Branding you can't forget

By Steve Hart

Tell the public what your firm does, and keep its name in front of them. That’s the key to creating a brand, Rod Jenden tells Steve Hart.

Rod Jenden, founder of Wet & Forget. Photo / Supplied
Rod Jenden, founder of Wet & Forget. Photo / Supplied

Rod Jenden started a property maintenance business in 1976, using harsh chemicals to clean people's roofs. He wasn't entirely happy because the cleaner smelled bad and ruined his clothes.

He employed some chemists in the 1990s and put them to work to develop a non-toxic alternative to the bleach he was using.

"What the chemists made didn't smell, didn't burn and it wasn't corrosive. So I was surprised it removed moss when sprayed on roofs," says Jenden.

Initially, only the company's staff used the cleaner. But customers called saying minor spills and splashes by Jenden's team left clean patches on their driveway. They wanted to buy the product to wash down the rest of their drive.

Seeing an opportunity to diversify, Jenden sold the roof cleaning business to concentrate on marketing the solution in the late 1990s. He says calling the product Wet & Forget has been key to his firm's marketing success.

"I have never been the brightest spark on the Christmas tree. But when I was trying to dream up the name for my company I was very aware that when you look around and see a firm called - for example - L & J Ltd, you wouldn't have a clue what they do.

"It was my aim to have a name that people could associate with the product and what it does. When we first started calling ourselves Wet & Forget people used to question it, I'd feel embarrassed sometimes. But the name says exactly what you do with the product.

"Our first advert went out on Newstalk ZB, but now we are on both radio networks almost every day of the year.

"Wet & Forget is a mass market product, so I wanted to let as many people know about it as I could with live appearances on radio shows. I also tried mid-morning TV in the early days, but we abandoned that idea.

"We didn't get a stellar response when we first started advertising. But we couldn't see any other way of getting our name out there. Sometimes with advertising you'd think everybody has left the planet.

"Radio is a funny thing - it's a bit like herding cats. There is a lot of 'suck it and see' in building brand awareness. But we are not scared to go outside the box with product names such as Bugger Off, Ants in Ya Pants, Hitman and Miss Muffet's Revenge. We like to have a bit of fun with our brands."

Wet & Forget has just started to use primetime TV for a cleaning spray that involves attaching a water hose direct to the bottle and spraying a drive in minutes.

"I chose TV purely because this product is more visual. I wanted people to see how easy it is to use," says Jenden, the firm's director. "I am not sure if we will continue to use TV as it is very expensive.

"But we had to mix our marketing up a bit - if you do the same thing, you get the same result. You have to keep trying new things otherwise you start going backwards."

Jenden says the key to building his firm's brand has been consistency, repeating the key messages of the Auckland firm's range of cleaning products - and continued advertising during the recession.

"Unless you put your brand in front of the public on a regular basis then it just disappears into the background," he says. "Who doesn't know what a Hoover is? That's the marketing model I adopted when I started - we keep our name out there and we keep pushing it so people don't forget us."

A key part of the firm's marketing mix has been its local website, a site that is just about to be relaunched with Twitter and Facebook integration.

It is something the firm is already doing in the United States where its dedicated US site has a member of staff who regularly tweets and updates its Facebook page there.

"Our local telephone sales always used to be the top way people would buy from us. Now we get more sales via our website," says Jenden. "It's the way people like to communicate and connect with companies - so it is a big part of our branding and marketing now.

"We certainly had some disasters. We are not the smart marketing gurus of all time," says Jenden. "But the key for any firm is to identify who the customer is and connect with them."

- NZ Herald

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