Although its engines enjoy a strong market position, in terms of overall brand awareness Briggs & Stratton can easily be taken for granted. “In our primary business, people don’t interact with the brand as frequently as we would like,” Kruger says, noting that most homeowners replace their lawn mowers every seven years. “We want people to interact with the brand more frequently and have a positive experience.”
For more than 15 years, Briggs & Stratton has sought opportunities to license its brand for use on product programs that expand its brand beyond the gasoline engine and power equipment and “into the broader spaces of the garage,” he adds.
After managing licensing internally for a few years, the company in 2004 began working closely with agency Lemur Licensing Inc. on ways to increase its touch points to consumers. “At that time, our goal was to bring in someone who had a high level of expertise in licensing, which would allow us to focus on our core business,” Kruger says. “We wanted to be more strategic when it came to licensing.”
Lemur Licensing, led by its company president John Merrick, helped Briggs & Stratton develop key product categories for licensing that are complementary to the main brand including engine oils, fuels and fuel cans and batteries. “Licensing has helped us improve the overall experience customers have with our products, such as fuels that help performance and startup of our engines,” Kruger says.
Notable licensees include Pinnacle Oil, which produces two-cycle and four-cycle engine oils; Exide Technologies, which manufactures batteries for use with riding lawnmower and tractor engines; VP Racing Fuels, which produces premium fuels for four-cycle and two-cycle engines; garden hose manufacturer Parker Hannifin; gas can manufacturer The Plastics Group; glove manufacturer Midwest Gloves; and First Gear, a diecast vehicle maker.
Retail channels for licensed products include big-box home improvement stores as well as mass merchants, hardware stores and farm and agricultural stores. Products are also available through Briggs & Stratton’s independent dealer network, Merrick notes.
The company’s newest licensee is Alton Manufacturing, a manufacturer of air compressors, air compressor tools, inflators and accessories. The air compressor and other Alton products recently became available in Sam’s Club and Costco stores across the United States.
Alton’s products reflect Briggs & Stratton’s philosophy of having licensed products be an extension of its own brand that improves its customers’ experience. “Our partners, like Alton, offer products that have innovative features and designs,” Kruger says, noting Alton’s quiet air compressor design as an example. “They may be a new licensee for us, but we see them playing a major role in advancing the Briggs & Stratton licensing business.”
The quiet air compressor complements the company’s own in-house efforts to reduce the noise produced by its engines while they are running. “That has been one aspect of our products that our consumers wish can be improved,” he adds. Briggs and Stratton’s Quiet Power Technology (QPT) engines are available on Craftsman push mowers sold at Sears. The engines reduce noise and vibration by up to 65 percent from a typical engine, the company notes.
Contributors to Success
Briggs & Stratton’s licensees also contribute positively to the company’s bottom line and reputation among consumers. “Three of our licensees – Plastics Group, Exide Technologies and Pinnacle Oil – sell about eight million units a year combined,” Merrick says. “Licensees not only give Briggs & Stratton a day-to-day touchpoint and a greater retail presence that it wouldn’t otherwise have.” Retailers and licensees, in return, also see greater profits.
Briggs & Stratton maintains its long-term relationships with licensees in a number of ways including semi-annual meetings where the company meets face-to-face with licensees about plans for year. “I think that the collaboration and trust we’ve built up over time with our long-term partners helps us succeed and separate ourselves in the marketplace,” he adds.
The company looks at each licensing relationship as a collaborative effort and works hard to be easy to do business with. “Briggs & Stratton looks at these products as if they were their own,” Merrick says. “They are truly about finding the best ways to market products that link well with Briggs & Stratton, sell well for the licensee and retailer, and meet the needs of the consumer.”
Lemur is working with JELC, a United Kingdom-based agency, to expand the licensing program into Europe. Those efforts will focus mainly on gas management programs, Merrick says.
‘Improving Customers’ Lives’
In addition to engines, Briggs & Stratton Corp. operates a number of other businesses including North America’s No. 1 marketer of pressure washers. The company is also a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of portable and standby generators, lawn and garden, turf care and jobsite products through its Simplicity®, Snapper®, Snapper Pro® Ferris®, Allmand™, Billy Goat®, Murray®, Branco® and Victa® brands. Briggs & Stratton products are designed, manufactured, marketed and serviced in more than 100 countries on six continents.
“Our overall mission is to make work easier and improve our customers’ lives, and I think our licensing strategy fits into that well,” Kruger says. In addition to its licensing program for the Briggs & Stratton brand, the company licenses products around its other brands. These programs are overseen by Rick Carpenter, vice president of corporate marketing, and a three-person team that includes Kruger as well as Marketing Managers Chris Kovac and Brian Kieffer.
Merrick established Lemur Licensing in 2003 after working in licensing and brand management roles at The Coca-Cola Company, Home Depot and Macy’s. In addition to Briggs & Stratton, the company has also provided trademark licensing consulting services to a diverse range of clients including the International Olympic Committee, AARP, Aflac, Newell Rubbermaid, Blue Rhino, the National 4-H Council and the United Way.
The company also recently began working with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on a licensing program centered on the association’s iconic trademarked parental advisory label.
“Lemur Licensing works with our clients to expand the power of their brands into marketable and high-quality products that help build their brands and generate revenue through licensing,” the company says.