Wayne Glowac, Chief Marketing Officer | 2018.09.27

1901 Inc. Mechanical & Plumbing (previously H&H Industries) designs, builds and installs commercial, industrial and residential HVAC & Plumbing Systems across the Midwest. Currently employing nearly 200, 1901 will generate more than $45 million in annual sales this year. The company was founded nearly 120 years ago and was purchased by Paul Christensen seven years ago.
One of the primary challenges facing the company was confusion in the marketplace due to a smaller business with a very similar name. Christensen also wanted to refresh the identity of the company and re-energize the staff. The company had very successfully relied on networking and word-of-mouth for new business development and invested very little in marketing.


After many months of consideration, H&H Industries decided that a comprehensive rebranding was appropriate and could provide a variety of benefits including:

  • Enhancing the quality of the company’s image while differentiating itself in the market
  • Engaging staff in the program and reinforcing the pride they have in their work
  • Strengthening existing client relationships
  • Generating buzz and new business opportunities
“I’m very excited about where we’re at. This change has been on my agenda for the seven years since I bought the company. We waited until the timing was right and Kramer helped us bring my vision into focus. The buzz around the area is amazing, seems most people know about our name change and new logo and we’re attracting a lot of positive attention.”
Paul Christensen, Owner & CEO, 1901 Inc.
Paul Christensen, Owner & CEO, 1901 Inc.

Solution & Methodology

Kramer Madison is a full-service marketing company with expertise in strategic marketing, design, print, mail and promotional products.

To ensure that Kramer had the company background and insights necessary, it conducted two rebranding workshops. Separate workshops were held with the executive team and also key staff. Workshop exercises included a S.W.O.T. Analysis, Levels of Brand Association (listing of features, benefits and emotional/cultural values), and S.M.A.R.T. (Situation, Market, Audience – their Reaction and Translation – how the company wanted to be perceived). In addition to providing valuable insights, the workshops create a collaborative atmosphere, allowing a variety of individuals to provide valuable insights into their company’s rebranding efforts.

As part of the workshops, Kramer conducted Brand Similes exercises. A variety of images were provided and participants each chose an ideal image for portraying the company and shared their rationale. The images chosen provided valuable input on how the company wanted to be perceived including the graphical perspective. Examples are provided.

All workshop notes and secondary research were condensed and an executive summary was created including a written message strategy. Kramer utilizes a 14-Question Message Strategy identifying the target market, value statement, reasons to believe, differentiation, insight inspiring the brand, aperture, tone, living the brand, etc. Examples of the message strategy are below:

MESSAGE? We have a passion for our industry and building things with our own hands. Doing a job to the best of our abilities every day and never cutting corners provides the greatest value for what we’ve been hired to do. Our work allows our customers to work and live as comfortably and effectively as possible.

DIFFERENT? ? Our sense of urgency, exceptional field-force knowledge, work done right, better planning and scheduling. Our history (since 1901) and experience, quality workmanship, Union affiliation, we’re approachable, we provide great value.

OUR TONE? Exciting, upbeat and passionate. Positive, personable, excited, confident, determined. Wrong Tone: Bad mouthing the competition, being critical, saying we’re better than anybody.
With the strategy written and approved, Kramer moved forward with the naming process. To provide structure for the process, a variety of “buckets” were created that identified general topics that a name would convey. The buckets help to judge names based upon their strategic benefit while adding a framework to the ideation process.

  • What we do
  • How well we do it
  • Legacy

More than 100 names were generated with most eliminated due to potential trademark conflicts or inconsistencies with the message strategy. Considering the rich history of the company, it was decided that names featuring the company’s rich legacy would generate the best possible differentiation and perceived value. Names promoting the legacy of the company would also help instill further pride within the staff. A shortlist of names was provided to the attorney for trademark review. One clear option was identified, vetted and the name “1901 Inc.” was chosen.

“The stuff I learned I will use the rest of my career. The process included more analytics than we imagined. We turned over every rock to be sure we picked the right name.”
Paul Christensen, Owner & CEO, 1901 Inc.

Corporate Identity

As part of the strategic messaging process, Kramer articulated the insights that inspire the brand from the company’s perspective: “We do this for the love and passion we have for the industry and the customers we serve. We love working with our hands.” This insight, along with other workshop input, resulted in a logo design that personifies that can-do attitude.

Brand typography was chosen to further the 1901 message of confident professionalism as well as a willingness to get dirty to see the job through. That grittiness is also reflected in the chosen photographic style and presentation in 1901 marketing materials and website. Bending steel, welding and installing custom HVAC solutions is a highly skilled if not sometimes, dirty job. Our goal was to capture the essence of that balance, visually.

Integrated Marketing & Roll Out

With the extensive volume of marketing materials that are updated during a rebranding process, Kramer worked with 1901 to build a comprehensive “punch list” of assets that needed to be updated.

(Contact Wayne Glowac at Kramer if you’d like a copy of our generic Rebranding Punch List).

Kramer further supported the rebranding effort with the creation of the website, business cards, letterhead, signage and promotional products.

In addition, a rollout communication plan was created and customized for the company’s stakeholders including staff, customers, vendors, prospects and media.

STAFF ROLLOUT: To help staff understand and embrace the rebranding, a staff luncheon was scheduled and included presentations by leadership and Kramer. The reasons for the change were articulated and the event culminated with the reveal of the new name and logo emblazed on the side of a company vehicle. Staff was provided with written talking points and FAQ sheets to help ensure that the change was consistently and correctly communicated.

Staff was also presented with custom branded 1901 apparel and accessories from the Kramer promotions division. Since the Kramer creative team had developed the corporate identity, there was great efficiency when it came time to sourcing and ordering the promotional products. The branded Yeti drinkware looked especially good with the brand new logo. All items were ordered and fulfilled in a shortened timeframe to hit the brand launch deadline.

MARKET ANNOUNCEMENT: A direct mailer was created and mailed the day of the staff rollout. It was sent to clients, vendors and prospects. Earned exposure included in a state-wide press release. The owner, Paul Christensen was featured in a five-minute business interview on a local television station and covered in the local business magazine. To ensure that key clients were aware of the change and rationale, personal visits were conducted with key clients who were presented with premium branded accessories and a custom 6-pack of private-labeled beer.

Results Driven

We’re honored 1901 Inc. was able to take advantage of the unique, multifaceted skillset Kramer has to offer to deliver a total rebrand. The 1901 team was a pleasure to work with and we wish them another 120 years of success.

“We really appreciated being part of an organized and thorough process. This was a big step for our company. Our team’s input was respected which helped get their buy-in and made it a fun and efficient process.”
Paul Christensen, Owner & CEO, 1901 Inc.