Building tools is serious business, and you don’t become one of America’s most trusted brands by taking the job lightly. But, there’s more going on at Craftsman than drop tests, business plans and focus groups. Turns out, these folks have a lighter side, too. Recently I had a chance to speak with Kris Malkoski, vice president and general manager of Craftsman, who informed me of some fun facts you might not know about Craftsman.
Did you know that…
1. Craftsman is driving a lawn tractor mower across America? The journey started in May on the West Coast and will conclude in New York City in mid-August.
In the “Craftsman Across America” campaign, bartender and tool enthusiast Lucas Van Engen has set out to drive a Craftsman 54-in. Kohler Courage 26hp Riding Garden Tractor from Santa Monica, California, to New York City to complete a 3,300-mile endurance test. His journey began on May 15, and he should cross the finish line on Aug. 24. Along the way, he’s mowing lawns and shaking hands with Craftsman customers at Sears Hometown stores and other select locations in more than 20 cities. Why? “Our tractors are tested to mow over 5,000 miles (far longer than the life of a normal tractor mower). We thought it was a natural ‘torture test’ to drive over 3,300 miles across America to reinforce the quality and durability of Craftsman tractor mowers. And, to thank our customers along the way, we are donating $5,000 in eight cities to support their parks and recreation efforts,” Malkoski says.
Right now, Van Engen should be somewhere between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Branson, Missouri, according to his itinerary, which you can follow by clicking on the “Across the USA” tab at facebook.com/Craftsman. Van Engen is also posting commentary to a blog, and images and video are being uploaded to the page almost daily. I’m also told that, aside from a few blade sharpenings and tire changes, the lawn tractor (and Lucas) are still going strong.
2. Craftsman has created a music video that only features the sounds of its tools?
In part as an effort to reach younger customers, Craftsman has created a two-minute music video consisting of only Craftsman tool sounds. The project was a joint effort with Kutiman, a Russian composer whose online music video project, “ThruYou,” was called one of the Top 50 Inventions in 2009 by Time Magazine. You can view the tool video and get your mechanized “groove” on by clicking here. “We’ve generated over 1 million views, were ranked #5 on Advertising Age’s viral video of the week and received tweets of approval from Travis Barker (drummer for Blink 182) and Tommy Lee (former member of Motley Crue)… I like to tell people that other companies’ tools make noise, but ours make music,” Malkoski comments.
If you’re a tool afficionado like I am, you’ll probably find Craftman’s viral video, well, infectious.
3. Craftsman recently won two golden lions and two silver lions for Radio Advertising at the Cannes International Advertising Festival from over 1,234 entrants?
In this campaign, Craftsman submitted four radio commercials and walked away with four trophies. Kris says it’s an unheard of accomplishment in a contest that, for advertisers, amounts to the Academy Awards or the Super Bowl. “We focused our commercials’ themes on those unimaginable projects that would last a lifetime. For example, digging the never-ending pit, building a ladder to heaven, creating a life-size diorama of the Universe. The intention was to say, if you’ve got a project that could take you forever to complete, Craftsman tools are guaranteed to give you a lifetime of service to get it done.”
4. Craftsman has partnered with Major League Baseball to become the official licensee for the league for tools and lawn and garden products?
When you aren’t cutting dadoes or brushing varnish, are you keeping stats on the Red Sox? Is baseball often the only other sound you hear in the shop besides sandpaper on wood? Then you might appreciate knowing that Craftsman will soon offer a variety of hand tools and storage products that you can have engraved with your favorite MLB team. Right now, Craftsman is kicking things off with bottle cap wrenches adorned with team names or mascots. You choose the team, order by phone, and your customized wrench will arrive in about a month. Incidentally, Craftsman already offers around 40 different tools that can be personalized with name engravings.
5. Craftsman is leading the way in impact drivers and accessories?
“Customers tell us they need a driver for tough jobs that eliminates the kickback typically experienced with common drills. We’ve answered that call with our C3 19.2-volt Impact Driver with Lithium-ion battery. It delivers more inches/pound of torque than our competition to get the really tough DIY jobs done. This coming holiday season, we’re also launching a 12-volt right angle impact driver to fit into tight spaces standard drivers can’t. Even though it is the most compact driver in industry, it delivers high torque and ratcheting action to help with assembly of common household tasks like fixing bicycles, assembling swing sets and installing blinds,” Malkoski reports.
I’m already a fan of impact drivers, so I was interested to learn that Craftsman will also be offering a new line of driver bits for the 2010 holiday season. I’m told they are specially designed to absorb the impact of the driver, providing a longer life than a standard bit. Craftsman accomplishes this with a forged tip, a torsion zone below the tip to absorb the torque and steel bodies that have been specially heat-treated to strengthen the shank and avoid fracture. And that could mean the end to broken Phillips bits halfway through a big deck or cabinetry project.
6. Sears isn’t the only place to buy Craftsman tools?
Did you know that you can purchase Craftsman tools at Kmart or Orchard Supply stores? By the end of this year, a selection of Craftsman products will also be available at 100 to 200 Ace Hardware stores. That’s a big change for this brand, in my opinion. Kris explains that customers are always looking for more convenient locations to shop for their tools. It’s particularly true for those jobsite end-users that need to find a quick tool replacement at 7 a.m. before the mall’s Sears store opens. “By expanding our retailers, we’re increasing our availability to customers over four-fold.”
7. Craftsman’s mondo mitts are causing drivers to do double takes?
If you live in the Chicago or Indianapolis area, you might have driven past Craftsman’s colossal-sized “Trust. In Your Hands.” billboards. A pair of them in each city feature a giant hand holding a wrench. They highlight a recent contest in which fans were asked to provide their interpretation of this “hands on” project theme in a photo contest that ran on Twitter. Ten winners, to be announced soon, will receive packages of Craftsman C3 tools worth $750 each. But even if you didn’t enter, here’s a graphic reminder of what drives tools in the first place: your initiative guided by your hands.
8. Craftsman is the “Official Tool of NASCAR?”
If you’re a racing fan, you’ve seen the Craftsman logo blazing the racing circuit for years. Kris says that Craftsman has one of the longest standing relationships with NASCAR and is proud that pit crews rely on Craftsman tools to keep their cars race-ready. Tim Brewer, ESPN resident expert in the Craftsman Tech Garage and former Crew Chief, regularly guides viewers on how to fix cars and engines when there are technical problems during NASCAR races.
9. Craftsman has a loyal following of … women?
According to Craftsman’s market research, nearly every woman in America (around 97.5 percent, to be exact) is aware of Craftsman tools. Additionally, 68 percent of tool shoppers who are women are buying tools for themselves in order to do their own home repairs and build projects. Over half of them buy tools two to four times a year.
So there you have it: whether it’s a lawn tractor motoring through the searing Arizona desert, gargantuan hands on the side of the interstate or a beat boxy video that continues to capture the YouTube crowd, Craftsman is pushing its own creative envelope while extending the brand’s reach with a grin.