Stories of design across all media


Divide & Conquer is the Rain of the Game

Someone’s been following you. They’ve been sending you things in the mail and via FedEx – things that tell you they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about you and what you need. And they’re not taking “no” for an answer.

  • QR codes
  • video mailer
  • additional mailers
  • ringing card holders
  • water clocks

In the civilian world we call this “stalking”; in the  21st century marketing landscape it’s known simply as “good business.” And McDill Associates in Soquel, Calif. has stalking down to an art form.


The 80-year-old family owned company Rain for Rent does one thing and does it exceptionally well – it provides the equipment and engineering expertise necessary to temporarily move and handle vast amounts of liquid. Think the floodwaters in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – just one of the places Rain for Rent has been deployed.

Yet the company sells its services to a variety of different industries – oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, agriculture – the list goes on. And the people in each of those sectors have very specific requirements; they need to find what they’re looking for…fast.

In 2013 the company hired McDill Associates to transform its “liquid ingenuity” tagline into a trade marketing campaign – actually several campaigns, with each sector receiving information relevant to their particular situations. What they received was an education in cross-media strategy.


Divide: Target Each Sector
It’s one thing to organize multiple campaigns for multiple segments of an industry, it’s quite another to do so and still maintain a consistent brand identity throughout.

McDill Associates seized on the hard hat as their guiding symbol – a piece of equipment that nearly every potential Rain for Rent customer in the field would carry. (They would later learn that those working in agriculture favored ball caps to hard hats, but you can’t have everything.) This begat the tagline “Liquid ingenuity at the drop of a hat,” and a dramatic close-up of a gloved hand holding an aqua-blue hard hat, the “Rain for Rent” logo prominently displayed on the front.

This image was then used as the foreground on different printed materials, while the background was customized to show photos of their equipment being used in different industries.

To further tailor the message, each print piece contained a QR code that, when scanned, whisked the reader to the appropriate section of the Rain for Rent website customized to their specific needs. Scan the oil-and-gas print piece and you get sent to the oil-and-gas part of the site, which contains in-depth case stories featuring their products in action.

“They need to know that you know their business,” says Melissa McDill, president and creative director of the marketing firm.


Print, Meet Video
If the story stopped there we’d have a respectable but ordinary bit of marketing. It doesn’t.

McDill Associates convinced Rain for Rent to acquire a very targeted list of potential customers, and FedExed about 200 of them a very targeted mailer (above). On the cover, imagery from the recipient’s job sector and their first name, along with wording like this: “Handling liquids for one of the nation’s top 60 oil and gas companies…”

And on the inside? Frankly, who knows what it says because once you open the piece, a video inside begins to play. It’s only about 30 seconds long, but it’s a video case study of a Rain for Rent project in the recipient’s industry.

“The video is so crisp and clean,” says McDill. “And the screen is only maybe a quarter of an inch thick, so it’s a pretty impressive piece because you don’t expect it.”


Conquer: Don’t Let Up
The video mailer was clever but McDill Associates wasn’t done yet. A couple of days after the mailer was received, a Rain for Rent salesperson made a follow-up call to schedule an appointment. If that didn’t work? Another mailing: a business-card holder…that rings?

“And when you open it up, there’s a card that invites you to lunch,” says McDill. Reservations have already been made at a restaurant in the area.

And if that doesn’t work?

A blue phone handset in a box (above) with a customized sales card that says “We will be calling you.” The best bit: “You just plug it into any kind of cell phone and you can answer it and talk like you’re on an old-fashioned phone.”

To cap it off, they had a final leave behind – a clock that runs on water – “because timing is everything.”

While the company had a lot of fun with these items, they never deviated from their cross-media strategy – personalize every interaction and let the potential customer know their needs are appreciated and understood.

“We tried to make it so that they really couldn’t ignore us,” says McDill. “Because the biggest challenge is getting somebody to respond to the call.”

But of all the pieces they created for the campaign, the one that always gets mentioned is that video mailer, she admits.

“One of [Rain for Rent’s] clients finally stomped on it because he was in the middle of a very important meeting and he couldn’t get it to shut off. But they got the call back and they were able to create a conversation with it. And that is basically our job—to get a conversation started.”

Attention Grabbers Used:
Video mailers: 150
Headset mailers: 250
Ringing card holders: 500
Water clocks: 50

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Author: Aaron Berman

A former writer and editor for USA Today, Aaron Berman is also the editor of PaperSpecs, and covered the newspaper industry for the Newspaper Association of America’s monthly magazine, Presstime.

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