertising. Growth acceleration continued through the first 3 months of the test, topping at 350-400% growth year over year. This growth came in the highest margin “direct to consumer” segment which eliminates wholesale and retail distribution expenses.


The test market data also demonstrated several market response measures that could be utilized in subsequent market expansion to establish budgets and market potential. We also demonstrated that a national launch would have been difficult to manage, as anticipated.


We expanded the test into additional markets after 4 months in market, and continued the phased launch into select markets based on a custom multi-variant market selection criteria of brand/category development, brand velocity, media environment (size, cost/efficiency of local spot media) and new car sales. In every case, immediate sales gains paid for the media expenditures in each market on a real-time basis. No net ‘investment’ for media was required. This was a very unique level of success in advertising.


Campaign Results


During the initial 4 years of the campaign roll-out, the WeatherTech strategy and creative grew the WeatherTech brand 5-fold, in terms of volume and revenue. The brand now advertises on network and national cable television, including the Super Bowl.  It is now a strong national brand and a household name. The company remains an innovative and highly profitable private company and still manufactures its products entirely in the US.

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