What do extra-chunky tomato sauce and our 35-year history in the tracer wire industry have in common?
The answer sounds like it would be nothing, but the truth is there are a lot of similarities when it comes to the two products’ origin stories.
Both products had to prove their usefulness to audiences accustomed to using something else. But what former Kris-Tech President and CEO Jon Brodock and Howard Moskowitz, the man behind Intermarket Variability, have in common is a knack for understanding needs and utility.
It also helps that both men came armed with data.
When Moskowitz, a marketing pioneer, was asked by Campbell’s Soup to find the perfect tomato sauce for its Prego line, he started collecting as much data as possible.
After creating 45 different sauces, Moskowitz gathered input from thousands of people over several months, giving him a massive amount of data to work with. Using that information, he found popular elements from each sauce, then broke down his findings into three categories: traditional, spicy, and extra-chunky.
Opportunity struck; extra-chunky tomato sauce wasn’t on the market.
Moskowitz’s data showed roughly 1/3 of Americans wanted an extra-chunky version of Prego, opening the door for Campbell’s to become an industry leader. Over the next decade, Campbell’s made bank, earning nearly $600 million off its extra-chunky sauce.
Kris-Tech Wire took a similar, but less tasty, approach to its product marketing.
“Gas, electric, and water utilities gave little thought to tracer wire 35 years ago,” Brodock explained. “It served a simple purpose, buried above a pipe and traceable by walking a metal detector across the yard or business – there wasn’t much else to it.
THHN was the most popular wire used because of its availability. Unfortunately, it’s an above-ground building wire made with a .015” PVC coating and a shiny .005” nylon jacket. The total ‘protection’ is .020” – not very thick. It’s designed for homes, industrial buildings, and general electrical wiring applications.”
THHN might have been easy to find and cost-effective, but it had several drawbacks that made it more of a hindrance than a help. This is where Kris-Tech’s ingenuity helped Jon and the company find a firm footing in the water and gas industries.
“We were offering tracer wire with polyethylene coatings of .030”, .045”, .060” or more,” Brodock said. “On a local farm in Rome, NY, we buried 500 feet of #12 solid THHN and 500 feet of #12 solid copper wire with .045” HMWPE (polyethylene) insulation four feet underground.
One year later, we dug up part of our 500-foot samples and the THHN’s thin .005” nylon jacket had developed cracks and open blistering. Turns out nylon is hygroscopic, meaning it ABSORBS water! It’s exactly what you don’t want to happen underground. Kris-Tech’s polyethylene sample was fine since its most significant property besides toughness is its ability to repel water.”
Brodock had the evidence to support his claim. Now he needed buy-in from the industry.
“When Kris-Tech started showing up at gas and water association events, people told us it was the first time they had seen a company promoting tracer wire,” Brodock explained. “We started asking a simple question; “You’re digging a trench from the road to the house and sending gas or water through a polyethylene pipe, right? You expect the pipe to last 10, 15, 20, or more years. Why not have a tracer wire made with the same polyethylene, and will last just as long?”
Kris-Tech’s pitch, and the data backing it, made sense to decision-makers, including those working in corrosion departments. It also helped that the government was cracking down on utilities amid growing safety and integrity concerns during the 1980s and 1990s. Utilities were tasked with building better, longer lasting, and more resilient infrastructure, limiting the days of using old telephone wire or other leftovers for tracing.
“What we were doing was bringing attention to, in our industry parlance, ‘the last mile’ of the utility distribution system,” Brodock said. “You’ve spent all this time and money getting your product to your customer, and the last 125 feet mostly through a polyethylene pipe – finish it off with a PE tracer wire.”
The pitch stuck, and since then Kris-Tech has built out an entire suite of tracer wire products designed for nearly every application, ranging from PE copper and Copper Clad Steel (CCS) tracer wire to stainless steel and pipe bursting wire. It has even branched out into offering accessories as part of its Total Tracer Wire Solution, including next-generation ground rods, connectors, testing stations, tape, and other items.
At a time when companies and utilities were used to making do with whatever wire was lying around or cutting corners to finish projects, Kris-Tech leaned on data to offer a better solution.
Like how Moskowitz asked consumers what they wanted in their sauce, Brodock and his team asked gas and water workers crucial questions. Once they had answers, they designed a purpose-built product that solved the problem simply and elegantly.
We’ve been an industry leader in the tracer wire industry for nearly 40 years because of our commitment to detail and getting it right. We took the time to understand what utility providers and businesses need and created an environment that makes it easy to ask questions, develop customer relationships, and succeed together. It’s what makes us an industry leader and one of the companies people reach out to most.
Sure, we’re not making tomato sauce, but we ARE helping utilities across the U.S. and globally “build a better mouse trap.” That’s as good as the best Sunday sauce, don’t you think?
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