A billboard hosting a propane ad that says Delivering more than just propane fro Mulhern Gas
Billboards: The unlikely hero in propane marketing strategy

When temperatures drop into the teens on a mid-January morning, keeping tanks filled is more than a priority for homes and businesses — it’s a necessity. When I saw a new billboard on a main road in my community, it nearly stopped me in my tracks. Seeing an unfamiliar name make a play for new customers was clearly a bold move in the busiest part of the year.

It made me wonder: Was their goal immediate customer acquisition or setting the stage for a postseason bump in seeking new services?

Many propane marketers wait until after the season — when they are flush with cash — to try to retain and gain customers through a wide variety of advertising options. By their nature, propane marketers are risk-averse, and it seemed like this billboard — a smart placement — was a long-game decision to be up through the season when customers historically decide to keep or switch providers.


One of my mentors in propane — an executive at a top-three company in the country — would always scoff at the idea of spending money on billboards. He would bark, “Who decides to switch propane companies while driving 55 miles per hour past a billboard?”

I saw his point, but he was only right if there were only a few billboards scattered here and there. However, billboards at the right time, place and frequency can be the reminder a customer needs to embark on the often arduous task of changing companies.

After a decade working with large and small propane marketers, it’s clear to me that deciding how and when to advertise is both an art and a science.

In the age of digital overload, billboards still hold a powerful, unskippable presence. For propane marketers, these roadside giants can be more than just eye-catching signs — they can be strategic assets in a well-rounded advertising, marketing and PR strategy.

Can Standalone Billboards Build Your Brand?

While single billboards can jog a driver’s mind, the effectiveness of a billboard campaign depends on location, frequency and creative ability to grab attention. Here are some hot tips to think about:

  • Location, location, location: Propane marketers should place billboards strategically, targeting high-traffic areas frequented by their target audience. Rural roads near agricultural communities, highways leading to recreational areas and even urban streets with clusters of single-family homes are prime real estate.
  • Bold and simple: Billboards are fleeting glimpses, so keep the message clear and concise. Use impactful visuals — think flames dancing in a furnace or a family enjoying a backyard barbecue — and bold, easy-to-read text that highlights the benefits of propane for customers (clean energy, reliability and versatility).
  • Call to action: Don’t leave viewers hanging. Include a clear call to action, whether it’s a website address, a phone number or a social media handle. Encourage them to learn more, request a quote or connect with your brand.

Billboards as Part of a Multichannel Strategy

While standalone billboards can be effective, their true magic lies in their ability to amplify and synergize with other marketing channels. Here’s how propane marketers can integrate billboards into a harmonious, multichannel strategy:

  • Print and radio reinforcements: Use print ads and radio commercials to echo the billboard’s message. Create visual and auditory cues that tie back to the imagery and tagline, solidifying the brand in the consumer’s mind.
  • Cable and online amplification: Extend the reach of your billboard campaign through targeted cable TV ads and online advertising. Display banner ads or sponsored content on websites and social media platforms frequented by your target audience.
  • Website and social media integration: Drive traffic to your website and social media pages from your billboard. Include QR codes or website addresses on the billboard and use your online platforms to showcase the stories behind the billboard — the families who rely on propane, the businesses it fuels and the communities it warms.

Can a Billboard Lure in New Business?

A propane ad on a billboardThe billboard that caught my attention was part of a customer acquisition strategy in my area. One day earlier, I received a highly customized direct mail piece featuring the name of the previous person who lived at my address. That was a smart move; however, their database was about four years behind the times.

Advertising, marketing and PR all work when they are planned as a strategic effort with multiple connection points. Savvy marketing strategists know that with enough frequency and visibility, there is a tipping point when a brand goes from nascent to needed. It’s a matter of placement, timing and a smartly allocated budget.

The billboard that caught my eye had a strong strategy behind it, but as a visual branding and storytelling executive, I would have pushed for the billboard to have warm, human faces on it rather than a nondescript bobtail. The billboard was a bold, smart move, but if the goal was to convey local propane pros, missing from the imagery was the visual connection to the concept: warm people.

Remember, even in the digital age, the big picture can sometimes have the biggest impact. Propane marketers should spend their cold, hard cash wisely when it comes to efforts to raise profitability and visibility.

Staking a claim to capture a new community caught my eye on this particularly cold morning. Most marketers see the value of investing in steel and infrastructure. It’s good to see a propane marketer warming up to the idea that it takes money to make money.

Roger Rosenbaum is a seasoned PR, marketing, content and advertising executive with experience working with local and national companies. He is the president of Brand-News-Team Inc. Rosenbaum is an Emmy-nominated content creator with a track record of creating, negotiating and executing high visibility PR and marketing campaigns. He can be reached at roger@brand-news-team.com.


Placing Priority on the Employee