Amid warnings of a slowing economy, consolidation among vinyl siding processors and some companies pulling out altogether, Crane Plastics Siding is taking a quantum leap to differentiate itself.
The Columbus, Ohio-based division of Crane Plastics Co. has been renamed Crane Performance Siding, and the moniker will replace the 24-year Vipco brand name.
"It's a whole new beginning for us," said Jim Ziminski, vice president of sales and marketing. "We are looking for double-digit growth next year by taking share predominantly in the traditional one-step business."
Like other vinyl siding manufacturers, sales for the division were slightly down last year, Ziminski said, although he would not disclose how much.
The entire company estimates 2000 sales of $175 million, said Mike Crane, vice president of the holding company and president for the siding division. The siding division represents between 50 and 60 percent of that figure.
"Vinyl siding is not the most dynamic growth part of the industry right now, so there's opportunity," Ziminski said. "The Vipco brand needed a major overhaul and a new infusion of energy."
The vinyl siding stalwart has hired a full-time public relations firm as the company embarks on a 15-month promotional campaign centering on new products and capitalizing on the Crane corporate name.
"Vipco is a name that's known," Crane said. "But we feel that by going with a new name, we take advantage of the benefits of the Crane Plastics tradition, and we emphasize the new look and performance."
New product categories include CraneBoard Siding and Market Square Vinyl Siding, which will be introduced to the market with a consistent, consumer-focused message, Ziminski said.
"Most consumers have a difficult time differentiating between vinyl siding," he said. "They don't know the difference."
The company has coupled its proprietary vinyl formulations with solid-core backing for CraneBoard, which can compete with cedar and fiber cement in commercial applications, he said. The Market Square line will offer an upscale cedar siding look to builders and homeowners.
Siding, he said, does not have to be a commodity business.
"Distributors don't want it to be a commodity business, and it isn't," he said.
The changes for Crane began in 1999, when the holding company branched off into six divisions. In June 2000, the siding division grew into a two-plant operation. The division boasts the largest extruder in the vinyl siding industry.
"In August, we took a look at the sales and marketing program, and we decided it was time to bring a whole new look to the marketplace," Crane said.
Since solidarity and continuity are lacking in the industry, Crane said people can look toward the firm and see stability for a company that's been in existence since 1947.
There are no near-future plans for large-scale changes within the other divisions, he said.
Crane Plastics Co. ranked 26th in Plastics News' most recent survey of North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders and 10th among the leading siding extruders. The division had 1999 sales of $100 million.