Ace: The Helpful Small Job Place

Discussion
Apr 06, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

People who spend their weekends working on large home improvement projects,
such as building an extension, have plenty of places to go for their supplies.
Ace Hardware won’t turn that business down, but it wants consumers to think
of it as the convenient place to go for any advice and products they need to
complete smaller jobs around the house.

The chain is launching a new ad campaign this week intended to put it in
a different light than big box competitors such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards.
The campaign’s tagline is clear about the Ace difference: "Get in. Get help.
Get on with your life." 

"This is part of our re-education of the consumer that we’re not
a home improvement store," John Surane, VP, marketing for Ace, told Brandweek. "Our
core is about helpfulness and convenience."

Ace has plenty of independent corroboration for its customer service claims.
J.D. Power and Associates has ranked it "Highest in Customer Satisfaction" among
home improvement stores for three years running. Corporate Research International
(CRI) has ranked Ace first in the home improvement retail category for 13 straight
quarters based on its "Real People Ratings" consumer opinion survey.

James
Bell, senior partner for Lippincott, believes Ace is on mark with its new ads. "If
we think of why the economy is where it is and my home isn’t
worth what it was, why should I take on these massive home improvement projects?" he
told Brandweek. "[Ace’s message] jibes nicely with the times,
suggesting a balanced approach to life where you value time over money since
nobody has much money right now, anyway."

Discussion Questions: Will
Ace’s new ad campaign position it to grab share of supplies for small jobs
from its big box competitors? How much do you think store location factors
in the decision of where consumers shop for home improvement projects?

[Editor’s note] The Ace campaign will make use of television, radio, and
social media. The Brandweek article provided a few samples of spots
including one where an overweight homeowner pledges, "This spring, I
will not plan a yard project where I have to rent a bulldozer."

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17 Comments on "Ace: The Helpful Small Job Place"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

It’ll probably work, if they deliver on the service and their prices are competitive enough. In the big box stores, it’s getting harder to find workers, and they often have a trail of people following them around the store, waiting to be “next.” I’ve had both good and mediocre experiences with Ace, but always better than the big boxes. In this economy, and with people starved for both time and money, this should resonate.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

There are two questions here. Is there a positioning opportunity for ACE? If so, is their campaign effective? I didn’t see evidence regarding either.

Logic and home ownership experience suggests the positioning has legs. Effective advertising requires the age old characteristics of Attention, Involvement and Persuasion.

Just because you think you have the right message doesn’t guarantee the target will see it, “get it” and be influenced. And nowadays it’s all about the media. What is the best way to reach the audience for ACE?

For the prosperity of ACE, I trust these questions will be answered thoroughly…but not here.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I really like this campaign for a few reasons. First, it attempts to separate them from the big box pack. Second, it recognizes that most jobs done around the house are in fact small jobs, not the big mammoth projects. And the third point speaks to the fact that ‘we’ baby boomers are getting old and tired and really don’t want to trek around 120,000 sq feet looking for a screwdriver and a light bulb. Bring on the neighborhood hardware store that’s convenient, smaller, friendly and knowledgeable.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 1 month ago
As a consumer and home owner, I have found myself traveling to Ace far more than Lowe’s or Home Depot in the last 18 months. Today’s RetailWire topic made me think about why that was. 1) Economy – With tough economic times, my wife and I have taken on smaller projects and avoided any big remodeling. Perfect for Ace. 2) Gas prices – Ace is 7 miles away. Home Depot and Lowe’s are 15 miles away. With the cost of fuel last summer, I was more inclined to drive to Ace (next to the grocery store) than the home improvement centers. 3) Convenience – Again 7 miles vs 15 miles. Also the Ace store is close to the grocery store, our favorite pastry shop, Starbucks, dry cleaners and our church. John Surane is on the right track. Small stores with excellent customer service, fair prices and a good assortment of home improvement items for smaller projects will help Ace build market share in 2010 and 2011. They also have an excellent rewards program that is… Read more »
Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I don’t think they have a ton of choice. This message represents what they really and truly are. Is there a future in this business? Sure, at the right size and in the right locations. We use Ace all the time in our town, because it is 20 minutes closer and a lot less hassle than The Home Depot.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
11 years 1 month ago

I agree with Joan – just because you might have the right message (and I think Ace does in this case), doesn’t mean that your target audience will get it. There is an Ace not far from me, but the last time I was in it, it was a warren of over-stocked shelves that made me feel claustrophobic. And it smelled like weed-whacker oil. If the new ads show clean stores, bright aisles, and easy to find stuff along with those helpful employees, that might be enough to lure someone like me back in. But if the focus is on ‘cute’ ads with homeowners standing in front of their houses, then, at least for one portion of the population, they may miss the mark.

The differentiation is right. I’m not saying my experience represents the majority, but the reason why people don’t go in to the stores in the first place may be more than just a differentiation issue.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Nice angle and one that will differentiate Ace in the home improvement space. When I think of Home Depot or Lowe’s, I think “big project” and Ace has a real opportunity to turn a “nah” to a “why not?” by encouraging customers to bite off on smaller projects.

