Security company sells with superheroes, comic book figures

Friday, November 1, 2002

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - A 28-year-old security company here known for its unorthodox marketing techniques has struck a deal to bring Spiderman, Captain America, The Hulk and other superheroes to Chicago as part of a new marketing campaign.

Keith Fisher, president of Keyth Technologies and Security based here, signed a multi-year licensing agreement with Marvel Comic to use some of the cartoon company's superheroes as material on the outside of Keyth Technologies' service vans. Fisher's company is already known in its greater-Chicago territory by other marketing stunts, including a service and sales fleet of specially designed PT Cruisers, special reflective lawn signs as well as other vans decorated with a variety of wild animals.

The Marvel Comic license, which took two years to secure, Fisher said, applies only to four of Keyth's trucks, and the company is allowed only to reproduce pictures of the vans emblazoned with the superheroes, including Daredevil, Iron Man and the Thing. Each painting on the truck costs between $4,000 and $15,000, not exactly what most dealers would consider a cost-effective marketing campaign, Fisher said.

"I have always been unique and aggressive with marketing, and it keeps getting more and more expensive to do what I do," Fisher said. "But branding has been key for us and you can't cheat on that."

Keyth Technologies, which has about 5,000 monitored alarm accounts and thousands of locksmith clients from the company's early days as a locking company, will also use the vans for public service campaigns, such as school visits and community events. The company expected to do about $6 million in sales this year.

Fisher "has recognized since early on that name recognition is critical to the market that he is selling," said Craig Leiser, a security industry consultant that has worked with Keyth Technologies for the past few years. "Recognition opens the door to lead generation which opens the door to building your business."

While Keyth has certainly grown over the past few decades - over the past few years, the company has added about 20 new staff members - most of the growth has been generated internally, rather than through acquisition, Fisher said, with the exception of two or three small purchases.

The company is shifting a five-member team to a downtown Chicago location that will be used as a branch location. For the last two years, Keyth has used the building for warehouse purposes, but said enough business is developing out of the location to justify the staffing.

"We are still hubbing everything out of Highland Park, where we have 48 people," Fisher said.