Among manufacturers, there’s a clear preference in how to display fiberglass pools — up and out.
There’s just no substitute for the high visibility of a fiberglass pool shell propped up outside.
“Display pools are far and away the best advertising media we have found for fiberglass pool builders outside of the Internet,” says Ted Baudendistel, general manager of Trilogy Pools, one of the fiberglass brands for Latham, N.Y.-based Latham Pool Products. “Somebody driving down the road sees something that’s big and unfamiliar but attractive. That generates a lot of interest.”
To display these pools otherwise would be to ignore one of the big advantages these dealers have: Fiberglass pools can be displayed in ways that would be totally out of the question for their concrete-pool competitors, says Kirk Sullivan, president of San Juan Pools in Lakeland, Fla. What people respond to, he says, is just how big these things are.
“It’s the scale of things that people are attracted to,” he says.
It makes financial sense to use the pools this way, says Rick Black, a business development manager for Latham. A pool displayed outside an office can stay there a long time. It can get the dealer a seat at the kitchen table when customers who have been looking at the vessel all summer long are ready to make a purchase.
It’s better than a billboard, he says, because after the pool has done its advertising work, it isn’t just thrown away. “If they invest in a display pool at the beginning of the season, at the end of the season they offer it as a display special and they sell it to a homeowner who puts it in their backyard and they get their money out of it,” he says. “So it’s an investment, not an expense.”
Other times, inground installations are the most appropriate way to show off these products.
Here, a handful of fiberglass manufacturers share their strategies and offer tips for displaying one-piece fiberglass pools to maximum effect.
Manufacturers prop up their own products as a key marketing and advertising strategy.
For instance, Tallman Pools of Jonesboro, Ga., is a believer in getting model pools upright as a way of attracting potential buyers. The company displays several models that way at its factory, and has one bearing the company’s website and phone number propped up along Interstate-75.
It’s hard to pass up. Unwieldy as they might seem, fiberglass pools are light enough to be hoisted to a dealer’s rooftop, propped up against the back wall of a showroom, even put on a trailer and towed in a parade.
They can make a quick impression convention floors. Sullivan likes the idea of a vertical indoor display at trade and garden shows because it makes the pool more visible to people than anything else there.
“When people are scanning the home and garden show, they see you towering above the other displays,” Sullivan says. “Being large and visible, you don’t have to explain what it is. They walk up and go, ‘Wow!’ If you put a 24-foot pool in the ground with an 8-foot deck around it and invite people over, they say, ‘Well, that’s kind of small.’”
Bold colors can boost the impact. In South America, dealers selling fiberglass pools by Brazilian manufacturer iGUi know this well. The color of the pools is almost more important than the office, says Fred Saad, the first U.S. dealer for the brand. In Brazil, dealers typically prop pools of various hues right next to small but brightly painted offices. Potential customers can’t miss them.
“In Brazil, the stores don’t do a lot of marketing,” he says. “They want a 500-square-foot store. That’s all they care about. They want paint in bright colors. They want four pools standing up on the street with lights inside them.”
In the past few years, San Juan has made a slight change in its approach to color when it comes to display pools. This came after Sullivan sat in on a trade show seminar about color. The presenter showed compelling research suggesting that people find blue conservative and even boring, but that yellow suggests excitement, high technology and cutting-edge innovation.
Sullivan conducted his own experiment by taking three pools to a show in Atlanta and standing them up like a kind of teepee. Because the pools faced in opposite directions, attendees could see only one at a time. One was white, one blue and the other yellow. Sullivan set up a badge scanner to see which of the three attracted the most traffic: the yellow pool got all of the scans.
“After that, I made all of my display pools bright yellow,” he says. “There’s something in our DNA: If you look at the color yellow, the human brain does something different with that color than it does with others.”
Today, the San Juan Pool company logo is outlined with yellow.
Behind the scenes
Certain costs and other considerations come into play when displaying fiberglass pool shells in this fashion.
As much as Sullivan likes to turn a swimming pool shell into an advertising beacon, it can get expensive at conventions such as home and garden shows or trade shows. A pool on a trailer is roughly 40 feet long, which means Sullivan had to buy four 10-foot standard booths in order to display the pool horizontally. But the manufacturer employs a simple strategy to help mitigate this issue — Sullivan sits the pools on their end so they fit in a single booth space, potentially cutting the exhibiting bill by 75 percent.
And at some shows, it can cost an arm and a leg to hire riggers to remove the pools from their trailers and set them on the show floor. At a show in Chicago, Sullivan needed two forklifts to manipulate a pool off and on the truck, a hair-raising experience in itself.
“And I would get an $8,000 to $15,000 bill,” he adds. “I said, ‘There’s got to be a safer, faster way to do it all myself.’”
So San Juan Pools designed and built in-house a type of trailer that could be used to transport pools around the country, and then turned into a moveable display. After arriving at a show, the driver uses a remote control to lift the pool into a horizontal position, detaches the trailer from the truck by removing a pin, then wheels what is now a big dolly onto the show floor — all without paying unionized employees at overtime rates.
San Juan now has a half dozen of the trailers in different parts of the country, on loan to dealers who need them.
When fiberglass shells will be displayed this way, professionals should keep in mind how they will be maintained over time. Black recalls a dealer who had mounted a pool on two telephone poles over his sales office. The display was catchy, but also very difficult to clean.
“If you put a white shell up on telephone poles right next to the highway, after a few years it’s going to start looking dingy,” he says. “And there’s no way to get up there and clean it.”
Tallman says its model pools can remain on display for years, freshened occasionally by company employees with a power-washer. But the company recommends dealers change out the vessels every 18- to 24 months, mainly because traffic is more local and people seeing the same pool over and over again lose interest.
Sometimes it isn’t practical to display the shells outdoors or out of the ground.
For instance, because Miami is in a hurricane zone, city codes prevented Saad from propping shells outside his store.
So he moved the show inside. He’s set up the pools against the back wall of his 3,000-square-foot showroom, a converted boat store the company bought in 2014 on busy South Dixie Highway.
The showroom floors are polished. The pools, brightly lit with LED fixtures, sparkle with a glossy finish.
High traffic doesn’t hurt. Saad estimates 50,000 to 100,000 cars pass the building every day, and at least 10 potential customers pull in for a closer look. Although the ceiling limits the pool size to roughly 18 feet, the display is still effective.
“They wonder what the pools are,” he says. “They’re used to concrete.”
In certain cases, an inground installation is best. While some may doubt that a 24-foot pool installed and filled will elicit the same response as a decorated pool being wheeled down the street in a parade, a well-executed installation can help potential customers visualize the pleasure of having their own pool.
Some Latham dealers have created outdoor pool parks consisting of a couple installations with different deck treatments and waterfeatures.
“The guys who invest in putting a pool in the ground at their retail location really get the whole enchilada,” Black says. “They get to present a working model of the pool with moving water, they can feature their equipment, their automation system, lighting, different deck treatments. It’s the equivalent of going up to a car lot and being able to sit in a car and see how all the different features work.”
This, combined with out-of-the-ground displays, can add a new dimension at lawn and garden shows. For instance, working with show organizers, Sullivan has made a finished and fully landscaped pool the centerpiece of the show. He gets even more mileage from the display by offering to give the pool away in a drawing. Show organizers typically are happy to comp Sullivan the cost of a display booth, and often enlist a local radio deejay to cover the drawing. It’s good publicity for the show, and the manufacturer. Attendees who win a pool are delighted with Sullivan’s offer of a $2,500 cash buyout.
“You get … about a month and a half of promotion for 2,500 bucks,” he says. “It’s a way of getting a huge bang for not very much.”