Once there was a person named Milky the Clown, then along came Ronald McDonald, and now Moonman. Huh? What’s that you say? I said Moonman. The people around Elkton, Maryland know exactly what I’m talking about – but probably not so much for the people of southeast Michigan.
So let me introduce you to the Moonman, a memorable character that is the face of Moon Air Inc., a heating & cooling contractor in this Maryland community. Why should Moonman be important to Michiganders? Probably because he represents a brand image that people can identify with, just like the pint-sized Caesar character of Detoit-based Little Caesars Pizza. When you see it, you automatically think of “Pizza-Pizza” – the popular two-for-one promotion. Brand identity goes a long way to brand loyalty. And that is what the Moonman is all about.
So where did the idea for this Moon Air persona begin? “Actually the Moonman started in my father’s company back in the 60’s,” said owner Steve Moon. “He was a short, mean little guy. When I opened my company I used him more to keep the old man alive. I immediately made him friendlier and he has developed ever since. He has been the largest thing on my trucks since day one.”
The Moonman, like many other familiar brand images, has provided a competitive edge for Moon Air. “It has helped us set ourselves apart from the competition,” Moon said. “In the early days one of my competitors was so mad about our standing out that he went to the local municipality council meeting and requested that I remove Moonman from my trucks because he was distracting to drivers and causing accidents. I told them to sue me and walked out of the meeting. I never heard from them again.”
Undeterred, the Moonman and his image has continued to be a big part of the community. He always has a full schedule, according to Moon. “We start at birthday parties that Moonman attends for free,” Moon said. “He attends anywhere he is invited. We built him a rocket for parades and he has a convertible to ride in. He even has a pink truck he promotes. When the pink truck arrives at a random heating or cooling service call, 10% of profits from that call go to cancer research. Moonman also gives out water bottles to kids sports teams, too.”
Moon said his company tries to measure the success of each promotion but that can be a little tricky. “We look at each event and track responses carefully,” he said. “This is pretty hard because we have calls coming in years later. We received a call from a person who had a birthday party – 12 years after the party because the Moonman was there.”
With such a clever image, Steve Moon has had to have some marketing in his blood, right? Wrong. “I have no previous advertising experience,” he said. “I have always just tried to notice what others are doing, that is worthwhile, and have incorporated it into my company. I have had friends give me advice over the years but no professional advisors.”
Not only has the Moonman taken on its own brand image among a loyal customer base, it has helped in recruiting employees, too. “I have two people on my staff that told me they grew up with the Moonman and always wanted to work here,” Moon added.
So what can small businesses in southeast Michigan learn from this alien from Maryland? That all it takes is a little imagination, a good brand image, and a lot of creative marketing. If you’d like some good hints visit www.moonairinc.com.