Prestone would love people to call it a coolant. The company, a division of Honeywell Consumer Products, is running its first summer campaign in at least a decade to explain that the product's main attribute as a heat transfer substance means it has as much relevance for extreme summer as extreme winter weather.
The campaign, with a "When it's too hot, it's too late" theme, aims to get the word out that Prestone can help an engine avoid overheating. Via Dallas-based The Richards Group, it takes the message to an extreme, with web videos of guys with blowtorches literally melting things like an engine block and radiator, and out-of-home that includes a mobile billboard that literally belches smoke.
The effort, which also includes radio, online banners, and out-of-home elements in nine southern markets, drives traffic to the prestone.com/cool site. The site features more in-depth content on why Prestone isn't just a Q4 product: more videos; content on the dangers of summer heat; a summer heat spoof; and a weather map where consumers can tweet or Facebook "How Hot" phrases that best represent how hot it is where they live.
"We looked at the market landscape and saw that, though we are a seasonal product, we have the same distribution as motor oil," says Sam Martin, Prestone's product manager for global coolants. "So much of sales is four months every year, so we wanted to see how we could expand that horizon a little bit."
He says that in the U.S., marketers' focus on winter has made them victims of their own success. "We spent time creating awareness that you need Prestone in your engine in the winter to make sure it doesn't freeze up. But if you look around the world they don't use the term 'anti-freeze' at all, they use 'engine coolant.'"
He says companies like Prestone should look to the motor oil segment as a model for how to create proactive consumers. "Those guys have done a good job in speaking about needing to change your oil every 3,000 miles or you are in trouble. So we are trying to say this fluid is as important -- year round -- as anything else that's going on in your engine."
He says the campaign is comparatively small at this point, with no TV, and a Southern-states focus. "We wanted to make sure it is scalable to a national level, but at the same time we made sure we are reaching out most effectively, and radio was the best way to reach those markets." He says the effort runs through mid-September, with a Hispanic-market element lasting through the end of September.
Martin says that in the first week and a half, the engine-melting videos garnered 15,000 hits. "We are seeing a level of popularity similar to Myth-busters and shows like that." "We are a brand you think of when the coolant light goes on, or when fall hits," says Martin. "But we want to a more emotional connection; we want to create conversations."