Earning Its Stripes

In the jungle, the mighty suburban jungle, a tiger prowls the neighborhood - and the customers can't stop staring.

To say that Ross Kozora's Tiger Plumbing service vehicle turns heads is an understatement. The 2004 10-ft. Chevy cube truck comes complete with bright orange paint and black tiger stripes, and features the company mascot, Tappit.

“We had no idea the response from the community would be this great,” says Kozora, whose tiger truck and mascot participated in more than 12 parades, home shows and community events last year. “It's definitely not your average, everyday service truck.”

While Kozora has owned and operated his plumbing business for more than two decades as IWZ Plumbing (short for “I Was Zimmerman,” the previous owner's name since 1947), the Tiger Plumbing name is in its “cub” phase. At a recent Plumbers' Success International summit meeting, the topic of branding and top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) was addressed. Rule No. 1 of TOMA: Don't use initials as a company name; too hard to remember.

“Here I was sitting with 'IWZ' Plumbing,” Kozora remembers. “I knew we had to make a change, but it would be hard; the whole 'teaching-an-old-dog-new-tricks' thing.”

It got a lot easier when daughter Kimberly Turner joined the team as its marketing genius. A trip to Disney World's Animal Kingdom was all it took.

“She called me from her cell phone and said, 'Dad, I'm riding in a truck that's painted like a tiger. We need to do this,'” he laughs. “And I trusted her, so we did it.”

PSI agreed it was a fabulous idea, and suggested they market themselves to women and children. In 2003 the company name and logo was changed. Around the same time, the company downsized, removing itself from the new construction market to concentrate on all the new business it received in residential plumbing service. Kozora, his wife Kathy and two other technicians serve two counties in northwest Indiana.

The tiger truck is painted locally through a two-stage process. First the orange color is applied. Then a few weeks later the black stripes are added.

“Sure it costs more. We've done more than just put on vinyl lettering or magnetic signage,” Kozora says. But the results more than make up for the money spent for Tiger's moving billboard. “We got our money back in the first few weeks the truck hit the road.”

Soon another tiger truck will be added to the fleet. Kozora recently purchased a 2005 Chevy cube, which offers an additional 4 ft. of cargo space.

“It's hard to say good-bye to that gleaming white just yet,” he says. But he will - there's no turning back now.