Reflections on Manufacturing Marketing from Fire Dept. Instructors Conference 2014

Combat Challenge

Combat Challenge

Fathom participated in FDIC 2014 to support a client, Akron Brass, and gain additional industry knowledge and relationships. Below you’ll see some of the things we learned and people we met.

About the Event
FDIC 2014 was held in early April for its 86th year in Indianapolis, Indiana, with more than 32,000 attendees representing over 55 countries. 800+ exhibitors filled both the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium to the brim. The opening ceremony included a heart-moving procession of bag pipers. Firefighters got to show their stuff by participating in the ongoing “combat challenges.”

About the Community
There is strong brotherhood and camaraderie among firefighters and their families.

Fundraising auction item from Scott Safety

Fundraising auction item from Scott Safety

Community was most evident at the Stop, Drop Rock ‘N’ Roll fundraiser the night of April 10th. The event was hosted in the historical Indiana Roof Ballroom with good food, drink and entertainment. The highlight was the live auction where over $75K was raised to support the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty. Several sponsors auctioned off valuable equipment to support the cause.

Decades-long relationships and careers are common in the fire industry. To quote John Dinning IV, Director of Marketing at Hale, “Our industry is like musical chairs … we just don’t remove the chairs.”

What’s New/Important in the Fire Industry
Fully documenting training and certification is important to avoid lawsuits. Technology helps in this process, according to Paul Wilders, 2nd Deputy Chief Instructor at Nassau County Fire Service Academy:

 “Fighting fires is different now because building materials are different (not as organic as building used to be). Fires burn faster and are hotter now. It’s important to educate and leverage technology to combat these new fires.”

Paul Wilders

Paul Wilders

Marketing Insights and Observations
Observation #1: Many new products were unveiled at the show, evidence of the power of live demonstrations and personal interaction with a captive, relevant audience.

Observation #2: Firefighters have strong, generational brand loyalty. For example, when the fire alarm rings, firefighters are told to ‘Scott up’ (referring to Scott Safety’s equipment). This poses a challenge to marketers as organizations acquire other brands; end users are loyal to their brands, resulting in occasional confusion.

Observation #3: I was surprised that many organizations invested heavily in FDIC, yet haven’t embraced digital. For example, one exhibitor claimed having ‘the #1 selling simulation training products for first responders (a BIG claim). When I search on Google for that term, the company is nowhere to be found—not even a paid search ad. There is a disconnect here.

Observation #4: There were, however, exhibitors that had their traditional marketing and digital marketing well aligned.  For example, Hurst Jaws of Life promoted FDIC on its Facebook page, is ranking well for strategic keywords on Google, and has a well-branded YouTube channel.

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