If You Build It, They Will Engage

Client: USG
Agency: gyro Chicago
Objective: Create a modern brand image for a 112-year-old construction materials manufacturer using targeted, multichannel efforts aimed at customers and employees

The Back Story: Few industries escaped the tightening economic noose of the 2008 recession—but the construction sector was one of the hardest hit. With commercial real estate in the dumps and the housing market at a veritable standstill, construction material manufacturers such as USG were facing tough decisions about the future of their business.

Realizing the need to position the more than century-old manufacturer as an innovator and an agent of change in a stagnating economy, USG turned to B2B agency gyro Chicago to tell a human story of survival against the odds through a series of integrated campaigns, culminating in the company’s sponsorship of the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.

“We looked at the core values of the Olympics, and they felt closely aligned with who we are as a company,” says Linda McGovern, VP of marketing at USG. “The trials and tribulations of the Olympic athletes are ones that we related to as a company; we’ve had our share of struggles, but we worked hard, had a vision, and came out on top.”

The Strategy: To demonstrate its comeback kid status, USG launched a series of new products, including UltraLight, a super-light Sheetrock panel that’s easy to carry and install. “The Weight Has Been Lifted” campaign, launched in 2011, played off the idea that USG was literally lifting the weight off the backs of workers by visualizing the burden they carry over time. Print ads showed men in hardhats lifting extremely heavy objects—a car, a piano, a rhinoceros—along with the tagline, “If you’re not lifting UltraLight panels, what are you lifting?”

USG worked with gyro to develop a national print and digital campaign to build awareness and drive traffic to campaign microsite theweighthasbeenlifted.com, where visitors could view testimonials, download industry whitepapers, and use a weight calculator to determine how much less they’d be lifting with UltraLight. The brand also engaged with customers in-store, where they could lift sample drywall to see the difference for themselves. About 10,000 copies of an exclusive 36-page coffee table book were produced for and sent to shareholders and distributed to top customers at major industry trade shows, including NeoCon and Intex.

While “The Weight Has Been Lifted” campaign focused on product and targeted the people who actually use the boards, USG’s recent “It’s your world. Build it.” campaign went deeper and broader to address USG distributors, dealers, contractors, and architects, as well as USG employees, with a post-recession “we can do it” message.

“Internally, there was a lot of change happening; people had questions about the future, and USG was looking for a total reboot,” says Doug Kamp, executive creative director at gyro Chicago. “USG customers and employees were looking for good news, to have an affinity with something—something to belong to—and that’s what this was all about.”

In addition to working with USG to launch a completely redesigned website, gyro curated a multichannel mix that brought together everything from national print, broadcast, and digital initiatives, to events where USG customers could interact with brand ambassadors, including several American and Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes. In addition, USG teamed up with GE and Citi, also Olympic sponsors, to create custom wall murals at the USA House in Sochi. USG will continue its partnership with the Olympics at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Olympic connection is, in part, evidence that the weight has been lifted—this time from the collective back of the construction industry. “We try and appeal to humanity and emotion, to empathy—in this case, talking about a bigger, higher purpose,” Kamp says. “We refer to that as ‘human relevance,’ making something relevant to an audience on a truly human level.”

The Results: As a result of “The Weight Has Been Lifted,” the sales rate for UltraLight increased by 25% at The Home Depot. The “Build it.” campaign delivered more than 17.6 million targeted impressions, including about 77,500 hits to the Olympic sponsorship and USG product sections of the newly revamped USG.com within the first five months of launch. Overall click-through rates for the campaign are more than four times the industry standard.

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