[Company Profile] MODERNizing its Message

Features - Business Strategy

Modern Pest Services is undergoing a multi-staged rebranding campaign to position the company for future growth.

October 23, 2013
Brad Harbison

As a company with a history dating back to 1945, Modern Pest Services has reinvented itself many times. The most recent and significant change at the Brunswick, Maine-based company is a multi-staged rebranding campaign currently being rolled out.

While such campaigns require a major investment of time, resources and money — and any company that undergoes such a campaign is effectively forcing change — Modern Pest Services Partner and COO Scott Stevenson recognized the company needed a new strategy to continue growing in the competitive and dynamic New England market.

“We continue to be focused on business growth, particularly in Massachusetts, and we needed a marketing partner to help us increase our residential market share,” Stevenson said. “With help from [advertising agency] KHJ Brand Activation, we now have a better understanding of our target audience and how to reach them. There’s more work to do, but we’ve laid the foundation with a new logo, new messaging and some new media strategies.”

Full Steam Ahead. To better understand why Modern decided to undergo a rebranding campaign, it’s important to look at the company’s past, present and future. Modern Pest Services was founded in 1945 by Howard Stevenson, who led the company for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1973, and handing over the reins to son Richard Stevenson. Richard, Sr., also had a 30-plus year run as CEO, before gradually transitioning the company to sons Scott, Douglas and Richard, Jr.

The current Modern leadership has aggressively grown the company, with yearly revenues in excess of $14.9 million. Several factors have contributed to the company’s growth. In recent years Modern has added bed bug services — which includes both electric and propane heat and canine inspection; picked up Copesan business following the Waltham Services acquisition by Rollins (in 2007); expanded its full-time commercial sales staff and senior management team; consolidated its inbound sales team under one room from the company’s individual service centers; and crafted a new Mission Statement: To be the most highly recommended pest management professionals in the nation.

While Modern continues to evolve it is very much a company that sticks to its guiding principles:

  • To attract and retain the best team members
  • To champion a culture of fairness, trust and accountability
  • To treat everyone with dignity and respect
  • To communicate openly and effectively
  • To inspire a passion for excellence
  • To innovate and continuously improve

    Unlocking a Market’s Potential.
    With the aforementioned recent successes, Modern believes it is well-positioned to achieve its Vision, which is “to be the largest pest management firm in New England, in the Northeast, and eventually in the nation.” Fulfilling the first part of this Vision (becoming No. 1 in New England) is Modern’s current focus and is the driver behind the company’s new rebranding campaign.

Modern currently has service centers in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In evaluating these markets, Modern believed its greatest growth opportunity was eastern Massachusetts (Boston area), where the company has a strong commercial presence but its residential presence needed to become more defined. For that reason, the company recently opened a new service center in Newton, Mass.

About Modern Pest Services

Headquarters: Brunswick, Maine

Yearly revenues: $14.9 million

Year founded: 1945

Key members: Scott Stevenson, president/COO; Richard Stevenson, Jr., partner/CTO; Douglas Stevenson, partner/CFO; Tim Hagelin, operations manager; Keith Hinds, HR manager; Mike Peaslee, technical manager; Magda Darling, QA manager; Katie Gagnon, administrative manager; Andrew Medlen, contact center manager; Rich Gouette, IT manager; and Jack Wholey, sales manager.

History: Modern Pest Services was founded in 1945 by Howard Stevenson who led the company until 1973. He then handed the reins over to son Richard, who has transitioned the business over to his three sons, who serve as executive officers. The company is a leading residential and commercial pest control services provider in New England, with six service centers located throughout Maine, Massachusetts and New Hamphire.

Modern’s executive and senior management team, including Marketing Manager Elaine Gammon, decided it was time for a rebranding campaign to be directed by an advertising agency. “Though partnering with an outside agency comes with a cost, we view our partnership with KHJ as a wise marketing investment and hope to reap the benefits of our new branding and advertising initiatives for years to come,” Gammon said.

After researching and interviewing several agencies Modern chose KHJ because “they not only provide a high level of strategy and branding capabilities, but they also offer expertise in customer profiling, messaging, creative development, media placement and financial analysis,” Gammon said. “Also, we wanted to work with an agency that was located in the area we wanted to target and grow. The team at KHJ is located in Boston and has a good pulse on the opportunities in that area and surrounding neighborhoods.”

