Memphis Home Improvement celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, but when general manager Joe Pipkin sat down to think about it, he realized that almost nobody outside the company knew or cared.

Memphis Home Improvement, which does roofing, siding, windows, and kitchens, was indistinguishable from other operations offering similar services.

Pipkin decided to take a new tack. “I'm a big proponent of branding,” he says. So earlier this year, he began running a 15-second spot — name, logo, a few blurbs indicating the company's products and services, and a phone number — at three Memphis area cinemas. The ads are shown on screen twice just before the feature film starts to roll. “I don't get many calls from the Yellow Pages at all,” Pipkin says. “And most of them aren't quality leads. These” — the cinema ads — “are powerful because they're subliminal.”

They are also affordable. One sold roof paid for the cost of running the ads for a month.

NEXT BIG STEP Working with The Barking Dog advertising agency, Pipkin elected to launch a billboard campaign. The billboards, placed in two midtown Memphis locations where they're aimed to attract the attention of not just thousands of motorists but of owners of older and more expensive homes located nearby, say simply: “Roof Dude” and include images of Pipkin, his field supervisor, and some completed roofs. They went up in August.

“If you run a little ad in a local shopper,” says John Doyle of The Barking Dog, “well, nine months from now, if a tree comes down on their roof, those homeowners aren't going to have that ad to reference. Instead, they're going to say: ‘What about the Roof Dude on that billboard?'”

Doyle says most home improvement companies' ad messages are similar, and a company seeking to really make itself memorable must cut through the clutter.

The cost of all this? Roughly $10,000 to mount two billboards for a two-month period, which includes producing the artwork and the vinyl wrap for the billboard as well as renting the spaces.

TIE IT ALL TOGETHER Unusual promotional methods pulled together to cross-reference one another can be especially effective in building top-of-mind awareness. Right now Pipkin and the agency he uses aim to tie in the pre-movie spots with the billboard campaign and door hangers. They hope to establish the company as the one to call if you need a new roof … or window, or kitchen — and to boost sales from 20 to 25 roofs a month to 10 or 12 every week. “You have to make an investment to get your name out there,” Pipkin says. “Most people in business are not willing to put out the sweat equity to make that happen.”