Q&A: Mitch Fogle, president of Lund International

Nov 19, 2012

Mitch Fogle, president of Lund International, recently led the company into a realignment of its house brands from five brands to three distinct brand names: AVS, Lund and Belmor. Before Fogle started with Lund on its Northern operations team in 2004, he spent 12 years at Parker Hannifin Corp., a manufacturer of motion and control technologies. In 2006, he moved to Georgia to take over Lund’s Auto Ventshade operations and its logistics and warehouse distribution process. Fogle moved to the front-end of the business in sales product development a couple years later and became president of the company in 2010.

In an exclusive interview with Restyling magazine, Fogle highlights what propelled the company’s big move forward and how its new business plan supports accessory dealers.

Restyling (RE): First off, Lund had been absent from the SEMA Show for a few years. Why did you choose 2012 to come back?

Fogle: Like many other companies, we had to act fiscally responsible during the downtown in the economy. Although we did participate with SEMA, one of the things we did forego as an expense control item was the big show. We felt like the economy had come back and is on the rebound, however steadily it might be. This year, with our repositioning and refreshing of our brand and our products, we felt like this was the time for us to come back [to the show] in a way that not only signals to our industry but to our customers and consumers alike that we are very crystal clear in our thinking. We’re here to stay, and we have a plan for the future.

RE: What drove the branding repositioning/realignment?

Fogle: We did some consumer customer analysis and feedback on our products and products within our brands. Early on, we were doing this more to revitalize our marketing. As we got into this we realized that there was a little bit of confusion on what Lund brands really stood for and the products within the brand. It became very apparent to us that in order to grow, we realized we needed to focus on our core brands and our core products, and define each brand distinctly to gain mindshare.

RE: When did the brand realignment start?

Fogle: Growing the team started 12 months ago [from about mid-October 2012]; and 15-18 months ago was when we sat down and really decided that we needed to go to market a different way. We had to be able to clearly communicate and be consistent in our messaging and have consistent brand guidelines whether it’s on a package, in a print article or an E-commerce banner ad.

RE: Was there any staff realignment at Lund International, as well?

Fogle: Not only have we done a complete restructuring of our sales force within our company, we’ve hired some true industry experts that are consumer products people. We’ve assembled a group of executives that truly understand consumer products. [vice president of marketing] Joe Thompson was the first person I sought out and ended up hiring. We put the pieces together around Joe with product managers as well as restructured sales so we could get real-time market information and feedback.

RE: How will the new alignment make it easier for customers to purchase your products?

Fogle: Under the Lund International umbrella, or the “house” brand, you’ll be able to buy AVS, Lund and Belmor all under one simplified purchase order process. What we saw within the traditional warehouse distribution base is that they really liked that. By also consolidating the product lines underneath the Lund brand, it allows the customer to essentially buy three product lines under one brand now. It simplified the whole order entry process and the delivery process.

RE: Will you be adding or deleting anything from the product offerings?

Fogle: No, we are not. Each product within each different brand had their own unique characteristics that provide a solution to either an [aftermarket] customer or consumer. And what we found through research was that we need to sustain that under the Lund brand.

RE: And how have you revamped your customer service?

Fogle: We’ve benchmarked our customer service with a very large company that is regarded in traditional distribution, E-commerce and retail as one of the best customer service companies in the world. As we’ve broken up our channels and distilled down the marketing side, we’ve set up our customer service to mirror each channel’s needs. So internally, we have set up our customer service to mirror the needs of your (Restyling‘s) 18,000 restylers. They have a specific group of people they can call and talk to, and they’ll always get that specific group because we’ve segregated our customer service in to channels of specialists.

RE: How will this directly affect Restyling’s 18,000 readers?

Fogle: By giving each brand a definition, it allows us to focus our marketing dollars to better drive awareness and better drive consumer traffic into their businesses. For example, the Auto Ventshade, functional, stylish accessories for trucks, SUVs and CUVs, has the tagline “AVS: Ahead of the Curve.”

RE: What about your “Dealer’s Edge” network program? Who’s that directed toward?

Fogle: The “Dealer’s Edge” network program was a way for traditional warehouse distributors be in contact with us and receive point-of-purchase materials, sell sheets – whatever it may be to help display and sell the products. We are revitalizing Dealer’s Edge, as well, so that restylers can sign up for the program to receive all different types of media and collateral to drive and promote the products. Media and collateral includes all-new point-of-purchase displays for Auto Ventshade and Lund, all-new point-of-purchase displays for running boards, all-new point-of-purchase displays for tonneaus – it’s a complete refresh of the products and how they go to market.

RE: What we like to preach in Restyling is that we want our advertisers and the people we write about to be partners with restylers. And that sounds like exactly what you are going for here.

Fogle: You are absolutely correct. We’ve done market analytics within the different trade channels and discovered what we need to do to support that channel to not only drive mindshare and awareness, but to really drive product and help particular channels sell the product. So, partnerships with traditional warehouse distributers are very critical.

When a consumer comes into [the restyling retailer’s] storefront, they want to know the difference between our Lund Elite Tonneau and one of our competitors’ tonneaus. You have to have the right point-of-purchase displays and the right communication and consistent messaging to be able to explain that. We are absolutely convinced we have done that with all of the point-of-purchase materials we have going out along with the collateral material.

RE: What else is new with Lund?

Fogle: Along with this brand and key messaging refresh, we have completely updated our website. Within that, we do what Joe Thompson has coined as “all things digital.” That includes all-new installation videos, frequently asked questions, all-new crystal-clear brand identities and a customer support function on the top left corner so it is easy to find.