I’m also intrigued by future possibilities based on the announcement in February that Ace will be carrying Craftsman tools in 100 stores. Sears is now officially a licensor. Will they leave it at that or begin tying in other Sears services and platforms post-rollout?

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 1 month ago

Right opportunity, right message, but as all have underscored, can they deliver? Many shoppers are frustrated by the store size of DIY big boxes. The stores have addressed some of these issues with better signage and more staff on the floor, but it is still daunting and time consuming. Organize the shelf sets and deliver great customer assistance, and ACE can rule the smaller space. Otherwise, it’s a long hard road ahead.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Ace doesn’t have much choice and the current ad campaign is a natural to highlight the positioning that I believe they already occupy. More than anything, it is a reminder campaign to let consumers know “it’s easier to get in and out here and we’ll give you better service than the big box”.

In my local experience, Ace is delivering. Akin to “Hardware Stores for Dummies,” I can walk into my neighborhood store, expect to be greeted promptly by a store associate, and have my questions answered right away.

Ace must invest in training as it seems their associates understand that patience in delivering mundane requests equates to customer satisfaction. Rather than chasing orange aprons down the isle, yelling “excuse me,” I enjoy the experience at Ace which is more personable and efficient.

They are on the right track and could probably spruce up their rewards program along the way.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 1 month ago

Up here in Canada, we have a similar chain called Home Hardware. Their motto is “Home Owners Helping Home Owners” and it seems to be working for them. It’s a franchise situation where the owners most likely live within the selling area. One thing to note is that the owner usually works key hours in his or her store so customers have unfettered access to the big kahuna.

I think DIY’ers are looking for that kind of interaction and relationship. For years, Home Depot billed itself as the place for DIY’ers but they lost that for reputation for a while. Now, customers are turning to their local hardware merchants for advice. Home Hardware has seen growth in their business by offering friendly do-it-yourself advice and also unique products that you won’t find at big box.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

The messaging is consistent with the void left by the home centers. Time is currency too; particularly as summer nears.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

It is a good campaign, but it will not make much difference. Ace needs to focus on delivering product values along with their assistance. The key here is to provide a valuable learning experience that the DIY can apply to their project, along with a product value which is purchased in the store. This will increase the value of the product, and incent more return customers. Without this, Ace becomes a location for information….sometimes.

Home Depot, Lowe’s and the other competitors in this market also provide information and assistance for the DIY, but they tie this together with a broad selection of product and value.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I think this will “work” if by work you mean it will reinforce a perception that is already out there. Most people, I would imagine, can already grasp that the local hardware store is closer – hence the “local” part of it – and it’s infinitely more pleasant (since you stand less chance of being whacked by a cart of 2×4’s being wheeled around by some amateur). They just need to be reminded. And I think they know their niche well in concentrating on “small jobs.” Advice-giving stores will always be haunted by the free-ridership problem, but it’s obviously less important when the cost difference is only $2.49 rather than $2,490.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 1 month ago

I don’t know if their message “jibes nicely with the times,” as was stated, but a message of convenience is certainly consistent with their competitive differentiation from HD and Lowe’s. Even with the economic changes that have taken place, I think convenience still resonates with most customers.

The question remains, however: In this category, what are customers willing to spend their money on? If they are prepared to resume taking on larger projects again, Ace’s message may leave a fair amount of business behind.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 1 month ago

I’ve got a Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware within five minutes of my home. I use each for specific purposes. Today I had to buy a padlock – Ace it is. Plus, I always hope to run into Suzanne Somers (“Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man”). Also, more and more I find that items I buy online are from Ace and qualify for free shipping if they’re delivered to my Ace store. No brainer, and I always buy something extra when I pick up my order. The people are very helpful, and it’s important to remember that many Ace stores are franchises. You may be talking to the owner or a member of their family. I hope the ad campaign is successful.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

While I don’t think they should abandon the big job capability, promoting the easy access to tools, supplies and helpful advice is a good platform for visibility. Their usually convenient locations, long-time employees, local and experienced staff, etc., can go a long way in rekindling the customers’ confidence in the stores, making them ready for the ‘big’ jobs.

Richard Beal
Guest
Richard Beal
11 years 1 month ago
As a retired Ace Hardware Store Owner, Ace Corporate Advertising faces an uphill battle. Ace is a hardware co-op composed of entirely independent store owners. First, Ace Corporate Management are basically inbred hardware co-op types with little to no actual retail experience and/or appreciation for what it takes at the store level to compete at retail. Nor have they ever shown an appreciation of what it takes to drive footsteps into a store. Second, history tells us their advertising programs have been very weak attempts, too little, too short to make an significant impact since the days of the jingle, “Ace is the place of the helpful ……” — a function of their advertising being vendor funded and primarily a corporate profit center. Third, there are two other major hardware co-ops, True Value and Do It Best. Many retail customers genuinely do not know the difference. We store owners often compare notes and find many customers come into a TV or DIB Store asking, “Are you an Ace Hardware?” and vice-versa. Ace Corporate has no… Read more »
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