The Company Behind The Companies18 Feb, 2001 By: Dustin Phillips imageSource
The Company Behind The Companies
Did you ever hear a jingle or a line from a commercial that stuck in your mind all day? Have you ever remembered a phone number from a radio commercial without really thinking about it? Those kinds of memory units are caused by effective marketing and advertising. A California based advertising agency has been helping office equipment dealers put their names and messages in the minds of millions for over twenty years.
The year was 1979 when the sales manager of the Los Angeles based Sharp dealership walked in to Paul Barth’s office to sell him a copier. Determining that he couldn’t afford a new gadget, but certainly could use one, he used his radio business acumen and suggested a barter agreement. In a trade for Hunter Barth’s new copier, he would assist the copier dealership with its marketing and advertising.
“Even though I had never had a copier dealer client, they were looking to produce leads,” reflected Barth, who semi-retired in 1991 and completely retired this past summer. “So I implemented classic retail direct response methods and generated some pretty incredible activity for them.”
Barth, following a successful radio career, had founded the agency in 1972 with his wife, Paula Hunter. Naming it Hunter Barth, they represented furniture stores, a cruise line, a real estate school and a children’s theme park, among other businesses.
Word started to spread. Before long, he landed a second Sharp copier dealer, this one in Cleveland. As fortune would have it, the Cleveland dealer was very well known in the industry and had a large presence in the industry’s trade association, NOMDA.
Barth produced similar results for the Cleveland dealer as he had for the one in Los Angeles. As Hunter Barth’s reputation grew, so did the list of copier dealer clients. By the early eighties, Hunter Barth had most of the larger Sharp dealerships and was adding Canon and Minolta dealerships.
Growth Takes Off
As the eighties progressed, the industry started to change. Xerox no longer had over three quarters of all new copier placements. Copier dealers started to sell fax. Almost all of the Japanese manufacturers had plain paper copiers. But the biggest news of all was that several conglomerates or holding companies were starting to acquire copier dealers and paying for them quite handsomely.
“A-Copy, America was the first client we had that was acquired, and we didn’t know what to think,” remarked Ian Crockett, Hunter Barth’s current president. “Alco Standard had a history of selecting well run, profitable companies in a host of industries, then incenting the previous owner to stick around and run the company the same way that had made them successful in the first place. The question was would they continue with that strategy in the copier industry.” The answer was a definitive yes and the acquisition era in the office equipment industry was a boon for Hunter Barth. Dealers started to talk about what had made them successful and fortunately Hunter Barth was one of the common ingredients.
“We represented some of the largest office equipment dealers in the country,” said Crockett. “Everything started to snowball. We not only landed sister companies within each mega dealer, but our existing clients were making contiguous acquisitions and becoming larger clients.”
Manufacturers Sign On
At about the same time, the manufacturers started to take notice of Hunter Barth. IBM was seeking to impact the copier dealer network with their typewriter products. They hired Hunter Barth to be one of the instructors for their three-day IBM Dealer Business Workshop. That was the first of Hunter Barth’s industry manufacturer relationships.
“We represented most of the industry’s largest dealers and because almost everything we did involved co-op, we had developed relationships at the manufacturer level as well, but never thought of doing business with them,” stated Crockett.
Since then, Hunter Barth has produced numerous communication and marketing pieces for dealers, with the pieces being underwritten by the manufacturer. The list ranges from dealer TV and radio commercials to direct mail pieces.
Hunter Barth has been very successful with offering manufacturer-sponsored programs to their dealers. “We get the dealers to participate in these programs,” said Crockett, who has appeared at countless manufacturer national sales meetings as a speaker or conducting workshops. “Many of the smaller dealers who don’t have an advertising budget can now afford some type of advertising on a smaller scale through these types of programs.”
Growth And Change With The Times
Most of the copier dealerships that were represented by Hunter Barth in the eighties and early nineties are no longer clients. They were acquired by what is now IKON, having originally been Alco, Hillman or Erskine.
Today, Hunter Barth represents a number of companies that are owned by either a new breed of mega dealers or by a manufacturer trying to maintain a channel.
Hunter Barth itself, has evolved from an agency that used radio to deliver business to business leads to a full-service advertising and public relations agency that still helps copier dealerships generate leads, but also helps position or brand them to be a significant player in the connected world.
“Everything used to be about sexy product features and unbelievable service response times,” remembered Crockett. “Today, it’s all about credibility and having a share of the customer or prospect’s mind, or branding as many call it.”
Although some of the geographic markets and manufacturer alliances have changed, Hunter Barth still represents some of the industry’s largest dealers, whether they’re independent or affiliated.
“I’ve always told people I’ve done every form of advertising known to man,” comments Crockett, “Except for skywriting. I guess I need a suntan lotion client for that.”
Hunter Barth Advertising is a full-service advertising agency that offers marketing, advertising and public relations services to business-to-business and consumer clients throughout the United States. For more information about Hunter Barth Advertising and their services, call 949-631-9900.