What was Learned. An important KHJ involvement was the use of external focus groups. One of the focus groups’ main objectives was to “dig deeper” into the Massachusetts market. Why were customers in Massachusetts different from customers in Maine and New Hampshire? KHJ conducted qualitative research to gain a better understanding of this audience and also learn about their perceptions of Modern Pest Services. Some of their findings included

Customer profile — KHJ’s research found that many Massachusetts homeowners are longtime residents who live in “neighborly” neighborhoods and take pride in their homes (many of which are older and have been refurbished).

Service provider expectations — The customer is looking for a trusted professional that has credibility and can take care of a problem immediately. This credibility can come in the form of a referral from a friend, Angies’ list, another professional (e.g.., a contractor), or any local network.

How they find service providers — In most cases, customers decided to start looking for a service professional once they had a problem, but the emotions expressed behind the immediate need included feeling dirty or that they can’t keep their house clean. Oftentimes, the next step was to ask a few trusted friends for a recommendation, but people didn’t want to openly advertise their problems.

The Modern experience — KHJ also drafted up a report on what it called the “Modern Experience” — how existing Modern customers felt about their experience. A common theme emerged: knowledge leads to trust. The service professionals’ knowledge of pest management and their commitment to effectively communicate what, how and why to customers led to a trusting relationship, one that transcends both general distrust of the profession as well as an unwillingness on the part of these customers to feel “duped.”

Customers were impressed that Modern service professionals were knowledgeable about pests and how to control them. Actual focus group comments included:

“She was all business, and she would tell me about all of the bugs. You could tell she was knowledgeable.”

“The service man was very knowledgeable and courteous.”

Customers also appreciated the time their service professional took to show and explain what was going on; what he/she was going to do to take care of the situation; and what could be done to prevent it from happening again. Comments included:

“He explained everything that they were doing.”

“He explained why he put certain traps where.”

A Plan Emerges.
Using this market research and feedback, KHJ and Modern determined that its rebranding effort would focus on highlighting one of Modern’s greatest assets, its service professionals, and launched the “Heroes” campaign.

Out with the old….in with the new

As part of Modern’s rebranding campaign the company completely did away with its old logo (left). The old logo, while recognizable, had become outdated. In fact one of the comments from the KHJ focus group members was, “It looks like clip art.” The new logo (bottom) is a clean, professional and sophisticated design with a new color scheme. It is definitely a “modernized” version.

“The idea is a fresh, new approach to represent our service pros as heroes — highlighting their passion and commitment to getting the job done right and taking care of our client’s pest management needs,” said Gammon.

The vision brought to life was a series of ads featuring photos of Modern service professionals next to messages such as “We Don’t Kill Bugs We Escort Them to an Undisclosed Location.” and “If There’s Anything Worse Than a Termite, it’s a Termite That Feels Entitled.” The ads are appearing digitally (as landing pages and digital banners) and in print (as posters, print ads and marketing materials). Modern also has created a series of “Hero” radio spots.

Also included on the ads is the company’s newly designed logo. As Gammon noted, from a visual standpoint, the foundation of a successful brand starts with a strong identity, an icon that is recognizable, memorable and distinctive. KHJ’s creative director developed a new logo with input from some of the Modern team (see related story, above). The end result is a clean, professional logo that represents a bug with wings on each side. It also incorporates a slightly updated color scheme.

As explained by the creative director, the new logo is modern and sophisticated to capture Modern’s higher level of service. The beauty of the design is that it works on a number of different levels. The white space between the blue “wings” and red “body” forms the letter “M,” emphasizing the M in the company name. The blue wings also look like a cape, reflecting the new “heroes” positioning and the blue elements can also be seen as water droplets — a nice link to the company’s green approach. The logo is slowly being added to Modern’s vehicle fleet.

The new Modern branding campaign was rolled out this past spring, beginning with a “hyper local” launch in Newton, Mass., and surrounding areas, but Gammon says the company is gradually integrating it company-wide and will expand its reach next spring.

Gammon said Modern is consistently busy throughout the spring/summer, so this fall should provide the company with a better opportunity to gauge results of the new campaign. Gammon is optimistic the hard work on this collaborative effort will pay off, adding “With sophistication and a bit of fun, this campaign is designed to support the growth of our residential market in Massachusetts and help set us apart from the competition.”


The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine and can be contacted via email at bharbison@giemedia.com.