How do you help a centuries-old commodity building product manufacturer engage today’s A&D community? Create a must-See experience that explores its unique history.
The importance of commodity building products is often overlooked by architects and designers. The truth is that these products, no matter how big or small, have a lasting impact on a building’s performance. This is especially true for door and closure solutions. From fire doors to rolling security grilles to high-performance insulated doors, there are more to these often-specified yet rarely discussed products than meets the eye.
With the 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) annual conference rapidly approaching, Stoner Bunting Advertising found a unique opportunity to help a commodity client stand out among its competitors. By developing an architectural tour and continuing education unit (CEU), we were able increase the brand’s visibility and reputation within the A&D industry. The rest is literally history.
A Category Leader with a Unique Story to Tell
Founded in 1828, CornellCookson is a legacy building products brand with an incredible history. The company produces a variety of custom closure solutions found in stadiums, hospitals, hotels and museums, and other facilities where reliability, security and life safety are vital. While CornellCookson is known for rolling doors and grilles today, exploring its long history as an ironworks and foundry yields some incredible surprises.
The company, known as J.B. & J.M Cornell in the 19th century, patented a unique metallic surface for fireproof partitions in 1856. This cast-iron material would also support plaster, enabling the construction of high-rise fireproof buildings. As a result, CornellCookson soon became one of the largest manufacturing operations in New York City, providing cast iron for The Product Exchange, US Trust Building, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Cast-Iron Architecture: Its History and Future
Fast forward 150 years and some of these incredible buildings and structures are still standing throughout Midtown, SoHo and the Flatiron District. When calls for CEU proposals and special events came out prior to the 2018 AIA conference, Stoner Bunting immediately thought of CornellCookson, developing an architectural tour and video CEU that explored the remarkable legacy and history of the brand.
For architects and designers attending the show, “Cast-Iron Architecture: Its History and Future” was a unique opportunity to explore the cast-iron giants that dominated New York City for several decades in the late 19th century. The tour traversed lower Manhattan, with multiple interactive learning opportunities. Originally planned for just one day, overwhelming demand meant it was expanded to three consecutive mornings. This allowed dozens of participants to earn CEUs while still spending a full day on the show floor upon their return.
Hosted by Andrew Cornell, CEO of Cornell Iron Works, and led by his sister, Catherine Gorka Cornell, the tour visited several surviving cast-iron structures including the original New York Times Building, the newly renovated Beekman Hotel, and 15 Park Row Several. Architects who worked on the cast-iron restorations also joined the tour, providing commentary and insight.
Participants, including architects and designers from around the world, learned about the changing technology of metal constructions and challenges of adapting old buildings to new uses. They also were given unique access to unseen spaces within the buildings.
While the tour might have explored the history of cast-iron, it also highlighted the future of CornellCookson, raising the profile of the brand among key players in the A&D community.
Moreover, this special event lives on today with an hour-long online video CEU, developed in conjunction with the tour and available to architects and designers who couldn’t attend the conference. The video and accompanying quiz will bring the magic of cast-iron architecture to thousands of A&D professionals for years to come. It will also provide the brand with content it can use in email marketing and social media for years to come.
Investing in Your Brand
“Cast-Iron Architecture” is a prime example of how the right public relations opportunity, in this case a call for proposals, can elevate a brand and create a lasting impression on the A&D community. By leveraging CornellCookson’s history and legacy, Stoner Bunting Advertising was able to develop, propose and execute a unique architectural walking tour and CEU.