We in the trade press go to numerous manufacturer press conferences in the course of a year. Most are held in hotel conference rooms and include a PowerPoint presentation from several key persons in the company. After a few questions and answers, we pick up a media kit and are on our way, usually in less than an hour.

Every once in a while a press function comes along that redefines the way manufacturers relate to the media.

Ridgid Tools held such an event just prior to the National Hardware Show in Chicago this past summer. Its purpose was to unveil a major line of equipment (coverage of which appears in the sidebar below).

A breakfast preceded the presentation. But rather than taking place at a generic hotel, it was held at the House of Blues Hotel/Concert complex on the city’s Near North Side.

The actual product presentation took place at a location several miles north. But rather than board a generic bus and take a straight route through a nondescript section of the city, this trip was on one of the open-air trolley buses so popular among tourists. The route criss-crossed scenic highpoints of Chicago’s North Side, including the most upscale part of Michigan Avenue, the even more upscale Gold Coast, tourist-friendly Old Town, and eventually the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Hands-on demonstrations were included at the press event.
The presentation site was a steel mill dating back to the 1800s. A portion is still used for forging steel, but another section had actually been set aside for functions such as that offered by Ridgid. The trade press mounted the stairs of an old warehouse building and on the second floor found a room filled with audio-visual equipment, complete with flashing lights and the company logo beaming from rotating light towers. The presentations included a razzle-dazzle video opening, videotaped comments from company employees involved in the development speaking from sites where the research was conducted, and in-person officials offering their own comments and answering questions.

A lunch followed the formal unveiling of the new products. It was held on the roof of the building, affording a view of the Chicago skyline and featuring such items as certain brands of hot dogs and cheesecake, fare most tourists consider uniquely Chicago.

One reason for a factory as the press-briefing locale was to allow hands-on demonstrations of the various saws, drills, and sanders being shown. Generic hotels may not have been as open to dust flying and wood splitting.

The luncheon on the roof of the warehouse afforded a view of the city and food fare that tourists consider uniquely Chicago.
Even though it was an industrial sector, the site was only a few blocks from trendy Lincoln Park. The few of us who chose not to wait for the trolley back downtown were able to take a short walk to an elevated train stop in Lincoln Park and find our way back to the original meeting point within a few minutes.

The Ridgid event may have been an extreme version of promotion, but it does say something to all of us in the industry.

Whether we are manufacturers, wholesalers, or contractors, we all want to wave our banners high and tell customers and potential customers what we have to offer.

It just may be that a bit of the old razzle-dazzle is one way to do that. It need not be as elaborate as the Ridgid doings, but those planning to promote may want to consider thinking a bit creatively and even daringly.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or peterpowell@achrnews.com.

Sidebar: Ridgid Rolls Out Range Of Tools

CHICAGO — Ridgid Inc. has rolled out an extensive line of power tools, including several with possible applications for HVACR service contractors and technicians. The products made their debut at a press briefing during the National Hardware Show.

“We’ve heard professionals’ resounding demand for powerful, heavy-duty tools with the features to help them perform work more quickly, accurately, and easily,” said Jeff Drake, spokesperson for the brand.

The X2 Series of 1/2-inch cordless drills has 12-, 14.4-, and 18-V models. The drills are equipped with a two-speed transmission “that produces enough torque to even make drilling stubborn lag bolts into wet timber an achievable task.” Maximum torque ranges from 365 inch-pounds for the 12-V to 485 inch-pounds for the 18-V models. They come with two Max HC™ high-capacity battery packs and a Rapid Max Twin™ charger. The charger is said to be capable of charging two packs at the same time in 30 minutes.

A new series of 3/8-inch cordless drills come in 12-, 14.4-, and 18-V models with two NiCad battery packs and a Rapid Max Charger™ that recharges a battery in 20 minutes.

Torques range from 350 to 460 inch-pounds. To accommodate the high torque, the manufacturer has equipped the 14.4- and 18-V models with a 360-degree auxiliary handle. There is also a single-sleeve locking chuck for holding bits securely and making one-handle bit changes.

Cordless Combo Kits offer a core set of 18-V tools from the X2 line, including a center handle hammer drill, circular saw and light, as well as two high-capacity batteries and dual-port charger. The kits come in a water-resistant canvas bag with a rubberized base.

The X2 18-V cordless 1/2-inch rear handle hammer drill is equipped with a two-speed transmission and a high-speed gearbox. A 24-position clutch allows the regulation of high torque output.

A 1/2-inch VSR hammer/pulse drill has electronics with two dials that control the torque and speed of the drill. “This allows the drill to monitor the needed torque and adjust accordingly,” according to officials. “When it senses the need for slow, high-torque drilling, it switches into pulse mode.”

The 1/2-inch two-speed VSR drill has auto-stop brushes. The brushes halt the drill’s operation when the brushes are worn before they can damage the motor, the company said.

Ridgid is part of Emerson Professional Tools, a business of St. Louis-based Emerson.

For more information, visit www.ridgid.com.

Publication date: 10/06/2003