The Total Package: Building a brand in a tough economy

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Total Comfort began as a heating, air conditioning and sheet metal contractor 1968. Along with new ownership in 1988, came a renewed vision of the company…

By John Thiel, Principal + Creative Director, THIEL Design,

Total Comfort began as a heating, air conditioning and sheet metal contractor in 1968. Along with new ownership in 1988, came a renewed vision of the company as a mechanical contracting firm offering services beyond heating and air conditioning, and building on the company’s internal sheet metal manufacturing shop.

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In 1996, an extensive new headquarters and manufacturing facility was completed in Pewaukee. In addition, various acquisitions dramatically expanded the company’s capabilities—Hampton Plumbing in 2002, Wenninger Mechanical Services in 2004, Downey Mechanical in 2006 and Lombard Electric in 2008.


In advance of the most recent acquisition in 2007, Dennis Braun, President & CEO of Total Comfort, began to recognize the need to update the company’s name, and the growing opportunity to tell a much broader story to the market. In addition to mis-perceptions, the previous name was serving as a barrier in the company’s competitive position on larger projects, and not promoting the company’s total capabilities. There was also a growing unrest with the name Total Comfort among employees, and the growing residential capabilities of the firm were not being properly perceived or promoted.

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Market research confirmed the mis-perceptions around the name and company capabilities, and internal research revealed the lack of confidence of employees regarding the name and the effectiveness of existing marketing efforts and tools. Based on this research, a Brand ProfileTM was developed that verbalized the essence of the company, outlining unique firm positioning, brand attributes and personality, as well as summarizing competitive advantages.

 A New Brand

In early 2008, the new brand name TOTAL Mechanical was introduced with an updated brand identity. The brand name TOTAL Residential was also introduced to address residential capabilities with a related brand identity. The new brand is critical in explaining the total contracting capabilities of the company—HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, building automation and electrical. In addition, a new firm positioning phrase—Building Integrity—communicates a double meaning. It stands for the firm operating with impeccable integrity in all relationships, and complete mechanical systems operating with undiminished integrity.

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The bold simplicity of the new TOTAL Mechanical logomark emphasizes the strength of the company, and the emphatic period at the end of the word Total adds to the meaning of the new name. A similar TOTAL Residential logomark was also developed. The phrase Building Integrity is used with both logomarks.  Please visit the company’s website, to visualize the new brand identity. 

We can go everywhere with our new brand identity. We look like a national firm. Our internal pride has skyrocketed, and we’re marketing the company with renewed confidence. We’re also more strategic. We use the Brand Profile in our strategic planning sessions,” says Dennis Braun, President & CEO of TOTAL Mechanical.

A DVD was included in a direct mail brand launch piece, introducing the new brand, and featuring a brief company history. The DVD was first presented at a dramatic brand launch event for employees. The brand identity program also includes capabilities brochures for both TOTAL Mechanical and TOTAL Residential, a system of stationery and electronic business papers, a customizable proposal system, an updated web site, exterior and interior signage, an updated trade show display, advertising, fleet vehicles and employee uniforms and merchandise.

 A Valuable Solution

Dennis Braun is convinced of the value of the new branding effort: “Our timing in launching our new brand, relative to the down economy, couldn’t have been better—we established a more meaningful approach. We’ve repositioned ourselves against the competition. Our brand now resonates and connects. When we leave a client or prospect meeting, the strongest thing we leave behind is our brand.

In many ways, re-defining a brand and launching a new brand identity in a down economy is even more valuable. When companies choose to pull back and reduce their brand marketing efforts, history and research have shown that a space is created in the mind of the market, giving others the opportunity to occupy that space. The key for companies that do stay active, is to invest in developing a brand message that connects with customers and prospects, describing how their existing or new products or services are of specific value. Building the brand, and the story around the brand, helps build sales and a return on that investment.

Dennis Braun is seeing a strong and tangible ROI on their re-branding efforts: “The success of our growth and expansion is solely related to our new brand identity. The new brand means everything for our success.”

The TOTAL Mechanical brand identity program is a tangible example of the benefits of a comprehensive branding approach, built on market research and developed to better reflect the essence of an organization. A down economy doesn’t last forever. A brand update that is strategically developed around meaning, has the ability to outlast any recession, and position a company for even greater success.


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