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Last month, Pfister introduced a docuseries called “American Plumber Stories,” aimed to promote the plumbing trade to the next generation of PHCPPros with lively episodes that discuss the “plumbing life” both during the business day and activities after the jobs are done.
Initially, 12 episodes will be released through February. Pfister also partnered with country music star Craig Morgan as an official brand ambassador. Morgan hosts each episode and wrote and performs the docuseries’ original theme song “Good Life.”
We spoke to Spencer Brown, director of sales, Pfister, and the executive producer of the series, to find out more about the campaign:
PHC News: Let’s start by telling us about yourself and your career with Pfister.
Brown: I’ve been working for Pfister since I graduated from the University of Alabama in 1998. So I remember the “old days” of Price Pfister and I even worked in the foundry that the company operated for a long time in Pacoima, California. A lot of people today may not even know about the foundry. I’ve had a long tenure with the company and held a number of different sales roles, before I became the director of sales in 2019.
PHC News: We took a tour of the foundry ourselves in 1991. Did you ever meet Peter Gold, who used to own the company?
Brown: I met him once years after he had sold the company. But it’s interesting you bring up his name because I’ve met a lot of plumbers in my time with Pfister, and so many would tell me what a difference maker Peter was to them. Peter was all about the trade. It was like every plumber in America knew him personally. While I didn’t have a chance personally to get to know him, Peter is definitely an inspiration to me, and what we are doing now with American Plumber Stories.
PHC News: How did you come up with the docuseries? And we should add that we’re impressed by the fact that you’re not only the executive producer, but you’re right out there traveling with the film crew and leading the interviews.
Brown: Thanks. I have to admit I didn’t have much experience when we started filming our first episode. But so much of what we’re trying to do is just have a normal conversation with the plumbers. You know, that just starts by asking, “Tell us about your business.” It’s just getting to and sharing the tribal knowledge that’s part of being a plumber.
Let me answer your question by taking a step back first. In the 1990s, we went big into retail sales after being sold to a former owner. This company was a retail-driven company. So, after a certain point, we weren’t about the trades like we had been.
We’ve had other owners since then, and Pfister is still in the retail channel because it remains an important sales sector that almost all plumbing companies have to be in these days.
However, it did hurt our brand since it alienated some plumbers who had given us a lot of support over the years. Under Spectrum Brands, we are now focused back to our roots hoping to bring back the “Peter Gold” culture.
PHC News: We only saw the first episode on Mississippi plumber Ken Clark before our interview and that still needed some finishing touches. Still, it’s a great look at one family business along with a very fun racing car hobby Ken has on the weekends. What did you set out to accomplish with these profiles?
Brown: As you can imagine, last year was a change of pace to say the least. Pre-COVID, we were all running 100 miles per hour. While the business of plumbing construction and remodeling didn’t necessarily slow down, we all certainly didn’t travel as much and had a chance to reflect and consider what we could do to support the plumber industry.
Now I’m not impartial; I think we have a great team of professionals here at Pfister. Once people know us, they like us and like our products. Not only are we helping grow the industry, but this will allow plumbers to see who Pfister is today.
But how could we take it up a notch? Well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the big issue for plumbers, no matter where they are located, is the labor shortage. Every plumber out there wants to hire, and it’s a constant struggle. Many plumbers are losing out on work for the simple reason that they don’t have enough people to go out and get that work done.
At the same time, however, many plumbers lead tremendous lives. Financially, they do well. They have great careers all of which affords them great lifestyles and great hobbies. And while plumbing can certainly be financially rewarding, plumbers will also tell you what a real sense of accomplishment comes from building and fixing things.
Bottom line: This is a great industry to be in! I started thinking we need to tell their stories and change the perception of what people might think plumbing is. We knew we had to showcase these plumbers and tell those success stories to a new generation of future trades people.
When I first met with our film crew, I told them we had three goals to keep in mind with the docuseries, which were to inspire, educate and entertain.
We needed plumbers to talk about their work in their own words, and let the next generation see what type of life they might be able to lead, too. That's why we made sure to show the hobbies. It keeps people wanting to watch more.
Unfortunately, society is telling high schoolers the only way to be a success is to go to college. They don’t hear enough about what a great career plumbing can be. Quite frankly, a trade job isn’t perceived as a good job. This series is going to show that a trade job is a great job that can lead to a great life.
PHC News: Can you break down the series for us?
Brown: There’s actually two seasons with six episodes apiece that each run around 10 minutes. A new episode will be released every two weeks with a bit of break between season one and two. The first season kicked off on Aug. 2. And we’ll have season two ready for next January. We have a great mix of contractors – single-family construction, service and repair work, and multifamily/commercial.
PHC News: Other than a rather modest Pfister tagline, there really isn’t too much about Pfister in the profiles.
Brown: We’ll get there. We haven’t told our story enough for 30 years! But for right now, the show is all about plumbers. So we’re glad we can lead by example by helping them tell their stories, and attract new hires so we can all get more business. It was very important to me that when we started the series it wouldn’t be all about Pfister.
PHC News: Other than the plumber profiles, how else is the American Plumbers Stories campaign addressing the labor shortage?
Brown: The landing page for the series, AmericanPlumberStories.com, has information on Pfister’s partnership with the National Endowment to support the Skilled Labor Fund. There will be information on that so people can apply for scholarships or get involved in the trades.
That’s an important part of what we are doing. We certainly want to talk about how great the plumbing trade is, but we actually want to get more people into the trades.
For example, we’re also working on developing a mentorship program in which plumber volunteers could go to schools and talk about the trades and maybe offer a summer job. Plenty of young people got into the trades because someone in the plumbing industry purposefully reached out a hand to them and got them not only interested, but involved.
That all ties back to the original goals of the campaign: inspire, educate and entertain.