Turtle Wax founder Ben Hirsch initially marketed the auto polish he invented in the family bathtub by polishing car bumpers outside Wrigley Field and selling bottles of the product to baseball fans after the game.

“Ben Hirsch was a true entrepreneur and that spirit lives on today,” says Sandy Kolkey, chief marketing officer. Hirsch’s car-care product was initially named Plastone. It wasn’t until 1946 when he renamed it Turtle Wax to better describe the hard shell finish it gave cars, Kolkey says. Hirsch was inspired to change the name after driving past Turtle Creek while on a trip in Wisconsin.

Several decades later, Turtle Wax still gives cars a hard-shell finish, but the company is aggressively marketing a variety of products to a new generation of auto enthusiasts via a 47-second commercial that has aired before screenings of the hit movie “Furious 7” and during televised sporting events, including Major League Baseball. The spot also is appearing on cable television shows dedicated to cars and auto racing, including BBC America’s “Top Gear,” Discovery Channel’s “Misfit Garage,” Spike’s “PowerNation” and Velocity’s “Truck U.”

“Protect the Body, Free the Soul” is the theme of the new ad campaign, which is designed to highlight Turtle Wax’s practical purposes while emphasizing the emotions the company wants car owners to experience after washing and waxing their vehicles, Kolkey says. “How do we capture the passion?” he says is the question Turtle Wax sought to answer with the campaign.

Furious Opportunity

Kolkey says Turtle Wax could not pass up the opportunity to air the commercial before screenings of “Furious 7.” “We knew that we would get a captive audience,” he says. But he points out that the marketing campaign is not aimed only at car enthusiasts. Rather, it is pointed at anyone who loves their car.

“We developed this campaign to appeal to our audience of car enthusiasts who are passionate about their cars in an emotional, raw way,” Kolkey says. “Cars are not meant to sit idly by, collecting dust. They are meant to roar and screech or skid and speed. We’ve made a conscious effort to not only dramatize the superiority of our product performance, but recognize the emotional liberation when our consumers get behind the wheel of an amazingly shiny, protected car.” 

Packaged in a green bottle or container featuring the iconic turtle logo, Turtle Wax has been a market leader for generations. It enjoys 95 percent brand awareness. “You can’t beat that,” Kolkey says. “We’re in a very fortunate position that people know who we are. We’re part of pop culture.” He adds that product has been mentioned in numerous television shows, including “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” movie and in various television dramas.  

Despite being well positioned in the marketplace, Turtle Wax faces challenges such as maintaining brand relevancy. “It’s a highly competitive marketplace,” Kolkey says. “Every label is making some claims.” As a result, TurtleWax has taken strides to better educate its customers, using its website to explain the purpose of each product. “We believe we can make anybody better at car care,” Kolkey says.

Turtle Wax believes the current ad campaign, which focuses not only on the product but the enthusiasm it engenders, harkens back to Hirsch’s initial sales pitch. “Ben Hirsch believed that everyone should have a great-looking car,” he says. “We want customers to embrace the passion that comes with having a great-looking car.”

To help customers achieve that goal, Turtle Wax offers an expansive line of products that include waxes and washes as well as leather, carpet, floor mat and interiors cleaners. The company also markets wheel and tire, dash and glass cleaners. “From a product standpoint, we never stop innovating. We don’t sit on our laurels.”

The new line of Turtle Wax ICE with Smart Shield Technology contains six exterior automotive products that work separately or in combination, essentially formulating a “shield” with each application, Kolkey explains. “The formula was developed by Turtle Wax using the most advanced scientific polymer engineering,” he says. “With every Smart Shield product used, interlocking polymers increase the level of shine and protection. We say it builds layers of shine and protection for diamond-hard brilliance.”

Latest and Greatest

Turtle Wax keeps a close eye on the car-care marketplace by analyzing market data and monitoring auto enthusiast websites to gauge the products that are popular and determine how it can better meet customers’ needs. “We continue to look for new and relevant ways to reach our consumers with the latest and greatest from Turtle Wax,” Kolkey says. That goal often is achieved in the company’s research and development department.

“We have a group of passionate scientists who never stop formulating for better car care,” Kolkey says. “It’s what they live and breathe. They’re so motivated that they’ve always got their wheels spinning.”

The marketing and product-development efforts intersect to achieve a singular goal, Kolkey says. “You want to be planning for the future,” he says. “We need to attract the next generation. I want to make sure this brand stays true to its legacy. I think the secret of our success is right in front of us and that’s the turtle.” 

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