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As folks at Moen Inc. tell the story, Al Moen was quite an inventor who loved to tinker with things and find new innovative ways of improving their function. In fact, even at the end of his career, the sign outside his office read “Al Moen, Inventor.”
Now marking its 75th anniversary, Moen is using this special occasion to showcase its history and innovation over the years.
And, as Vice President-Global Brand Marketing Tim McDonough described, “We’re having a blast along the way. Everyone here at Moen is excited about achieving our 75th. When you pull up to our headquarters, we have the 75th anniversary flag flying. And in our lobby area, we’ve placed 30-foot-tall banners that define who Al Moen was, our innovation, and what 75 years mean. They are designed to encourage people to think about our heritage and what got us to where we are today. It doesn’t matter what hallway or room you’re in throughout our headquarters, you’re reminded of the fact that it’s our 75th. We’ve taken a creative approach to our messages and instead of just focusing on the fact that Al Moen invented the single-handle faucet — we’re crediting him for inventing warm water.”
McDonough went on to talk about the very special person that Mr. Moen was, and the lasting imprint he made on the company.
“He never really wanted to be the president of this company,” desribed McDonough. “He was the truest definition of an inventor. To the very end, he was constantly tinkering and experimenting. He came back to the office after he retired and met with our engineers. He literally took off his shoe and held it up in the air, and said, ‘Do you realize how big these shoes are you have to fill?’ Then he put the shoe down and told them, with a smile, what a great job they were doing and how proud he was they were carrying on the legacy at Moen.”
Members of Moen’s family continue to stay in touch with company leaders; his son, Eric, and granddaughter, Sarah, recently visited the headquarters to experience first-hand how the company is celebrating this special anniversary.
One of the more unique ways Moen marked the milestone was to partner with two jewelry designers, who came up with special one-of-a-kind pieces that were displayed at the Moen booth during Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas (the inaugural combined K/BIS and IBS).
“This campaign was the result of conversations we had with some of our wholesalers,” McDonough explained. “Showrooms have benefited from the boom in plumbing, and what we learned from the showroom personnel, faucets have become the jewelry of the bathroom or kitchen. When you listen to a showroom associate talk about a faucet, they describe things like how it can change the look of a room — much like a necklace can change the look of a dress. So we wanted to bring that to life and create merchandise for our wholesaler showrooms. We believe that this type of emphasis will help showrooms upsell the consumer and place even more emphasis on design.”
Moen also took advantage of the proximity of Pinehurst Country Club to their manufacturing facilities in North Carolina to host several dozen customers for this year’s U.S. Open. Customers went on factory tours, and then were transported to Pinehurst via buses that were wrapped with the Moen 75th logo.
Things have changed significantly at Moen over the years. There are now 2,700 global associates “working to build the Al Moen legacy and be brand stewards,” McDonough shared.
Their corporate headquarters continue to be located in suburban Cleveland, and Moen now has four manufacturing facilities — two in North Carolina, one in Pennsylvania and one in China — as well as six distribution centers and seven regional offices across the globe.
Fortune Brands acquired the company from the Moen family in 1990, and for many years, Moen operated under the umbrella of this giant conglomerate that also owned such brands as Titleist and Jim Beam. But in 2011, Fortune Brands spun off many of these businesses to tighten their focus on what they now call their Home & Security Business. The division includes Moen, as well as businesses in doors, cabinets, locks and security.
“The Fortune Brands leadership is second to none,” shared McDonough. “We now have such a singular focus on brands that are leaders in their respective categories. We’re able to work together and talk about best practices. Chief Executive Officer Chris Klein does a great job of getting us to communicate internally across businesses. The conversations are more relevant, because we’re talking about best practices which create opportunities to drive brand growth. It allows for the exchange of great ideas and we’re more collaborative today than ever.”
One thing that has not changed is the importance Moen places on its wholesaler relationships.
“When you stop and think about the role that wholesalers play, I will argue that there is no other industry as dependent on the distribution channel as the building materials industry,” McDonough said. “One of the things that has, without a doubt, defined our success over the years is the support of wholesalers and the trades — and how we have worked so closely together with those groups. Consumers need the knowledge and service that wholesalers provide. And the trades need it as well. So much comes down to trust. Consumers have to trust that the product is going to work in their home or high rise. When it works and it’s proven, that’s powerful.”
Power from within
Engaged leadership is vital to any organization, Moen is fortunate to be led by President David Lingafelter, who has a definite “walk the talk” philosophy. A 20+ year Moen veteran, Lingafelter started in product management and has carried those roots with him as he ascended the ladder.
“He realizes that our people are the foundational element of this organization, and encourages everyone to work together, do what’s right and get results. Really, his philosophy is simple; it’s what expect of any good person — work hard, play nice, do for others. We as leaders have a choice to think, say and act. It’s up to us. We can think about doing the right thing or saying the right things, but we can actually do them. I’m proud to say that David and all our leadership strive to live by that.
“When I think about Moen and how we are perceived in the industry as a whole, I start with the word trust. That word has been at the core of Moen over the course of time. We have done such a great job building trust with our industry partners. They know we listen to them and design the products that allow them to get in and out of a job with no problems. It takes years to build that kind of a reputation.”
A firm commitment
Moen is known for its commitment to quality and innovation. Its new product development is a powerful process.
“We’re very definitive about the stages we go through in product development,” explained McDonough. “We clear a product idea at every stage of the game. Every feature we put on a product has a consumer benefit. Every single one has a story behind it. I can look at any product and tell you the features and the benefits and why it’s important. We start with a hierarchy of needs that focuses on consumers, the problems they’re facing and we work together to create solutions..
“Another point that is incredibly important to bring out is the concept of the consumer experience. A hot topic for some as there has been tremendous change in the consumer experience. I really commend Moen on our ability to hit pause, take the time to study and understand what the consumer journey is about, and then make appropriate changes. Our brand is the compilation of all the touch points we have made with everyone we connect with.”
One of the ways that Moen gets a better feel for what’s going on in the field is through an event they host called Inspire. They bring together showroom personnel from around the country and get them to share honest feedback about what they are experiencing in their local markets.
“They have a real say in our design,” McDonough noted. “It makes them a true partner with us. If they know they’ve had a role in creating really strong consumer design products, they’ll support it all day long. That’s been key. We also realize the importance of having a broad line with designs that are true to modern, true to traditional and transitional that spans the gap.
“It’s also evident that everyone has precious little free time, so we’ve made advancements to make it easier to keep our products clean and sworking flawleslly. Spot Resist finishes, which prevent water spots and fingerprints, resonate with consumers. So that type of feature gives showroom personnel a benefit to sell. Consumers also love our Reflex design. It’s fun to watch their faces when they see it in action for the first time because they’re not expecting that pull down to retract back so effortlessly but that’s what Reflex does. We’ve actually filmed consumers using the products and their reactions are priceless. You can’t beat that kind of excitement.”
McDonough emphasized that thoughtful design remains at the heart of Moen — and that is a tradition that everyone is committed to continuing.
“Our brand essence needs to remain solid and transcend the organization,” he said. “Thoughtful design is both a challenge and a promise. It’s literally rooted in Moen’s history and heritage. Al Moen took the time to imagine and rethink what is possible. Our commitment to ongoing consumer research is critical. And we’ll continue seeking new challenges and opportunities. I can promise our customers that we are not sitting still. In fact, we’re just warming up!”