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dan antonelli headshot Dan Antonelli

What’s Old is New Again

When we consider changing an existing HVAC brand for a contractor, it’s not something we take lightly. There’s a multitude of considerations that factor in, including the large financial implications, the question of the existing value of the current brand, and the short-term trauma associated with rebranding. So you always need to weigh the benefits of a new brand, and closely examine whether the old brand is hindering the company’s ability to move forward in a positive way.

We also judge brands on what I like to call their ‘brand promise’. And by that I mean, what does the brand say about the company it represents? For heating and air contractors, how does it make the homeowner feel if they solely judged the company by their branding? In my estimation, 95% of every small business brand contains either a negative or neutral brand promise. It’s the rare 5% ones that deliver a positive brand promise.

Fortunately, we are blessed with clients who often give us a lot of creative latitude to design their brands, and they share our philosophy of building images that we would consider to be ‘disruptive.’ And by ‘disruptive,’ I mean brands that don’t fit in or look like other brands in their market – and do deliver that positive brand promise. That’s what the best HVAC brands do—they disrupt the space they live in by standing out.

That’s what the best HVAC brands do—they disrupt the space they live in by standing out—and not fitting in.

Such was the case with Ken Goodrich, the owner of Goettl Air Conditioning, based in Phoenix. It was about four months ago that I met with Ken while out in Las Vegas where I was speaking about truck wrap design at the ISA Sign Show. He talked about a new radio campaign that was launching, which focused on his childhood experience of working with his Dad on air conditioning equipment, holding a flashlight while his Dad worked. I thought it was an interesting campaign idea, but I felt like there was a disconnect between the nostalgia being evoked and the more modern HVAC brand into which Goettl had evolved. And for a 75-year-old company, I suggested that perhaps it might make sense to go back to its roots, and see if we could somehow connect the messages.

With Ken’s blessing, I started trying to envision how these elements could be tied together. Goettl is an old company with this nostalgic marketing campaign that focuses on a boy with a flashlight. I had Ken send me all of the old logos from the ’40s and ’50s that Goettl had previously used. And then, I had a crazy idea—one that would require rebranding the whole company, including redoing the truck wraps of more than 40 vehicles. Why not integrate the image of a 10-year-old Ken, holding a flashlight, into the original branding? We could render it in a Norman Rockwell style, and give a visual to go along with this radio campaign. Then, we’d integrate it onto the truck wraps in way we hadn’t seen done before.

Getting the client on-board

Prior to our photo shoot, we created this very rough concept sketch in Photoshop, using the old Goettl branding.

I determined the best way to get Ken on board with this was to do a few very rough drafts of what we had in mind. Thankfully, it didn’t take much to convince him of the idea. Now came the hard part—how were we going to actually pull this off? The biggest challenge was finding source imagery that our illustrator could reference when drawing. We quickly realized that finding an old ’40s or ’50s ad that had a boy holding a flashlight would be impossible.

So, we then went to Plan B—stage a photo shoot with a 10-year-old boy, and use that as our reference illustration.

As luck would have it, I have a neighbor with a 10-year-old son. So, we dressed him up in overalls, a newsboy cap, and armed him with a flashlight. We had him hold a blank sign, which would represent the logo itself (something that, at this point, we still hadn’t completely finalized), and took him to our ‘state-of-the-art’ studio in my garage. We figured we could also use this pose to work for the vehicle wrap.

Tweaking the existing HVAC logo

We were able to reference the original art for the Goetll logo from back in the ’40s, and used it as a foundation for an updated version. While maintaining the roots of the original brand, we proposed several alternate versions with updated typography, and modified a few of the original elements to put together a better, more cohesive mark. We tried several options before returning back to typography and colors more closely resembling the original logo.

Illustrating the past

Further refinements on the sketch, and you can see how the boy started to come together.

Ken suggested that we use photos of his son when he was 10 years old as the basis for our illustration. He sent several pictures, and we were able to work it out. Using the original reference photos for lighting and position, and then the photos of Ken’s son, we digitally painted the boy in Corel Painter first, and then brought everything into Illustrator for vectoring. This process took approximately 80 hours of time.

Truck wraps and fleet branding

While our illustrator was working on the final rendering, I was busy working on how we’d incorporate this new branding on the trucks. Initially, I thought I could have the logo with the boy on top, but the more I played with it, the more I realized that the proportions wouldn’t allow for the impact that I was hoping to achieve. So, I decided to have the logo elements split for the sides of the truck. In doing so, I’d be able to have a large image of the boy, and have the logo flank him. Both elements could, therefore, be much larger.

We enlisted the help of a local sign company in Phoenix, AZ Pro Group, to execute the installation of the truck wraps. Their team did an amazing job.

The results and the ROI

We asked Ken about the results thus far. He said, “Since hitting the streets, the response has been fantastic. Previously, our trucks seemed to blend in with the rest of the crowd, and now, so many people are really taking notice of the new brand. It creates a warm, personal feeling that is a huge part of our philosophy, of always doing the right thing by our clients. These rolling billboards have by far been our best investment in terms of an ROI.”




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