Double-Brand Risk Pays Off

Kriegers’ Professional Plumbing began in 1961 as current ownerFreddy Krieger’s father’s business (Melvin Krieger Plumbing). Since then, the company has enjoyed years of successful operation and brand recognition in southwest Michigan.

So when the company began thinking of wrapping its drain-cleaning service vehicle with an eye-catching design, it was taking a risk of “double-branding” - and possibly losing ground with customers as its new “Drain Gator” services fall under the umbrella of Kriegers’ plumbing repair services.

But since rolling out the new truck with its unmistakable animal magnetism, Krieger’s fears have diminished. “I’m delighted that people have come to know my company as Kriegers’ Professional Plumbing, home of The Drain Gator.”

The moniker was something that came to Krieger while out on a service call.

“I was thinking, what kind of animal could be shoved down a pipe to clear out roots and debris?” he says. As the grinding, guttural sound of root-cutting machines ran in the background, the somewhat onomatopoetic name “Drain Gator” popped into his head. Since there was no trademarked brand of that name on the national market at the time, Krieger started to use it, beginning with one truck.

The Drain Gator vehicle is a Supreme box on an ’04 Chevrolet chassis, which was a prototype vehicle to test the market in Krieger’s area. A local professional did the photography. “I gave a customer a free sewer rodding job in order to provide the background with his stack and cleanout,” Krieger says. The wrap was designed and produced by Sign Zoo out of Florida, while a local sign agency installed it.

Krieger’s plumbing business is limited to repair and replacement only, no new construction (“No sense having my sales volume depend on being the lowest bidder every time!”). The drain cleaning side includes solving main sewer line clogs and obstructions, as well as fixture branch line clearing.

The company boasts a laundry list of drain clearing tools and equipment to complete almost any job in the field. The Drain Gator service vehicle carries all the sewer rodding machines, including a Spartan 300 & 100; a Ridgid tripod model; a General pistol-grip model for lavatory and tub/shower drains; and a Ridgid SeeSnake camera/locator unit.

For larger exterior lines, the company can pull from the shop a walk-behind Electric Eel model. Krieger’s homemade 3/8-inch unit, constructed out of old water heater housing and a motor, carries 100 feet of cable and is handy for very long lines.

The vehicle is also a fully stocked plumbing service van, so that any plumbing add-on sales can be made on the spot.

Krieger suggests that when plumbers are designing their trucks, they should be concerned not only with what they want it to do from a functional standpoint, but from a marketing standpoint as well. “A rolling billboard, well-thought out and professionally designed, is more than worth the investment,” Krieger says.

And the effect it makes is multiplied in the minds of potential customers.

“A favorite question I ask when people comment on our trucks is, ‘How many trucks do you think I have?’ Most respond, ‘Four or six.’ But we’re a two-service-truck company, so I know there’s an effect working out there beyond what I originally intended.”