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Most of the HVAC contractors I’ve spoken with have been reluctant to talk about pandemic-based marketing, and for good reason: No reputable contractor wants to be that sleazy company preying on people’s fears to turn a quick buck. But what about a bit of extra branding? After all, if you, as a responsible contractor, have to pay for extra supplies anyway — masks, wipes, single-use pens, or styluses for customers to sign receipts — you might as well put them to work for you, right?

Here are a couple ways I’ve come across companies making proverbial lemonade when it comes to boosting your brand during the pandemic — and doing it in a helpful, useful way that provides real value to your customers in their daily lives and helps your name stick in their minds long after the truck is out of the driveway and the invoice is paid.


The Ultimate Logo

Last week, I went to lunch with ACHR NEWS technology editor Angela Harris at our favorite Mediterranean restaurant across the street. Standing in line, I noticed the servers were all wearing matching masks: solid black, emblazoned with “Mr. Kabob” and the restaurant’s skewer logo. Combined with their matching T-shirts and aprons, it was a new work uniform for a new era of work.

Imagine my surprise when, on the elevator back to the office, we ran into a fellow co-worker in the elevator who was wearing one of those Mr. Kabob masks! For a local business, it’s the logo T-shirt on steroids. One of my co-workers is currently wearing a T-shirt for a pizza company. Is it a stretch to think that people will wear your company-branded mask if you give them one for free? At the very least, you could wear it yourself when you’re out and about after-hours — and encourage your employees to do the same.

Like wearing a company badge, wearing company-branded masks for work helps give your employees another layer of professionalism and credibility. It also gives your company a positive association. After all, a Pew research poll in mid-June found that more than 70 percent of Americans approve of wearing masks in public places, and in Fox News poll from around the same time, 80 percent of respondents said they hold a favorable view of mask wearers. Your business can’t help but benefit.

Whether your mask features a sleek and classic logo or your fun company mascot, it’s a great conversation-starter — and maybe the only time you can literally plaster your company name right across your face. Assuming the AHR Expo does end up happening in January, as is currently planned, I’m definitely going to have my team wear matching masks that say “ACHR NEWS.”


Handy Leave-Behinds

Hand sanitizer isn’t as scarce as it once was — and I should know, because I just ordered 12 bottles of it last week. But with more people going back to work and (potentially) back to school, the obligatory bottle of hand sanitizer remains as much of a staple now as it was back in March.

At a time when being polite means not shaking hands, looking out for your customer’s health is the ultimate gesture that your company cares. Technicians on a call already whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer before they touch equipment, door knobs, or anything they might hand to a homeowner. I’ve also heard of contractors providing a single-use stylus to sign digital receipts on an iPad. Personally, I’ve acquired at least half a dozen pens from cashiers who tell me “you can keep that” after I sign a paper receipt — like the savvy folks at my local mobile phone repair shop, who sent me home with a fixed-up iPhone and a pen that reads “Cellular Repair Center Inc.”

The moral here? Both of these items, once considered nonessential or “extra” giveaways, have now become a necessary expense. Put these purchases to work spreading your name along with the clean. Not only is it a great time to legitimize “stealing” pens with your name and number, but for contractors, a branded bottle of hand sanitizer remains one of those leave-behinds that will end up in a customer’s car, purse, or their kid’s backpack — never in the junk drawer.


Air (Conditioning) Dancers

You know those “air dancers” they put outside stores having super sales — the inflatable tube men with waving arms? Repurpose that idea for air conditioning, and you’ll come up with something like this inflatable bit of genius that was forwarded to me by California Blimps.

Inflatable air conditioners.

One of my neighbors puts out a giant inflatable Grinch on their lawn every December, but these clever inflatable air conditioners might attract even more eyes because they’re so novel.

The clever contractor who ordered these 10-by-10-foot prototypes knew how to catch people’s attention. Whether you bring them to a home show, a community event you sponsor, or a hiring fair, no one is going to walk past them without knowing you do air conditioning work. (Bonus points if they blow cool air and you’re outdoors on a 90-degree day!)

If your shop has a decent-sized curb lawn or parking lot, you could line them up there to draw attention from passers-by. It might be worth asking your local hardware store if they’d let you display them out front; in a time where money is tight for mom-and-pop businesses, offering to pay a small fee might entice a partnership — and get more eyes on your businesses from customers who are already thinking about fixing things around the house. You could use one to decorate your own house, like those Christmas decorations people put up on their lawns … or even offer a discount to customers if you could put one in their yard the day you were fixing their system. The possibilities are endless.

Of course, you’ll want to check first to make sure you aren’t running afoul of your local sign ordinance. The good news is, many cities are relaxing sign ordinances to help businesses through the pandemic, so even if inflatables aren’t typically allowed, there’s a decent chance they might get the OK now.