Wheeler On HVACR: The Ionic Breeze: Their Success, Our Failure
I'm sure that everyone has seen the ad on television - heck, you probably already have one in your home: “The Amazing Ionic Breeze.” You just plug it in and it instantly cleans the air in any room in your home... “and if you act now, we will also include the Ionic Breeze for your BATHROOM!”
Isn't it amazing? The millions of people who suffer from allergies have finally found something to clean the air of contaminants in their homes. And this little device - which costs about half of what a whole-house electronic air filter would cost installed, but only has about a quarter of the active surface area - has suddenly become extremely popular. Forget the fact that it has to be cleaned regularly to maintain its effectiveness, that it puts ozone into the air, and that it occasionally snaps, crackles, and pops; it is a great idea! Why didn't someone come up with it years ago?
Did anyone notice my tongue in cheek?
Do you see what a little marketing can do? Suddenly, a device that you and your dealers thought you could never sell because of the price, noise, odor, pollutants and cleaning has become a household necessity! WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH OUR INDUSTRY???
It had to be back in the 1970s or 1980s that a little HVACR contracting company in Cincinnati became very famous in our industry, because an entrepreneurial genius known as “Doc” Rusk showed us how to market - and make extra profits from - little add-ons to HVAC systems, such as electronic air filters, humidifiers and night setback thermostats. In fact, “Doc” may have been the best-known name in our business since Willis Carrier. Honeywell paid him to stump the country putting on seminars on how to make contractors more profitable. Several trade magazines ran his columns monthly. If you've been around the HVACR industry for a while, you've heard of him.
Then came the gimmicks and look-alikes. There were electronic air filters that didn't work and non-powered air filters that just didn't stand up against serious testing. But that didn't stop the claims and counterclaims that were made by those with vested interests that appeared in the trade magazines:
“Electronic air cleaners don't work when they're dirty.”
“Electronic air cleaners put out OZONE.”
“Electronic air cleaners snap, crackle and pop.”
On top of this, you have the basic sales incompetence and insecurities of the majority of HVAC contractors. Most are in a war for low bids (even when they are the only bidders) and everyone knows that offering anything extra will lose the job - and you sure wouldn't want to offer such things on new construction! Besides, contractors don't want to be responsible for anything other than the HVAC system. And they're worried about the price, noise, ozone and cleaning. No customer will go for that!
So the sales of such comfort and allergy items failed to make any significant headway in our business.
Then along comes the Ionic Breeze. It's pricey, it needs to be cleaned, it puts out ozone and it may pop occasionally, especially when it's dirty. However, consumers have bought millions of them. Of course, if you live in your whole house, you will need several of them to keep allergens out of the air; they take up extra space; and they may not be aesthetically pleasing. But people are buying them - and loving them - anyhow.
What was it that “Doc” Rusk used to say? He pointed out that contractors (and supply houses) could significantly add to their profits if they would simply offer their customers the opportunity to buy an electronic air cleaner (and/or humidifier and/or night setback thermostat) whenever an HVAC system is installed or replaced. No sales ability is required and there is no need to lose a job. All the contractor has to do is show the price of a basic HVAC replacement, and then the price of the add-ons, if the customer chooses them.
In fact, no sales pressure is needed when the value of the options is explained. How do I know? Look at the success of the Ionic Breeze. Its value vs. cost ratio is much lower when compared to a whole-house electronic air cleaner. So, someone else's marketing success has proven our industry's marketing failure. However, now they have courageously blazed the trail and done the marketing and advertising for us. So, can we pick up the pieces from here on in and sell our products also? Whole-house electronic air filters and humidifiers are certainly a better deal for our customers. Aren't they a better deal for us, too? I think so.