Being in the right place at the right time helped Nicholson Kovac get its foot in the door of a national agency search by LG Solid Source, but it took strategic insight and real understanding of the client to win the deal.
LG Solid Source, a division of LG Chemical, is a manufacturer of premium countertops and sinks for the commercial and residential building industries.
Based in Peoria, Ariz., the company wanted to raise its brand awareness nationally, so it undertook a nationwide search for an agency last summer.
Previously, LG Solid Source worked with CTS Advertising & Public Relations, Scottsdale, Ariz.
"CTS got us to where we are today, but we decided to look for a larger agency with more in-house capabilities to help us elevate our brand," said Ferron Dunham, marketing manager at LG Solid Source.
The client sent out an RFP to three local agencies with which it had established relationships, as well as three national agencies selected through media contacts, industry peers and events.
The national agencies were CMD, Portland, Ore.; Leo Burnett USA, Detroit; and C Squared, Seattle.
"I had met a few of their leaders at industry trade shows and events in the past and had kept in touch with them," Dunham said. "I let them know that when the time came to do a review, I'd contact them."
Nicholson Kovac, Kansas City, Mo., was not on the initial list, Dunham said. However, the agency had identified LG as a potential client and had been pursuing the company.
"We are pretty proactive in going after new business we want," said Sara Buck, VP-group account director at Nicholson Kovac.
"About a year ago, we put together a list of companies we wanted to work with in the building and construction industries, and LG Solid Source was on our list."
Nicholson Kovac began mailing literature to the company and, in June, Buck made a call to find out if it was involved in an agency review.
"They said they were sending out the RFP that week, so we were able to get in on it," she said.
All the agencies came to LG Solid Source's office in Peoria to present their credentials. The agencies pitched to Dunham, the product managers and the sales staff.
"I wanted all of them to be involved," said Dunham, noting that the review included campaign development for a new product line.
LG's key criteria for an agency partner included completely integrated in-house capabilities, industry knowledge, great creative ideas and the ability to work within a budget, Dunham said.
After the initial pitch, the local agencies were eliminated.
"The national agencies had more national accounts and contacts, and they executed a lot better," Dunham said.
All the national agencies came back for the final pitch, which included an assignment to present a concept campaign for a new green product LG is rolling out in the spring. The product is a recycled solid-surface countertop for commercial and residential markets.
For the final pitch, the agencies presented to Dunham, LG Solid Source's president and VP, and a representative from parent company LG Chemical's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.
"Nicholson Kovac did a lot of research. You could tell they really did their homework," Dunham said. "They went to stores where our products are, and they got to know our products really well. I didn't feel like I'd have to spend a week educating them on the product."
Dunham said another important factor in the selection was being able to work within the budget that was assigned. (He did not disclose the marketing budget.) "Nicholson Kovac really understood the concept of a budget—breaking things down and itemizing things. They really walked me through the whole process," he said.
The agency also had great creative ideas for the new product, as well as the entire brand architecture, Dunham added.
For example, LG Solid Source previously branded and advertised its products under separate names, such as LG Hi-macs, LG Volcanics and LG Viatera.
"One of their recommendations was to rebrand ourselves as LG Surfaces, with each product as a subcategory, and create different ads," Dunham said.
Nicholson Kovac won the account and just completed production on a new branding campaign, which will roll out next month.