In this exclusive AMN Executive Interview, we get to know Permatex’s Paco Agrafojo, who joined the company in January as director of marketing. Agrafojo has a unique take on the Permatex brand, having been an avid user of the products for years.
Having joined Permatex in January of this year, you are still relatively new to the business. However, you have a unique perspective on the Permatex brand having been a user of the products for many years. Tell us how this will influence you in your role as director of marketing.
I’ve been wrenching on practically anything with a motor since I was a kid, starting with fixing broken dirt bikes all the way to my latest project of restoring a 1971 Corvette LS5. Permatex is a brand that touches almost every automotive repair project and one that I’ve relied on in my own repair projects for more than three decades. Having this perspective has allowed me to leverage not only my marketing and business expertise, but also my understanding of pain points that our end-users have in their own repair projects. Having had an intimate, hands-on knowledge of Permatex products has allowed me to quickly assess what we are doing well, and places we have opportunities.
How does Permatex stay ahead of the curve, in terms of innovating and creating products that are relevant in such a rapidly evolving marketplace?
The driving force behind Permatex is the continual innovation of premium chemical products, and the key to this innovation is understanding and solving our customers’ pain points. We are constantly talking to the end-users of our products by visiting professional mechanics at shops, conducting focus groups, even using the insights we glean from customers when they call our technical services line. Our goal is to uncover the various problems pros and DIYers, alike, encounter during the course of their repairs. These insights are fed into our innovation process so that our R&D and product teams can create unique solutions that make the customer happy, provide incremental sales to retail and distributor partners, and bring value to our shareholders.
Permatex innovation also reaches into non-service chemicals such as cleaning products. It’s not that the work has gotten dirtier; rather, it’s the need and demand by professionals and DIYers for products that help complete the entire job. After the parts have been replaced and the vehicle is serviced and ready to go, the final step is usually the clean up. So whether it’s the hands, the shop floor, the tools or the work shirt, Permatex is committed to being there with the best and easiest solution available.
Several recent innovations have helped us meet these goals. They include Fast Orange Grease X Laundry Detergent, a unique solution to a very frustrating cleaning problem – greasy and smelly mechanic’s work clothes; Permatex Optimum Gasket Makers, a new generation of gasket maker technology engineered to deliver maximum performance under high stress and extreme temperature applications in the most demanding performance engines; Fast Orange Grime Magnet, a special soap-infused sponge that can absorb 14 times its weight in petroleum product and makes oil spill quick and easy; and a soon-to-be-launched Permatex Screw Glue, a new threadlocker designed to help keep fasteners and parts together in a variety of household applications.
From a marketing and product strategy standpoint, what do you think are Permatex’s strengths?
I view our No. 1 strength as the power of the Permatex brand. When we talk to our customers, both pro and DIY, they tell us that Permatex is the brand that they trust to get the job done right, the first time. It’s great to have that level of engagement with our customers and it makes it absolutely critical that we continue to stay relevant in their lives through our product innovation, marketing and educational outreach. Equally as important are the people behind Permatex. Our team is passionate about developing and manufacturing the highest-quality products. They never sacrifice on quality.
Motorsports has always played a big part in Permatex’s brand strategy. What are some other critical consumer/end-user touchpoints you will focus on in the coming year?
From a marketing standpoint, Permatex has increased its investment in product support and promotion to engage customers online, in the shows they watch, and the motorsports events they attend. Racing has been in the Permatex DNA since 1936 when Milt Marion won the first stock car race on Daytona beach using only Form A Gasket No. 2 to seal his engine. For the past 13 years, Permatex has sponsored Jay Blake’s Follow A Dream Racing Team in the NHRA Championship Top Alcohol Funny Car Series. We are now focusing on new engagements for our Fast Orange and Spray Nine brands in areas such as Formula Drift and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, as well as grassroots sponsorships like Ariel Biggs Racing and Derek West Racing. We also have focused on reaching our customers through product integrations on popular enthusiast and DIY media outlets such as PowerNation, MavTV, Engine Masters and various properties in The Enthusiast Network (TEN).
What goals do you have for the company’s marketing strategy as you settle into your new role?
My goal is to continue to expand the reach of our brands to all aspects of the repair projects our customers undertake. We want to be the brands they turn to for reliable and innovative solutions, whether they are a professional automotive technician, an automotive DIY enthusiast or someone who likes to fix things around the house. We will continue to invest heavily in research to understand the unmet needs of our customers throughout the entire process of their repair projects including personal and home/shop clean up, so that we can create new solutions that exceed our customers’ high expectations of quality and performance.
We also have an opportunity to engage our customers through education not only on our products, but also on ways to successfully tackle projects. YouTube, online forums and manufacturer web pages continue to be where DIYers go to learn how to change their brakes, or professionals research a hard-to-diagnose electrical problem. We will leverage these resources in a bigger way by expanding the videos in our technical knowledge series to educate customers on which products to use and how best to use them, in both routine maintenance and repair projects.