Last fall, Dale Brenke (Big50 2004) ran a series of television advertisements featuring his company's employees. The series of five commercials showed different employees — a production manager, a salesperson, and installers — at work. In the commercials, each employee looks at the camera and states their name and the year they started working at Schmidt Siding & Window. Brenke, the president of the Mankato, Minn., company says his competitors have similar siding, window, and gutter products, so to set Schmidt apart in the public's mind, he chose to focus on the quality installation done by his long-term employees. In fact, 5 out of Schmidt's 60 employees have been with the company for 30 years or more.

The idea to make the commercials came directly from a promotional video the company has been producing for 10 years. Brenke sends the video in a packet to all leads. He hired a talented producer to direct and shoot the video promoting his company, and he updates the video every few years.

For the commercials, the producer cut five 30-second spots featuring employees who appear in segments of the video. Brenke then ran the ads on a local television station from October through December of 2004. He rotated these ads with a separate ad highlighting charity work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


Brenke says 65% of his company's work comes from the three R's: 31% from repeat customers, 15% from referrals, and 19% from reputation. “We're raising brand awareness by targeting that 19% from reputation with these TV ads,” he says. It has worked. The ads were such a hit, people called the company just to say how much they liked them.

Brenke says his company's ads are more creative than other commercials that run on the channel because he hired an independent video maker to film them. “They don't look mass-produced,” he says. Although running the ads came with a hefty $20,000 price tag, Brenke says they worked to raise the company's profile. He has asked the video producer to create more 30-second spots featuring his employees, and he plans to run them on the same channel. “This year, I signed a $60,000 contract with the station to run them all year long,” he says.